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


By Rick Orr 09/19/2022

St Augustine Lawn infected with Sugarcane Mosaic Virus and half of lawn unifected
Half of this St Augustine lawn has Sugarcane Mosaic Virus and half is uninfected. Infected areas can occur anywhere on the lawn, from circular to cloud shapes to straight lines between infected and uninfected areas. The infected areas can be light green to brown. In mild to moderate infections, the lawn often recovers.

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

Sugarcane Mosaic Virus damage to leaves of St Augustine grass
Sugarcane Mosaic Virus Infected St Augustine leaves

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.

St Augustine lawn showing SMV areas that recovered and infected
This photo shows areas infected with SMV and recovered and areas newly infected

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

Since 1995, Rick Orr has worked in Pinellas County providing turf management and pest control. Rick Orr is a graduate of VA Tech in Agronomy (Turf Ecology) and the creator of

Since graduating from VA Tech in 1979, Rick worked in the green industry, mostly with golf courses, resorts, and large communities. Rick has obtained certifications in arboriculture, landscape contractor, and irrigation contractor, and taught Environmental Horticulture at St Petersburg College. 

Currently, Rick is the owner and operator of APL Pest Control. APL Pest Control provides lawn care and pest control for all of Pinellas County.

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