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How To Control SmutSmut

When you’re out in your yard and notice dark or black spores on your plants, it can be alarming, especially if you try to knock them off and they keep coming back. That substance that is growing on your grass and garden is definitely a cause for concern as is usually due to a variety of several closely related and highly specialized pathogenic fungi commonly classified as smut. There are a number of different types of smut diseases and they can affect a variety of different plants: from turfgrasses, to sugar cane and even crops like maize, barley and wheat. Some of the more common smut diseases are stripe smut, black smut and flag smut.

No matter the type of smut, these fungal diseases are very frustrating to deal with and they seem to spring up out of nowhere and disappear mysteriously as well. Lawn that are affected by this fungus growth is not immediately apparent, making it a very subtle fungus that can go undetected for long periods of time. Smut-infected turf usually becomes obvious three or four years after initial infections occur.

The affected areas are not well-defined, appearing chlorotic or yellowing during the spring season, but then taking on a brown color in summer. This darkened color of the affected plants is the result of millions of brownish-black spores which are created inside of infected plant tissues and become exposed as the fungal progress rips through leaves.

If you are dealing with smut on your lawn in a heavy concerning amount, fungicides may be the way to treat them and we here at Solutions Pest and Lawn can provide you with the tools and the know-how to effectively control smut.

Browse our smut control products below. If you have any questions or concerns, send them our way via email, phone, or online live chat and we will be happy to assist you.

How To Get Rid of Smut: 3 Step Solution

The appearance of a fungus like smut on your lawn should be a major concern as fungal infections and colonization tend to weaken plants, making them more prone to death during extended periods of hot, dry weather. Plants infected by smut produce a large number of blackened spores that discolor maintenance equipment like lawnmowers etc. Smut should be approached with the right products and the right knowledge. We have provided three basic steps for you to follow below to properly treat this fungus.

 

Step 1: Inspect and correctly identify if the mold you are seeing is indeed smut. While smut can be quite apparent to diagnose there may be cases where you may get the disease confused with a different disease. Identifying the growth correctly will help you in selecting the proper fungicide and help you in your treatment approach. If you are not entirely sure whether or not it is smut, we here at Solutions can help. Send us a photo of what you see to identification@solutionsstores.com and we will respond back quickly with the proper ID of the disease as well as give you recommendations on fungicides specially design to treat smut.

 

Step 2: Once the disease is properly ID’d as smut, you can move on to treatment. We have a variety of different fungicides which can effectively treat and remove smut. Choose a fungicide we have listed below and mix using a hand-pump sprayer. Spray the affected areas immediately going in accordance with the instructions found on the fungicide label. You may have to re-apply fungicides a few times to provide continuous control of smut.

 

Step 3: Once the smut has been taken care of, you can carry out a few maintenance tasks to ensure the fungus doesn’t return. Giving your turf adequate sunlight by removing shady areas is a good start. Also reducing the amount of watering you are doing to ease the moisture and let the soil dry out can also be helpful. Overall just paying a bit more attention to your lawn's needs will go a long way in controlling slime growth and making sure it doesn’t re-emerge.

 

Learn More About Smut

Around the later part of spring or early in the autumn season, some landscapes often begin to grow spores or come down with issues where areas experience stunted growth as well as browning and yellowing which are not necessarily confined to patches. Upon closer observation, you may find the issues to be a disease known as smut.

 

There are various types of smut lawn diseases which are actually a fungus which may have been transferred to the land in some form or fashion. Smut, whether black smut fungus, or stripe smut or some other smut type, is a fairly common disease which can infect bluegrasses, bentgrasses,fescues, perennial ryegrasses, and other grasses.  

 

While some smut diseases like black smut can be looked at as a minor lawn disease, other smut fungi like strip smut can potentially be so severe that it can kill off the plant they have infected, especially if the conditions are favorable enough, such as areas which are hot and more dry. Stripe smut (caused by Ustilago striiformis) is most common in the Midwestern United States, but flag smut (caused by Urocystis agropyri) also occurs within the region.

 

During the summer when there are are showers and it is wet, a striped smut infection may harm plants enough that a another fungal infection by other disease organisms may also contribute to plant death since smut puts plants in a much more vulnerable and weakened state.

 

Have A Lawn Issue That Isn’t Smut Fungus ? Check out Our Lawn Care Main Category!

 

Where Smut Commonly Grows

Smut diseases usually make their presence felt on higher cut turf, including residential turf, athletic fields, and golf course greens. Outbreaks of smut usually occur most often and most severely on older types of Kentucky bluegrass.

 

Other grass types which smut pathogens may infect include creeping bentgrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue, but disease incidence in these species do not happen as frequently as it does for kentucky bluegrass.

