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5 W’s and 1 H: Mosaic Disease of St. Augustine Grass

January 13, 2017

lawn being replaced

Homeowners with St. Augustine grass be warned, there’s a killer on the loose. Mosaic disease of St. Augustine grass is a force to be reckoned with and should not be taken lightly. This disease can take down an entire lawn and kill the grass. Below is some information to better prepare you against this enemy.


What causes Mosaic disease of St. Augustine grass?

The culprit of the dead grass is the Sugarcane Mosaic Virus or SCMV. It’s named after the first host on which it was found, sugarcane. However, it is also found in other species of grass like corn, sorghum, and other weedy, cultivated grasses. SCMV belongs to the poliovirus family and normally found in sugarcane-producing areas of the state, but not a big concern for sugarcane growers.

What are the symptoms of SCMV?

Mosaic virus will present as blotchy and streaky patterns of yellow and green on plants. Grasses with mosaic virus usually have yellow veins on the normally green blade. If left untreated, the virus will kill the grass, becoming very dry and turning a gray color.


Who should be concerned about SCMV?

Anybody with St. Augustine grass should be concerned about this virus. SCMV is spread most commonly through the use of lawn maintenance equipment. Lawn mowers, trimmers, and weed whackers have the ability to transport grass with the disease to other lawns. If a lawn is believed to be infected, the lawn equipment should be sterilized before and after every use. Also, do not spread the lawn trimmings into an open area to avoid spreading the virus.


When was SCMV first discovered?

SCMV was first reported in the 1960’s in rural Palm Beach County. The virus had attacked in sugarcane producing areas, thus leading to the name Sugarcane Mosaic Virus. Resistance was used to minimize the impact of the disease over the past 50 years.  Land surveys in the 1970’s showed that the disease was not present in central or north Florida.


Where does SCMV attack?

As I stated before, any resident with St. Augustine grass is susceptible to the virus. However, the most recent outbreaks have occurred in Palm Beach County, Florida. If you use a lawn service company then you are at greater risk of your lawn contracting the virus because the virus can be transported via lawn maintenance equipment.


How to treat SCMV?                             

The only way to treat SCMV is to replace the contaminated lawn with a type of grass that is more resistant to the virus. Because the virus only affects St. Augustine grass, another species of grass is a good choice. However, if you decide to stick with St. Augustine grass, then choose Palmetto or Bitterblue as they may contract the disease, but are much more resistant to it.  Do not choose Floratom as the most severe symptoms of the most recent epidemic have been observed in Floratom grass.

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