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Anthracnose: A Five-Year Multistate Research Initiative 

John Kaminski, Assistant Professor of Turfgrass Pathology
University of Connecticut

Desired or not, annual bluegrass is commonly found on putting greens throughout the Northeast and surrounding regions. While a healthy stand of annual bluegrass can result in an excellent putting surface, the species is known to have its fair share of issues. Problems associated with managing annual bluegrass were evident during the summer of 2005, which was marked by days in which temperatures above 90F appeared to be the norm and not the exception. In addition to environmental stresses, annual bluegrass is prone to damage from routine cultural practices (e.g., low mowing, topdressing, vertical cutting, etc.) and is susceptible to a variety of turfgrass diseases. One disease in particular has drawn the attention of university researchers.

An increase in the incidence and severity of anthracnose basal rot (caused by Colletotrichum cereale) over the last 10 years has led to the development of a new Multistate Research Initiative. Towards the end of 2005, turfgrass researchers from the Northeast and other regions of the United States and Canada decided to gather their resources to address this emerging problem. Comprised of 22 turfgrass researchers, the multistate anthracnose (and annual bluegrass weevil) project will attempt to answer several questions over the next 5 years. Four main issues that will be addressed include:

Objective 1) Fill critical gaps in our understanding of the anthracnose pathogen.

An important component of this project is improving our understanding of the biology and ecology of the pathogen that causes anthracnose. Researchers will focus on identifying the geographic distribution of anthracnose and also use various methods to determine differences among strains of the pathogen. In addition to determining the distribution and spread of the pathogen, experiments will be conducted to elucidate important biological aspects of C. cereale. Laboratory and field experiments will seek to determine how and where the pathogen survives unfavorable periods and how and when infection occurs. Knowledge obtained from these basic studies will provide valuable information that will increase our understanding of the host-pathogen interaction.

Objective 2) Identify and develop new control options for suppressing anthracnose.

Research will be conducted to increase our list of management options used to reduce the severity of anthracnose. Management strategies to be evaluated include the use of biological, biorational and chemical controls. Studies will seek to improve pesticide combinations, timing regimes, and resistant management strategies. The frequency and mechanisms of Colletotrichum resistance to commonly used chemistries will also be examined.

In addition to biological and chemical controls, coordinated field studies will evaluate the impact of various cultural practices on the development of anthracnose. Strategies will seek to determine the influence of nitrogen rate and source, plant growth regulators, and other cultural practices (e.g., mowing, verticutting, irrigation, etc.) on disease severity. Currently developed annual bluegrass cultivars will also be assessed in field studies to determine their potential benefits on newly established putting surfaces. Results from these field and greenhouse studies will provide valuable information applicable to managing this disease on golf courses.

Objective 3) Develop improved IPM decision tools for managing anthracnose on golf courses.

In addition to determining management strategies that directly impact anthracnose severity, researchers will attempts to determine the influence of environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, leaf wetness, etc.) on anthracnose. Using information gathered from field and greenhouse studies, a predictive model for anthracnose will be constructed from environmental variables and key management factors. Results from these investigations will allow turfgrass managers to forecast anthracnose development and therefore implement the appropriate disease management strategies prior to the onset of severe damage.

Objective 4) Develop best management practices for annual bluegrass on golf courses to help reduce economic and environmental costs.

Following the collection and interpretation of research results obtained from these studies, pertinent findings will be shared directly with golf course superintendents. Results from all participants in this study will be combined to develop a best management practices publication for annual bluegrass. Research findings will also be distributed in the form of publications, annual meetings and symposium sessions, and regional workshops through the Northeast.

Ultimately, this project will allow researchers from around the region to work together to solve a problem facing golf course superintendents. By combining our efforts, we hope to speed the gathering of information and avoid overlap and duplication of research efforts. Finally, the consolidation of information from all researchers in a single location (Multistate Website to be introduced in 2006) will make it easier for golf course superintendents to find information about relevant research in their region.

Although this project involves numerous turfgrass researchers, the participation of golf course superintendents will be essential to the success of the project. In the coming months, you will be asked to participate in a survey that will provide valuable information for this project. Other ways you can contribute include the communication of information about anthracnose at your facility, the submission of suspected anthracnose samples to participating university diagnostic labs, and the use of your golf course for various field studies related to the project.

Researchers are optimistic about finding improved management strategies for suppressing anthracnose. Results obtained over the next five years will play a key role in our understanding of the pathogen and management of this increasingly devastating disease. For more information about this project, contact John Kaminski at the University of Connecticut.
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