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How to Manage Pests

The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns

Diagnostic tips

On this page:

Know the history of your lawn
Know your predominant turf species
Identify the problem when you first see symptoms
Check for symptoms in the early morning
Collect entire grass plant samples
Perform a drench test
Get help

Know the history of your lawn

Information about pests or diseases that may have caused problems in previous years can help to diagnose current problems. A record of current management practices such as irrigation schedules, mowing heights, and recent fertilizer or pesticide applications will help narrow the field of possible causes.

Know your predominant turf species

Many pests cause problems only on certain turf species. Most lawns are a mixture of species; in some cases, damage symptoms may occur only on one of the turf species present.

Identify the problem when you first see symptoms

Damaged grass is susceptible to secondary pests or problems. Once other problems move in, it can be virtually impossible to identify the original problem.

Check for symptoms in the early morning

If you have a disease, symptoms are best seen in the early morning. Powdery growth or white or pink fungal growth may be more apparent in the morning when the turf is damp with dew.

Collect entire grass plant samples

To get an accurate diagnosis, it is important to collect all parts of the grass plant, including the leaves, stems, crowns, roots, and thatch. Use a trowel or a core sampler to remove samples. A hand lens, 10X or higher power, can aid in observing small characteristics such as mycelia, sclerotia, or insects and insect frass. Remove samples from several areas of the lawn that exhibit symptoms. It is best to sample the edge of an infected area so that you are including plants that are just beginning to show symptoms.

Perform a drench test

Use a drench test to detect the presence of many adult and larval insects that feed within or below the thatch layer.

Get help

Take samples to a local nursery, local Master Gardener program or county Cooperative Extension office. They can either help identify your problem or recommend a diagnostic laboratory to which you can send the sample.

Keeping a record of management practices

Sampling turfgrass with a core sampler

Performing a drench test


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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