Yellow Bermuda Grass

If your Bermuda grass is turning yellow, there are a few likely culprits. Some of these can be quickly diagnosed with a soil test.

Nutrient IssueSymptomsCommon Conditions
Lack of NitrogenCauses pale green to yellow coloring due to insufficient chlorophyll.General nutrient deficiency.
Excess PhosphorusInhibits the uptake of micronutrients like iron and zinc, leading to chlorosis.Excessive fertilizer application.
Lack of PotassiumResults in yellowing edges and tips of leaves, affecting overall plant functions.Potassium-poor soils.
Lack of IronCauses interveinal chlorosis with yellow leaves and green veins.Common in high pH soils.
Lack of ManganeseLeads to interveinal chlorosis.Highly alkaline soils.
Lack of ZincResults in overall yellowing, reduced leaf size, and stunted growth.Alkaline, sandy, or heavily leached soils.
Lack of MagnesiumCauses chlorosis starting as yellow patches between the green veins.Common in sandy soils.

Nitrogen Deficiency

  • Symptoms: Uniform light green color turning yellowish, starting with older leaves.
  • Reason: Nitrogen is a key component of chlorophyll, the molecule that gives plants their green color and plays a crucial role in photosynthesis.
  • Action: If you haven’t applied half a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in the last month, you should do so now. Ensure a steady supply during the growing season, possibly using a slow-release formula.

Phosphorus Excess

  • Symptoms: Potential inhibition of iron and zinc uptake, leading to chlorosis where leaves may turn yellow while veins stay green.
  • Reason: Excessive phosphorus can bind with iron and zinc in the soil, making them unavailable to the grass, which interferes with essential metabolic processes.
  • Action: Reduce phosphorus application and consider using a fertilizer without phosphorus. Conduct a soil test to ensure balanced nutrient levels.

Potassium Deficiency

  • Symptoms: Yellowing at the edges and tips of leaves, eventually leading to browned tips and leaf edges.
  • Reason: Potassium is vital for photosynthesis, water uptake, and overall plant health. A deficiency affects these functions, leading to poor stress tolerance and visible symptoms.
  • Action: Apply a potassium-rich fertilizer according to soil test recommendations to correct the deficiency and improve overall turf health.

Iron Deficiency

  • Symptoms: Interveinal chlorosis, where the leaves turn yellow but the veins stay green, typically starting with the younger leaves.
  • Reason: Iron is crucial for chlorophyll formation. In high pH soils, iron becomes less available to plants, leading to deficiency symptoms.
  • Action: Apply iron chelates or sulfate forms that are more effective in high pH soils. Application can be made either to the soil or as a foliar spray for quicker uptake.

Manganese Deficiency

  • Symptoms: Interveinal chlorosis similar to iron deficiency but often appearing first on younger leaves.
  • Reason: Manganese is important for photosynthesis and enzyme systems within the plant. Like iron, its availability is reduced in high pH soils.
  • Action: Use a manganese sulfate fertilizer, applying it directly to the soil or as a foliar spray. Adjust soil pH if it is overly alkaline to improve manganese availability.

Zinc Deficiency

  • Symptoms: Yellowing of new growth with smaller than normal leaves, shortened internodes, and a general stunted growth appearance.
  • Reason: Zinc is essential for several enzyme functions and the synthesis of growth hormones. Deficiency often occurs in alkaline, sandy, or heavily leached soils.
  • Action: Apply zinc sulfate or chelated zinc formulations to correct the deficiency. Soil applications or foliar sprays can be effective depending on the severity of the deficiency.

Magnesium Deficiency

  • Symptoms: Chlorosis starting as yellow patches between green veins, often on older leaves first.
  • Reason: Magnesium is a central part of the chlorophyll molecule and is essential for photosynthesis. Deficiencies commonly occur in sandy soils or soils with imbalances in potassium and calcium.
  • Action: Apply magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) either to the soil or as a foliar spray. Regular applications may be needed if the soil is particularly deficient or leachable.

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