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article imageShining a light on golf course fungi

By Tim Sandle     Nov 4, 2016 in Science
A turf grass disease that resembled an ink spill, which appeared on several southern U.S. golf courses has been identified. A solution to the disease has also been proposed.
The rise in incidents of golf course fungi was reported by Digital Journal in 2015. Here it was observed that finely mowed turf (what is called ‘turf grass’) was afflicted, in certain regions of the U.S. (such as Texas and Florida) with a fungal disease. The disease was prevalent with freshly cut grass but less common with uncut grass. The reason for this is because the fungus prefers decaying matter, and also in reflection of the mowing equipment used to prepare lawns which acts as a vector for spreading the fungus through aerosols. The grasses affected are Bermuda and Zoysia grasses.
One fungus, which can change grass from a green color to a variation of ‘mushroom brown’, is called Sphaerobolus stellatus (alternatively called artillery fungus or shotgun fungus.) The common names derive from the fact the fungus can spread its spores over a large distance in one burst.
Long shot of some golfers struggling to make the vital put.
Long shot of some golfers struggling to make the vital put.
More recent research, based on DNA sequence information, has re-characterized a new turf grass disease fungus, which is called Curvularia malina.
The fungus could not be identified using conventional culture methods. The fungus produced gray- to black-olivaceous mycelium within 10 days on potato dextrose agar. However, it did not produce conidia, making visual identification near impossible.
The disease has proved difficult to eliminate (with the most effective measure being burning, although this is not suitable for maintaining golf courses in a playable state). The breakthrough with the disease has been reached by researchers led by Dr. Young-Ki Jo of Mississippi State University, together with mycologists from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. This has enabled an effective fungicide, one that directly addresses the identified fungus, to be selected.
Successful identification of the fungus was achieved by comparing results from scientific databases online with the genetic information from the isolates. The new species “malina” is named from the Sanskrit word for "dirty or stained." This is with reference to the discoloration of the grass.
The findings are published in the journal Mycologia. The research is headed “Curvularia malina sp. nov. incites a new disease of warm-season turfgrasses in the southeastern United States.”
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