Report: Sugarcane Mosaic Virus Infected St Augustine Turf Growing in Southern Pinellas County


By Rick Orr 01/08/2021

St Augustine lawn with half infected with SMV
Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SMV) infected lawn. SMV often infects only a section of the lawn and can have a distinct dividing line between infected and healthy areas of the lawn

Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SMV)

Of the lawns I know with confirmed Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SMV), they are located south of 38th Ave N and are concentrated along the waterfront areas. It is not known why these areas are impacted while the northern areas seem SMV free. It is possible that the southern coastal areas are better suited for the spread of SMV due to milder temperatures.

SMV Symptoms

Hand holding St Augustine leaf infected with sugarcane mosaic virus

SMV infected lawns are yellow-green to brown. The leaves remain erect and the canopy does not completely collapse. The infected areas are often random shapes and can be any part of the lawn or the entire lawn. Often the infected areas will stop along straight or nearly straight lines

The leaves will have a rectangular patchwork of green, yellow, and brown caused by SMV destroying induvial cells. The most definitive way to tell if you have SMV is the leaves will have a rectangular patchwork of green, yellow and brown. 

SMV is Mostly Sub-Lethal

Lawns infected with SMV range from mild to severe. Mild to moderate infections have proven to be sub-lethal causing only cosmetic problems. In severe cases, SMV destroyed the lawn. I suspect that the lawn may have been under severe distressed prior to the infection.

Sugarcane Mosaic Virus on St Augustine lawn
An SMV infected St Augustine lawn. The left part of the lawn recovered and is doing well. The right part was infected the following year and is expected to recover

Lawns Infected with SMV Recover and are Immune

 A lawn that had the virus in 2014 in a small area completely recovered in 2015. However, the uninfected areas in 2014 became infected in 2015. In 2016 the infected areas recovered. This would suggest, that SMV infected areas will be immune. This gives hope the disease is not a constant nemesis destroying your lawn, but rather a one-time infection, and the lawn recovers. The drawback is that from September through the following spring the lawn is not very pretty, but it does recover!

Control and Prevention

There is no control and there is no prevention for SMV. Sanitization will not work – even if you manage to keep the mower and allied equipment sanitized, you cannot prevent other methods of infection from spreading the disease – like insects, mammals, or birds.

Best Management Practice for SMV: Relax!

SMV is sub-lethal, your lawn will most likely recover and be immune. The best thing that could happen is to have a mild infection to immunize your lawn. Regular care of your lawn is all that is required – keep mowing, watering, fertilizing, etc. - like normal.

Don’t Be Discouraged

Lawns are not what is wrong with the urban environment – lawns are what is right about the urban environment. Lawns are a biological filter surrounding your home – the more lawns the cleaner our environment. Don’t let a minor problem like SMV discourage you from being a part of a big solution to pollution –   urban turf.

Other Warnings and Advice: There are those groups and individuals who will use SMV to discourage you from investing your time and money into a lawn. They want your lawn to disappear and the land covered with recycled yard waste. They want you to shut off your irrigation and stop putting chemicals on your lawn and go “green” with a brown lawn. They think lawns are the root of landscape evil. Don’t believe them! They are haters! They are the lawn haters – from environmental groups to the Tampa Bay Water Users – they hate your lawn.



Rick Orr Owner-Operator APL Pest Control/Creator of ILOVETURF.COM
APL Pest Control

Rick Orr is the creator of, Owner/Operator of APL Pest Control, and a graduate of VA Tech in Agronomy (Turf Ecology).  

Since 1980, Rick worked in the green industry, mostly with golf courses, resorts, and large communities. Rick worked as a Golf Course Superintendent of Fripp Island Resort, agronomist for Seaside, FL, and the spray tech for Vinoy Golf Course. Rick has been certified as an arborist, landscape and irrigation contractor, and adjunct professor for Environmental Horticulture (SPC) in Pinellas County.  

Home Pest Control came naturally. Entomology (bug science) was part of agronomy studies. Nearly every indoor pest problem starts outdoors. Crossing over to home pest control from lawn spraying was a natural process – the technology, methods, and materials used for home pest control are modifications of the ones used for lawn spraying. 

The result of that work is one of the top-rated pest control companies in Pinellas County – APL Pest Control. APL Pest Control is a family-owned business serving residential and commercial properties in Pinellas County, FL. 

Free Price Quote for Home Pest Control and/or Lawn Care CLICK HERE

To learn more about APL Pest Control CLICK HERE

Speaking Engagements - Does it seem like you are only hearing one side of water restrictions, fertilizer bans, plant restrictions, and many other urban landscape hot topics? Rick Orr is available for speaking engagements for your HOA, Community or Professional Association, or Garden Club about a variety of subjects. To contact Rick you can find him on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram for booking information.