naWhen I first started co-hosting the GardenLine program nearly 12 years ago, I knew very little about the fungal disease Brownpatch. Inside secret: I knew very little, period! However, I started reading incessantly about it, and still do so to this day.

It's very interesting to see how the methods for treatment have changed or even evolved year after year, and it's even more interesting to see how fluid the "start" time for the disease has become. Sometimes it's in September, sometimes October and even as early as August. But that makes more and more sense when you pay attention to the night time temperatures in the 60s, accompanied by night time moisture, accompanied by high nitrogen fertilizers, accompanied by little green men making crop circles, and so on and so forth (okay, I made the part up about the little green men, just not the crop circles part).

I don't normally do this, because I believe you may not listen to the radio program if I tell your "everything I know" on a certain subject. But I believe, as noted above, thanks to the changes in practices and the fluidity of the start dates, I think it's only fair to pour it all out at this time. All I know on this subject, that is. Of course, considering that more than half of the products I've ever recommended don't even exist these days, just remember that much of what you read in the past isn't even applicable today.

naWhile I do believe in the advent of many organic alternatives, the saddest change has to do with the elimination of what I always thought was the best way to control brownpatch. That was Bayleton. While it hasn't officially been taken off the market, it is almost impossible to find and ridiculously expensive. It is available in the more "agricultural sectors," just not on the typical home retail market. So, as is always the case, and is always my job as the GardenLine information specialist, we take the hits and roll with them and find out what works best this time.

I'm going to boil this down to a plain and simple way to control brownpatch… as is the case with most lawn fungal disease problems that can be prevented by having a healthy, well-maintained lawn. A healthy lawn (like most plant life) is able to fight off its own natural enemies - fungal, weed, soil-borne or insect - by mowing correctly, having healthy soils and correcting drainage problems. That's how you solve brownpatch permanently. Unfortunately, that is more the exception rather than the rule.

naSo, what works best these days? I honestly do not know, other than maintaining a superiorly healthy lawn. And yes, I've probably tried almost everything on the lists below at least once. And for your benefit, I do know and remember all the products I have tried at least once for brownpatch control, so I shall give you a one paragraph review of each at the end of this week's message. And I've broken them down into three distinct categories. (Non-Chemical, Chemical, Professional) This year in my yard, I have been adding more and more compost for the organic benefit, but more importantly for me, I've fixed a lingering drainage problem that has always been where my brownpatch flairs up first. So, far this season, things look very promising. I've also added the soil inoculant known as Micro Gro to my litany of control measures. In the meantime, here's all that I know that is available to the typical homeowner.

Non-Chemical Controls

  • Actinovate (Beneficial Bacterium)
  • Garlic GP (Garlic Oil Extract)
  • Micro Gro (Soil Innoculant containing 47 strains of beneficial bacteria and fungi including Streptomyces, Trichoderma, Pseusomonas, Gliocaldium and a extensive variety of Bacillus all mixed with an incredible Bio-Stimulant package.) From the manufacturers of Micro Life Fertilizer
  • Agricultural Corn Meal (Never grocery store bought)
  • Composting (the longer it has been composted the better - such as 2-Year-Old Leaf Mold Compost)
Chemical Controls
  • Banner-based (PPZ or Propiconizol) Fungicides (Examples: Fertilome Liquid Systemic; Bonide Infuse; Honor Guard)
  • PCNB (Pentachloronitrobenzine) fungicides (Examples: Nitro Phos Total Brownpatch Control)
  • Myclobutanil (Examples: Fertilome F-Stop; Nitro Phos Eagle; Green Light Fung Away
Professional Applications:
  • Rubigan (fenarimol*)
  • Heritage (azoxystrobin*)
    * Due to product cost and for accurate application, homeowners may want to hire a licensed landscaper to apply products containing these fungicides. While Daconil still is recommended in some Lawn Care Company circles, if they are still using Daconil, then it tells me that they have no interest in researching new and improved ways to treat for brownpatch.
General Rules Regarding Brownpatch
  • Never mix Non Chemical Control with Chemical control; do one or the other
  • If you apply a chemical fungicide for contact cure, you will likely need to re-apply within 30 days
  • In general, the granules are better for prevention and the liquids are better for curative (or contanct kill/immediate suppression)
  • Never water your lawn at night (5 p.m. to Midnight)
  • Cut back on watering times
  • Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers from August through November (especially weed and feeds)
  • Chemical Controls are only temporary
  • Healthier soils with proper drainage is the ultimate answer; ADD COMPOST
  • When night time temps get into the 60s be prepared for a flair up
  • Systemic Fungicides when applied properly can PREVENT flair ups
  • If you never solve drainage problems, brownpatch can become immune to chemical fungicides

Quick Reviews of Products (this is just my opinion on each one)

Actinovate - this has the best potential, if they can make it more retail available. Plus, they can only make "so much" of this product each year, and the bulk is targeted to the nursery industry as of right now. I've never personally tried it, but I like its protential a lot.

