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Golfers beware – new golf course fungal disease

Golfers beware – a new golf course fungal disease is attacking southern U.S. courses.

Drought conditions, uninvited wildlife, and fungal growth are all common problems for golf courses from time to time. Recently, however, a strange new phenomenon has been popping up on golf courses in the southeastern United States, where patches of turf turned black and resembled a large ink spill. Not only has the golf course fungal disease ruined the famously pristine aesthetic of these courses, but it has also made some golfers fearful of playing.

Scientists from Mississippi State University have finally identified the culprit. Curvularia malina is a new fungus species previously unknown to experts. The name “malina” stems from the Sanskrit word meaning “dirty or stained,” due to its dark, blotchy appearance. The finding was published by Dr. Young-Ki Jo and his partner Dr. Maria Tomaso-Peterson in the Mycologia journal.

Because the pathogen is newly discovered, golf course managers have been sweating over how to address the issue. “If we don’t know the biology of a fungus, there is no management protocol,” said Dr. Jo. Fungicides can be incredibly expensive, costing over $5,000 per treatment, and may not even be effective against the new strain.

Nevertheless, Jo and team were able to come up with a fungicide that could work preventatively against Curvularia malina at the times of year when it’s most likely to occur. Not surprisingly, it is during the more humid months when the fungus flourishes. Luckily, it doesn’t actually kill grass, and the condition often clears up once drier conditions return.

Curvularia malina will still leave a blemish on the grass even after it clears up. As a result, southern golf courses will need to keep on top of preventative preparation in order to stay one step ahead of the new fungal threat.

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