 

Smut disease and its spread can weaken plants, making them more at risk of dying during extended periods of high temperatures and dry conditions. Plants which contract smut produce large amounts of dusty black looking spores that can get on maintenance equipment and discolor it.

 

Symptoms of smut-infected turf may not be immediately noticed until three or four years after initial infections occur. The changes to the infected land are usually subtle and can be missed by lawn care novices. The affected areas are not well defined, appearing yellowed during the spring time, then becoming a brown color in summer. This darkening of grass blades is the result of millions of brown-black spores produced in infected tissues and exposed as fungal progress shreds leaves .

 

Smut spores are dispersed via wind, water splashing and foot traffic , but they do not infect turf directly. Rather, the spores represent the survival stage of the pathogen. The smut spores (called teliospores) germinate when turf is wet and temperatures range between 50° and 60°F, often in spring, but sometimes in fall.

 

Germinating teliospores set the stage for the arrival of fragile basidiospores, which infect turf only when two different mating types are present. The highly specific factors under which infection takes place explains why smut diseases only happen in rare occasions.  

 

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The Biology of Smut on Plants

Plants are under constant threat from invaders. One such parasite known to infest plants is called smut. A type of fungus, smut makes their invasion by penetrating deep inside the plant tissue. As the invasion progresses, the fungus produces spores. The spores then erupt from the surface of the plant creating pustules which will spread the fungus farther and create new sites of infection..

 

Soon thereafter the plants stem and leaves are covered in fungal growth. Carried by the wind, the fungal spores can travel great distances, eventually reaching other potential hosts. The newly formed spores then must seek nutrients required for it to grow and thus it sends out a germ tube which seeks an entry point into the plant.

 

A newly formed penetration tube breaks inside the stem and the fungus extends further into the plant. Once inside the stem, another structure is used to penetrate inside one of the plant cells which allows the fungus to take nutrients from within the plant. The smut fungus also at this point begins to secrete small protein molecules called effectors.

 

This is a critical time for the plant. If it can detect the fungal effector proteins, it can try to stop the plant invasion. The plant has specialized resistance proteins which act like an immune system. The resistance proteins can bind to the fungal effector proteins. This binding event alerts the plant that an infection is taking place.

 

Now that the parasite is detected, the infected cells are sacrificed, cutting off the energy supply to the invader. The fungus will eventually starve and the plant can continue to grow. New strains of smut fungi are constantly developing through evolution. This can make some plants vulnerable to disease like smut fungus which have plagued crop production since people first began farming.

 

Globally, infections of smut destroy 15 million tons of wheat each year. Because of this, wheat farmers must vigorously seek new sources of resistance to protect crops.

 

Smut spores can survive through the winter in the soil, thatch, or leaf litter. Spores usually travel via wind and water (splashing rain or irrigation).  The spores can also be spread by equipment, people, and animals. Smut becomes evident when temperatures range between 50 – 65°F, spring and fall. In hotter weather, infected grass usually dies.  

 

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Conducting an Inspection for Smut Fungus

Unless there is a significant area where the smut has taken over, inspecting your lawn for the presence of smut may be difficult since you won’t be able to see any issue from afar. However, by examining the grass blades closely, you will be able to see the infection.

 

Better Safe Than Sorry: Equip Yourself With Protective Safety Equipment Before Spraying

 

Control Options For Managing Smut

As with most lawn diseases, it is better to prevent your lawn from getting smut in the first place than it is to try and get rid of it once it has established onto your lawn. What we’ve learned works best is a mixture of cultural control practices and the use of fungicides.

 

One way you could prevent smut making its presence felt on your lawn is to use a mixture of seeds, or seed blends that are more resistant to lawn diseases like smut fungus. If you have been dealing with smut on your lawn annually for quite some time, we recommend using a well balanced fertilizer and make sure to not over fertilize your lawn and throw off the proper ratio for your turf. Smut diseases are favored by high nitrogen fertility.  

 

Other actions you could take is reducing drought stress via a proper watering routine which will  help to reduce smut damage. Proper and consistent mowing practices will also reduce the presence of smut, particularly on loose smut that affects the inflorescence.  A healthy and vigorous lawn is less likely to get the disease.

 

If all else fails you can lay down some fungicide to see if it will remove smut fungus. We recommend a number of quality fungicides which have shown to be effective against smut such as Patch Pro Fungicide and Myclobutnil 20EW. Please refer to the label for safety precautions and proper application rates.  Additional assistance can be obtained by reaching out to us via phone at 800-469-6583 or emailing us at askapro@solutionsstores.com

 

Additional Resources:

 

What Is Black Smut Fungus: Learn About Smut Fungus Control Gardening Know How

 

 

Leaf Smut on grasses | Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab

 

 

IPM : Reports on Plant Diseases : Leaf Smuts of Turfgrasses


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