Tall Fescue is Not Perfect

It seems like many landowners are jumping on the turf type tall fescue bandwagon, switching from perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass.  It’s understandable – the number of problems that these species have caused many homeowners to look for other options.  The truth is no turf species is perfect, with resistance to all diseases, insects and other maladies, or grows well in all sorts of soils and light conditions.


The main drawback to tall fescue is its inherent susceptibility to brown patch disease and to a lesser degree, another disease called grey leaf spot.  The plusses are extensive – deep roots and drought resistance, good wear tolerance, moderate shade adaptability, insect resistance, low to moderate fertility need and resistance to many other turf diseases.

turf type coarse type tall fescue

The good news is that turf breeders at land grant universities and major turf seed companies are hard at work researching and producing new cultivars of tall fescue that have increased resistance to brown patch.  That said, 2020 was a brutal year for brown patch, with perfect conditions for its development.  Many lawns were decimated due to the infection.

Tall fescue reseeding 2

Recovery from brown patch is two-fold.  In late August, power raking and reseeding is in order to increase the genetic diversity of the stand and to increase density.  Next spring, in early summer, application of preventative fungicides such as propaconizole, azoxystrobin, chlorothalonil,  fluoxastrobin flutolanil, fluxapyroxad, iprodione, metconazole, penthiopyrad, polyoxin, pyraclostrobin and tebuconazole.  These fungicides should be applied in a liquid form to the foliage of the grass plants when temperatures increase into the 70’s and the humidity rises to 60% or above for several days in a row.  In eastern Nebraska, this is usually in the mid-June timeframe, but every year is different; contact your local Extension office for specific details.


While some of these products are available in garden centers, contacting a lawn service for the applications is a viable option as well.  Be sure to read and follow all label directions.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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