Is Your Lawn Mower Turning Orange? You May Have Lawn Rust Problems

Orange color on shoes from lawn rust disease

My lawn was doing great. We enjoyed a wetter-than-normal summer and the temperatures have been warm, but not blazing hot. About three weeks ago, that all changed and we shifted into a normal hot and dry summer. If you live in the Midwest and your lawn has perennial ryegrass in it, you may have noticed your lawn mower turning orange after you mow your lawn. Your shoes also seem to have taken on an orange-ish sheen. This is all happening due to a common turf disease that has been aggravated into activity by a change in the weather—Lawn Rust.

Now, the first thing to know about Lawn Rust Disease is that the spores of this disease are already present in your lawn, as well as just about every other lawn in your neighborhood. The disease becomes active due to the environment, which lately is the perfect concoction for Lawn Rust to develop. Just like a fire needs three components to develop – fuel, heat and oxygen – diseases occur when three conditions are all present: pathogen, host plant and environment. Since those three were all present, Lawn Rust developed in the grass.

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The best way to tell if your lawn has Rust is to look at the individual grass blades. You can usually tell the areas where the disease is more prominent, since that area of your lawn will look slightly yellow. If you scuff your feet across the area, a cloud of orange dust will rise up from the lawn. Pick up a few of the grass blades and you will see orange colored spore sacks, called pustules, in parallel rows on the grass blade. Applying a disease control material at this time will have little to no effect on Lawn Rust, as the disease has run its course and is now producing “seeds.”

Treating Lawn Rust Disease is fairly simple, actually. The best thing to do if you lawn has Rust is to fertilize it to stimulate new growth, and provide it with about an inch of water per week. It is also a good idea to collect clippings for two or three weeks to reduce the number of spores that are left on the lawn. It may take a few weeks, but your lawn will look great again.

For more information about Lawn Rust Disease and ways you can keep your lawn healthy, contact your local Spring-Green professional.