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The Microclimate in Tall Fescue Turf as Affected by Canopy Density and Its Influence on Brown Patch Disease. Loren J. Giesler, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Nebraska-Lincoln,Lincoln, 68583. Gary Y. Yuen, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, and Garald L. Horst, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln,Lincoln, 68583. Plant Dis. 80:389. Accepted for publication 18 December 1995. Copyright 1996 The American Phytopathological Society. DOI: 10.1094/PD-80-0389.

Microenvironment was monitored within tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) experiment plots in which the severity of brown patch disease, caused by Rhizoctonia solani AG-l-IA, was found to correlate with canopy density. Canopy density was varied either by planting cultivars that produced different densities, or by planting a single cultivar at three seeding rates. Air and foliage temperatures within the canopy differed by only approximately 1C between low- and high-density canopies during 1993 and 1994 in both studies. In a wet year, 1993, leaf wetness and relative humidity did not differ significantly between low- and high-density canopies. In 1994, which was more typical in regards to weather, a denser canopy promoted leaf wetness and high relative humidity in both studies. Leaf wetness duration averaged over 10 days was 0.8 h longer in the high-density cultivar Arriba than in the low-density cultivar Fawn. In addition, the period of relative humidity above 90% was 2.3 h longer in Arriba than in Fawn. Canopies of tall fescue with different plant densities were inoculated in the laboratory with R. solani and placed under uniformly high humidity and temperature. Hyphae grew between leaf blades separated by up to 8 mm. Interblade hyphal growth occurred more frequently in high-density canopies because of the closer proximity of leaf blades, and as a result, mycelia and necrosis spread more rapidly from inoculation sites in high-density canopies. It was concluded that microenvironmental conditions and the physical proximity of leaf blades in high-density turfs can be more favorable for brown patch disease.