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Early kick-off for turf growth

Productivity
06.04.2017
verticutting
verticutting

Last year we saw early hopes of a quick spring take off, dashed by cold easterly winds and chilling nights that put a check on turf recovery. But what will this season hold?

With turf managers keen to get underway with repairing overwinter damage on sports pitches and preparing golf courses for an upsurge in play, a good start to April spring growth will be extremely welcome. 

2016 - Key April weather facts

  • UK average of 6.5°C well below recent seasons
  • North of England and Scotland was more than 1°C below long term average
  • Average daily high temperature was 1.5°C below long term levels
  • Frosts occurred on 25% more nights than norm, including six nights in northern England
  • Rainfall was 30% above norm for parts of eastern England and Scotland
  • Sunshine levels were slightly above average

The vagaries of the jet stream direction over the Atlantic has already resulted in some wild fluctuation in temperatures and rainfall across the UK, on an almost daily basis. Whilst it can draw up mild, moist conditions from the south west, it still has the capability to pull in a chilling blast of cold air from the east.

Table 1. Recent UK weather records highlight the variation in April that dictates when spring recovery really starts.

Av Temp (°C)

Sun (hours)

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

6.3

6.3

9.2

7.9

6.5

128

168

145

212

160

Rain (mm)

Days with air frost

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

128

64

68

46

82

6

8

1

4

6

Water stress

Last year apart, spring temperatures have typically been well above average, with significantly less rainfall and longer hours of sunshine. The effects of water stress on can occur within hours of rainfall stopping, especially with a warm, drying April wind. 

Sand-constructed playing surfaces where soil moisture retention is limited - including many sports pitches and golf greens and tees - can quickly develop a moisture deficit.

Hand watering greens

Utilising the wetting agent and water conservation technology of Qualibra is particularly relevant in these conditions - to move surface water away and maintain a firm surface, whilst retaining soil moisture at depth through the root zone to optimise water utilization and reduce effects of water stress. 

Renovation risk

April weather conditions will have a major impact on the success of renovation programmes, for both sports pitches and golf courses. Crucially important will be soil temperatures and rainfall for successful seed germination and turf recovery.

However, the stress of renovation on existing turf can be the trigger for damaging disease outbreaks, at a time of extreme susceptibility and high infection pressure. STRI trials have shown a proactive programme, with seedling safe fungicides, can cut the risk of disease flare up if weather conditions are conducive.

Using the soil temperature forecasts on the GreenCast website can enable turf managers to select the appropriate options and timings through spring and summer, and better protect playability right through the season.

     April Top Tips for Turf

  • Start wetting agent programmes early, especially in dry seasons
  • Wait for consistent soil temperatures to commence growth regulator programmes
  • Minimise risk of disease outbreaks during renovation
  • Watch for local weather and disease risk warnings on the free GreenCast turf management website