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New Doom for St. Augustinegrass

sugarcane mosaic virus

As if chinch bugs, take-all root rot, large patch, grey leaf spot, nematodes, webworms, armyworms, grass loopers and mole crickets weren’t enough of a headache when it comes to growing St. Augustinegrass, you can add a “new” virus to the mix.

Sugarcane Mosaic virus has been around since the 1960s when it was first reported in Palm Beach County. It was noted that certain cultivars of St. Augustinegrass were resistant to the virus, and by using resistant cultivars for the past 50 years the disease produced only mild symptoms that were easily overlooked.

In the fall of 2013, an outbreak of the disease occurred in Pinellas County. This time the disease caused severe dieback that completely killed some infected lawns. The most severe symptoms in this recent epidemic have been on the cultivar “Floratam” St. Augustinegrass. The susceptibility of most other varieties to this virus is unknown at this time. Currently, mosaic infection is only a concern on St. Augustinegrass in Florida. There is no cure for this disease and the severity of the disease can range from yellowing to death.

The virus is easily spread by lawn mowers, line trimmers and other equipment that can transfer infected clippings from lawn to lawn. Aphids (small insects with piercing-sucking mouthparts) can also transmit the virus, but it isn’t known how important these insects or other insects may be in spreading this disease. Sod can also be infected with this disease.

To minimize the spread of this disease in areas where the virus occurs, lawn equipment should be sanitized between properties. Remove clippings and any other plant material and then spray parts that can transfer plant sap using dilute bleach, quaternary ammonia, alcohol, or another sanitizing agent according to the directions.

Once the grass is infected there is nothing that can stop the development or spread of this viral disease. If you lose your lawn to this disease it would be best to plant something other than St. Augustinegrass.

For more information about this disease see this UF/IFAS publication: “Mosaic Disease of St. Augustinegrass Caused by Sugarcane Mosaic Virus” by searching the web. You can also contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

For information about landscaping options visit your local UF/IFAS Extension office, or search the web for “Florida-Friendly Landscaping.”