Orchardgrass Decline

Nathan Kleczewski, Extension Specialist – Plant Pathology; nkleczew@udel.edu

Over the past 2-3 weeks we have had several questions and concerns pertaining to “orchardgrass decline.” Orchardgrass decline is not something new to the area, and has been something Richard Taylor mentioned observing on several occasions. Orchardgrass decline is a common syndrome with several factors contributing to the overall problem. Factors that can contribute to decline include imbalances, particularly nitrogen and potassium; leaving inadequate stubble to allow adequate regrowth; infestation by insect pests such as white grubs, wireworms, thrips, aphids, and arthropods such as mites; and diseases including anthracnose, stripe rust, Septoria leaf spot, brown stripe, and barley yellow dwarf virus. Due to the complexity of the syndrome, it is difficult to recommend a single tactic that could improve the situation in a problematic field. However, the persistent wet weather we had earlier in the season could have spurred some issues that are now becoming more apparent.

If you are having issues with Orchardgrass decline consider the following:

  • Consider rotating from grass hay to a legume such as alfalfa.
  • Test the soil, paying special attention to potassium levels and pH.
  • Look into newer varieties of orchardgrass and be sure to purchase certified seed.
  • Plant into well drained fields with organic matter
  • Allow the roots of recently established fields to establish deep into the plow layer before grazing or cutting.