Garlic GP - This is, plain and simple, Garlic Extract. But it's formulated in such a way that you can hook it on to a hose and spray it both as a curative (when you see the flair up) and even in some cases as a preventative. Micro Gro - this is made locally by San Jacinto Environmental, the makers of Micro Life Organica Fertilizer. It is a concoction of some 47 beneficial fungi including Streptomyces, Trichoderma, Pseusomonas, Gliocaldium and a extensive variety of Bacillus all mixed with an incredible Bio-Stimulant package. This is the first year I've used it, in conjunction with better drainage and higher organic matter. And I've got to say, that so far I'm very impressed with the results. It's biggest drawback will probably be cost. But that's subject to some and relative to square footage for others as 10 pounds covers 1000 square feet.

Agricultural Corn Meal - The manic- organics swear by this as the beat-all-end-all organic control of brownpatch. However, I've tried it twice and it never seemed to work for me. I put it down and a week later, I still had brownpatch flair ups. Personally, I think because of our intense humidity in the Houston-area, that Ag Corn Meal doesn't work to the same degree as it does on northern grasses like Fescues and Rye grasses. I think our climate and our St. Augustine makes Corn Meal ineffective. But, again, that's only my opinion.

Composting - As you already know, the idea of having a biologically healthier soil is probably the ultimate answer for brownpatch control, which is where composting comes into play. And it only stands to reason that the higher the quality of the compost the better it will be at making a biologically healthier soil

Banner-based fungicides - Anything with the active ingredient PPZ (propiconizol) has been a standard bearer for many years in fungal disease control. And it is more readily available now that it ever was just 10 years ago. It does work for brownpatch control, but like most liquid fungicides, it probably has to be re-applied 30 days later, to keep the control level up. The sad side is that if you keep using it, and keep using it, often times the fungal spore can become immune to these kinds of fungicides.

PCNB (Pentachloronitrobenzine) - this is a great "preventative" granular. And it is a derivative of the once famous fungicide Terrachlor. Unfortunately, Terrachlor has found the fate of many fungicides that always work = they get restricted and homewners can no longer find it or afford it. But, this is a "timing" sensitive fungicide as well. You put this out every 30 days to prevent the brownpatch, but isn't all that good once you have the flair ups.

Myclobutanil (Fertilome F-Stop; Nitro Phos Eagle; Green Light Fungaway) - The neat thing about Myclobutanil fungicides is that they are probably the most readily available fungicides of the market. And it comes in both granular and liquid whether you're trying to be preventative or curative. And I know many people that go ahead and buy both the granular and the liquid, put down the granular first and then follow it up with the liquid so that they are doing all they can to prevent and stop any flair up that might be right around the corner. Again, much like many synthetic fungicides, they will likely need to be re-applied within 30 days.

Rubigan - This is one of the best, if not the best way to control brownpatch. I've had people ask me what works best for years, and when I recommend Rubigan they write me back and scream "OH MY GAWD, DO YOU REALIZE HOW EXPENSIVE THAT STUFF IS?" Yes, I do! But the questions was, what works best, not what was the most cost-effective. Because of it's cost and certain restrictions, Rubigan is mostly used by professional lawn care companies, and they too run into the same issues. They tell a customer they have the product and how much it costs, and the customer almost always says, "do you have anything more cost-effective?" So, if cost is no object, you can buy it yourself and speciality chemical supply houses, or you can hire a professional lawn service. But, if you wince at the price, I can always say "I TOLD YOU SO"!

Heritage - like Rubigan, Heritage is mostly used by professional lawn care providers because it has label restrictions and is not available at all to the typical homeowner. I've seen this product work quite well. But, because it is applied by services, you always run the risk that it might need to be re-applied within 45 days of the first application, and yet be missed because scheduling problems with said service. I have a buddy who owns a relatively small lawn fertilization company that swears by this product, but admits that if someone falls through the scheduling cracks, the customer gets fired up that brownpatch re-appears that quickly.

Randy Lemmon is the host of the GardenLine radio program on Newsradio 740 KTRH. Randy has been doing GardenLine in one capacity or another since December of 1995, for all three of the now Clear Channel AM stations - KTRH, KPRC & KBME. When Randy took over GardenLine, he replaced long-time Houston radio veteran and GardenLine originator, Bill Zak. For those who remember that far back, GardenLine was a weekly radio staple on KTRH from 10 a.m. to Noon Mondays through Fridays - along with a Saturday show as well. Now GardenLine is heard exclusively on Newsradio 740 KTRH on weekend mornings.