Growing Buffalo Grass – Maintenance And Diseases

Buffalo grass (Buchloë dactyloides) is a type of grass native to North America. American bison used to forage on buffalo grass, giving the turf its name. It has existed for at least seven million years.

Buffalo grass is used today as a low-maintenance turf grass. Some popular varieties of buffalo grass include “Texota,” “Bison,” “Prairie,” “609,” “315,” “Legacy” and “Prestige”.

Buffalo grass grows best in full sun and can adapt to heat and drought. Although buffalo grass resists many diseases, it may occasionally suffer from brown patch, summer patch or leaf spot and melting out.

Buffalo grass

Brown Patch Disease

Brown patch disease (Rhizoctonia solani), which occurs in late spring and summer, requires high humidity and temperatures above 80 degrees.

Grass will develop semi-circular areas of dead or dying grass blades; up close these grass blades have tan spots with purple margins. Brown patch usually remains on buffalo grass until the temperature and humidity decrease; brown patch usually does not kill grass.

Avoid brown patch by not over-fertilizing and never watering at night.

Summer Patch Disease

Summer patch disease (Magnaporthe poae) also occurs in hot, wet weather. Summer patch causes small circles of yellow or tan grass that may grow to a foot or more in diameter and may connect into larger patches.

Summer patch causes the roots and crown of the grass to darken, and eventually rot. Rings may appear when the grass in the middle of a circle begins to recover. Rotted grass will die.

Soil with high pH levels is more susceptible to summer patch; never over-fertilize buffalo grass.

Leaf Spot and Melting Out Disease

Leaf spot occurs in cool, wet weather and initially causes small brown or black dots on the grass blades. Leaf spot can be caused by several fungi, including Cochliobolus sativus, Drechslera poae and Bipolaris.

As leaf spot progresses, the spots will enlarge. If leaf spot progresses to the grass crown, it causes “melting out,” or rotting of the crown and root. Melting out will eventually kill buffalo grass, but dry and warm weather usually eliminates the disease before this point.

Avoid leaf spot and melting out by watering less frequently, never watering at night and not over-fertilizing your buffalo grass.

Proper Buffalo Grass Maintenance

Avoid turf diseases and weed growth by watering buffalo grass early in the morning and avoiding over-watering. Limit fertilizer use to one to two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of buffalo grass each year.