Penn State University recently reported that their researchers discovered the cause of an emerging turfgrass disease affecting golf courses all over the world.
For researcher John Kaminski, associate professor of turfgrass science and director of the Golf Course Turfgrass Management Program in the College of Agricultural Science, the discovery brought him back to his undergraduate days. Back then, he was studying the spores that get stuck on house siding. The fungus (Sphaerobolus stellatus) shoots out from beds of mulch, lending it the common name of artillery or shotgun fungus.
When Kaminski returned to Penn State years later, he began researching thatch degradation within golf course greens and fairways. The decay of organic matter in the thatch layer causes depressed patches. Symptoms are circular patches of dark green turf ranging from 3 to 18 inches. The thatch has a fawn color and emits a mushroom odor. Playability on the golf course is affected since the depression creates unpredictable ball movement.
It turns out thatch degradation is caused by the same fungus Kaminski was studying in the late 1990s. It has made its ways to golf courses around the world in a fairly short time, from the United States, to New Zealand, Australia and Scotland.
According to Penn State, the discovery lays the framework for creating a method to control the fungus.