A normal topic of concern during the summer is drought stress or damage. That has certainly not been the case this year.
The abundance of rainfall has everything growing — and by everything, I mean the plant and whatever affects it. Disease management is important when humidity is high and the temperature is hot.
Unfortunately, there have been few opportunities to make a difference in disease control. Even if you had a dry period to put out a fungicide, rain falls within the recommended drying periods have rendered it ineffective. Continue to scout your lawn, plants, etc., for signs of disease development and treat if the weather permits.
Let’s concentrate on something else — mushrooms. With the wet weather, mushrooms are popping up everywhere, particularly in lawns. I get numerous calls and emails concerning their identification. People always want to know if the mushrooms are poisonous. Dogs, Labradors in particular, seem to eat mushrooms, and we get calls from veterinarians’ offices about identifying mushrooms because dogs are in liver failure or sick.
We cannot positively identify mushrooms from a picture. Even if we can identify the mushroom, there is no guarantee that the mushroom growing right next to the one imaged is the same species. Therefore, one may be OK and the other highly toxic.
Mushrooms are the above-ground fruiting bodies of fungi that live in the soil. These fungi feed on decaying organic matter such as old roots, stumps and thatch. When these fungi are present in your lawn, toadstools, mushrooms or puffballs of various shapes and sizes seem to sprout up overnight after wet weather.
Most mushrooms do not damage the lawn, but fairy ring fungi can become a problem. The growth of fairy ring mushrooms in the lawn often appears in a circular shape. This is because fungi grow from a central point outward. Each year, as the fungus grows, the circle expands.
Fairy ring fungi grow on buried organic matter in turf and may survive for many years. There may be buried stumps, dead roots or wood left over from construction that serves as a food source for the fungi. Fairy ring is difficult to control, so most homeowners just wait until the organic matter decomposes and the symptoms will eventually disappear.
Light applications of nitrogen fertilizer sometimes will mask the symptoms by stimulating adjacent areas of the turf. The other thing that can be done is to aerate the affected areas every 4 inches, plus an additional 2 feet beyond the visible area. This will improve irrigation penetration and speeds up the decomposition process.
Some mushrooms are edible, but many common ones are poisonous. It takes an expert to tell the difference. Eating a poisonous mushroom will make you ill, and some are deadly. When ingested, a poisonous mushroom may cause severe diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain. After a few days, the person typically suffers liver and kidney failure or possibly death.
So only eat mushrooms from the grocery store or those you are growing from a known source, like shiitake mushrooms.
For more information, contact your local county extension office.
Bell is the county coordinator of the Liberty County extension office of the University of Georgia College Cooperative Extension. His office is at 100 S. Main St., suite 7130, in Hinesville. His office phone number is 876-2133.