# Red Thread disease explained
# Autumn begins early after a washout August
# Britain on flood watch as torrential rain sweeps the country
Red Thread is a fungal disease that causes unsightly patches to spring up and grass blades to sprout red or pink needles.
Red Thread is a fungal disease that turns grass from green to red
According to gardeners, this year's warm, wet conditions have led to outbreaks in private gardens, parks and at sports grounds from the south coast to the Scottish Highlands.
Once established, the disease can remain in situ for up to two years and can spread rapidly by sending out spores.
Those affected are warned not only to stop mowing the lawn but to stay off the grass altogether.
The disease can only be banished by prolonged warm, dry weather or by lengthy and expensive treatment by a professional gardener using a controlled fungicide.
Derek Walder, of the Institute of Groundsmanship whose 8,000 members look after cricket and football pitches, golf courses and race courses around the country, said this year's dismal weather had created the ideal breeding ground for the disease.
"Temperatures of up to around 20ºC (68ºF) and a damp turf surface are all Red Thread needs to establish itself," he said.
"Sports fields simply can't be out of action so groundsmen learn to be incredibly vigilant and spray before it can take hold.
"For private gardeners who really prize their lawns it can be very frustrating. It's not terminal but it looks very unsightly.
"There's really not much they can do, just wait for the weather to turn. At this rate, and knowing the British weather, they may be waiting some time."
Steve Taylor, technical manager at GreenThumb, a lawn treatment firm with 180 outlets around the country, said business has been dramatically boosted by the outbreaks. He said that each specialist treats around 20 lawns a day and 75 per cent are now affected by Red Thread.
"We are now seeing a much stronger strain that creates footprint-shaped damaged patches on the lawn," he said. "If closely inspected, you will see a fine red needle coming off the leaf that attaches itself to the blade of grass."
Far from offering relief to lawn-owners, the weather which causes the disease appears to be worsening.
The Environment Agency issued warnings today for four rivers in Wales, three in south-west England, two in the Thames region and one in the north-east.
It follows downpours at the beginning of the week that saw up to half the month's average rain fall in one day in some areas. Forecasters warned those planning to escape to the Continent to expect disruption on the ferries as force 10 storms made sea conditions rough.
Rob Hutchinson, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, said: "There are no signs of any prolonged spell of settled weather just yet."
But John Hammond, senior forecaster at the Met Office, insisted there is nothing unusual in the current climate. "Although it may seem it with the rain we've had recently, the weather this year really hasn't been that unusual and rainfall totals are not out of the ordinary," he said.
"It's not as bad as it could be - temperatures have been about half a degree above average and sunshine hours have been average.
"We remember these lovely hot summers of a couple of year ago, and think they will return, but they don't come along too often. This is far more representative of the British summer."
Source:- The Telegraph