The Problems of Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is a perennial grass with a fine texture and thick, vigorous growth. Grown in warm climates, Bermuda grass is commonly used for lawns, athletic fields and golf courses. Bermuda grass recovers quickly from injury, but is a high-maintenance grass, requiring frequent mowing, fertilization and disease management. For these reasons it is not recommended for home lawns, according to the University of Florida Extension Service. This grass prefers full sun and tolerates drought when nematodes (microscopic, worm-like organisms) are controlled. Numerous insects and diseases impact the quality of Bermuda grass.

Insects

Insect pests of Bermuda grass include sod webworms, armyworms, cutworms, grass loopers, Bermudagrass mites and mole crickets--a major problem. Nitrogen fertilizer encourages vigorous growth of grass, but can increase insects. Commercial chemicals treat pest problems, but should only be used with proper fertilization and irrigation. Pest populations may also be reduced through the use of beneficial insects (those that prey on problem pests). A fly-like parasite (Neodusmetia sangwai), for example, has effectively eliminated the Rhodegrass mealybug in Texas, according to Texas Cooperative Extension literature. Nematodes cause yellowing and thinning of old grass during hot, dry weather and damage grass grown on sandy soils, as well as Bermuda grass grown with a high level of maintenance (frequent mowing, irrigation and use of fertilizer). Chemical control of nematodes is limited and usually requires application by professionals. As in the case of insects, cultural and chemical methods may be required to control disease and nematode problems.

Fungal Disease

Pythium, brownpatch, leaf spot, spring dead spot and dollar spot are fungus diseases that effect Bermuda grass. Avoid using high levels of nitrogen fertilizer during the peak times of disease. Mow properly and control thatch build up to reduce fungal diseases. Disease is exacerbated by drought or excessive watering--depending on the organism--so avoid these conditions. Fungicides are available for the control and prevention of fungal disease.

Weeds

Weeds will quickly move in and overtake Bermuda grass that is stressed. Depending on whether the invasion is by broadleaf weeds like clover or dandelion, grassy weeds, or annual grass weeds, commercial herbicides are available for use, but proper care of the grass is the most useful way to prevent and control the problems of Bermuda grass.

Keywords: Bermuda grass pests, Bermuda grass problems, Bermuda grass diseases