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Dollar Spot

Richard L. Duble, Turfgrass Specialist
Texas Cooperative Extension
Text and images copyright © Richard Duble.

Dollar spot, a disease of turfgrasses caused by the fungus Sclerotinia homeocarpa, attacks most turfgrasses grown in the South. Bentgrass, hybrid bermudagrasses and zoysia are most susceptible to dollar spot. The disease occurs from spring through fall, and is most active during moist periods of warm days (70-85°F) and cool nights (60°F) in the spring, early summer and fall. The disease is spread from one area to another by water, mowers, other equipment or shoes.

Symptoms. On fine textured and close-cut turf, the disease appears as round, brown to straw-colored and somewhat sunken spots approximately the size of a silver dollar; thus, the common name "dollar spot". In coarse textured grasses maintained at taller cutting heights, the dead spots are larger and more diffuse. Under these conditions dollar spot can be confused with brownpatch, R. solani. Dollar spot is readily distinguished, however, by characteristic lesions on the leaf blades of live plants near the border of the affected area. Lesions are light tan with a reddish-brown border, and usually radiate from the margins of the leaf blade. On fine bladed grasses such as bentgrass, the lesions usually girdle the leaf blade.

If the turf is examined when the disease is active early in the day before the dew dries, cobweb-like mycelium of the fungus can be seen growing on affected areas. During early stages of the disease, affected plants may appear water-soaked and wilted, but spots quickly fade to a characteristic straw color.

Disease Development. Several factors influence the occurrence and severity of dollar spot. Bentgrass, hybrid bermudagrass and zoysia are most susceptible; while St. Augustine and centipede are less frequently attacked by dollar spot.

Low soil moisture has been reported to enhance dollar spot activity, but moisture from dew, light rain or irrigation must be present on the foliage for the disease to develop.

The dollar spot fungus is capable of growth over a wide range of temperatures (50° to 90°F), but disease development is greatest at temperatures between 70° and 80°F. The dollar spot fungus survives unfavorable temperature and moisture conditions in plant tissue and thatch as dormant, compact masses of mycelium, called sclerotia.

Low nitrogen and potassium levels in the soil have been reported to increase the severity of dollar spot. Some rather severe outbreaks of dollar spot have been brought under control by the application of soluble nitrogen fertilizer. However, the beneficial effect of nitrogen is thought to be due to rapid recovery of the grass during periods of reduced disease activity. Research has shown that nitrogen increases the susceptibility of grass to dollar spot.

Control. Cultural practices that promote healthy turf help to reduce the occurrence and severity of dollar spot.

To prevent dollar spot apply a fungicide labeled for the disease at recommended rates and intervals. Applications are most critical during moist weather in the spring, early summer and fall when temperatures are between 70º and 80ºF. Fungicides recommended for dollar spot include, but are not limited to those shown in the table on the following page.