Understanding and Managing Red Thread on a Bowling Green

Understanding and Managing Red Thread on a Bowling Green

Maintaining a bowling green is a matter of pride for groundskeepers and players alike. However, the appearance of red thread disease can mar the aesthetics and even surface of the turf. This guide will help you understand what causes red thread, how to identify it and the best practices for preventing and eliminating it.


What is Red Thread?

Red thread is a common turfgrass disease caused by the fungus Laetisaria fuciformis. It primarily affects grasses in cool, moist environments and can be particularly problematic on bowling greens due to the frequent irrigation and heavy foot traffic these areas receive.


Causes of Red Thread

Red thread thrives in specific conditions:

  • Moisture: Excessive moisture from rain, dew, or irrigation creates an ideal environment for fungal growth.
  • Temperature: Moderate temperatures, typically between 15°C and 25°C (59°F to 77°F), promote the spread of red thread.
  • Nutrient Deficiency: Lawns with low levels of nitrogen are more susceptible to red thread.
  • Poor Air Circulation: Dense turf or shaded areas with limited airflow can exacerbate the problem.


Identifying Red Thread

Recognising red thread is the first step in managing it. Key characteristics include:

  • Pinkish-Red Threads: Look for distinctive red or pink thread-like structures on the grass blades. These are the mycelium of the fungus.
  • Patchy Appearance: Infected areas often appear as irregularly shaped, tan or brown patches. The patches can merge, creating larger affected areas.
  • Fungal Structures: On closer inspection, you might see tiny, needle-like fungal structures protruding from the grass blades.


Preventing Red Thread

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some tips to minimise the risk of red thread on your bowling green:

  • Balanced Fertilisation: Ensure your turf receives adequate nitrogen, particularly in the spring and early summer. Use a balanced fertiliser to promote healthy growth.
  • Proper Irrigation: Water deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth. Avoid watering in the late afternoon or evening to reduce prolonged leaf wetness.
  • Improve Air Circulation: Prune surrounding trees and shrubs to enhance airflow and sunlight penetration. Mow regularly to keep the grass at an optimal height.
  • Soil Health: Maintain good soil health with regular aeration and topdressing to improve drainage and reduce compaction.


Treating Red Thread

If red thread has already appeared on your bowling green taking prompt action is essential:

  • Fungicide Application: Apply a fungicide specifically labelled for red thread control. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates and timing.
  • Increase Nitrogen: Apply a nitrogen-rich fertiliser to help the grass recover and outgrow the disease.
  • Mow Regularly: Remove infected grass clippings to reduce the spread of fungal spores. Ensure your mower blades are sharp to avoid damaging the grass.
  • Improve Drainage: Address any drainage issues that may be contributing to excessive moisture on the green. This may involve adjusting irrigation schedules or enhancing soil drainage through aeration and topdressing.


Long-Term Management

Consistent and proactive maintenance is key to keeping red thread at bay:

  • Regular Monitoring: Keep a close eye on your turf especially during the cooler, wetter months when red thread is most likely to occur.
  • Seasonal Adjustments: Adjust your maintenance practices based on the season. Increase nitrogen applications during growth periods and reduce watering during cooler months.
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Implement an IPM approach that combines cultural, biological, and chemical controls to manage turf diseases sustainably.

By understanding the causes and signs of red thread and adopting a comprehensive management strategy, you can keep your bowling green in top condition ensuring a smooth and enjoyable playing surface for all. Regular maintenance, combined with timely interventions, will help you prevent and effectively manage this common turf-grass disease.

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