The Groundsman

March 2014

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WEATHER UPDATE 45 the Groundsman March 2014 World-leading on-line advice for turf • Up to the minute weather forecasting • Advance warning of turf diseases • Application zone for practical pointers • NEW interactive forums How soon can spring arrive? The exceptional wet February conditions that deluged large parts of the UK, especially southern and eastern England, created unprecedented problems for golf courses and sports turf managers at all levels. Some golf courses remained shut for three weeks or more, while over 500 football games were cancelled in the Rymans Isthmian League alone, for example. It could now take many months, and significant investment, to restore the long-term effects on turf quality and the financial losses incurred. And while March typically promises the start to the spring growth and recovery, the experience of the last year's prolonged cold, slow emergence from winter is still the overriding memory. In 2012 the average March temperature, for the UK was just 2.2°C with a frost on two-thirds of days – more than 5°C colder, around half the sunshine hours and with 15 days more frosts than the same period in 2012 (Table). Unusually, it actually turned far colder in the second half of the month. Towards the end of March there was over 40cm of snow recorded lying in the Midlands, which combined with strong winds added to the chill factor and resulted in significant drifting. But the past two seasons were quite exceptional extremes. More typically March will herald rising temperatures and, equally importantly, longer days with brighter conditions that should enable some essential recovery. However, for most it will be the recent trend of a drier month in March that will be most welcome. In Scotland, for example, rainfall has been 40 per cent less than the long-term norm for the past two years, and back to 2009 since it was last above average. However, that must be tempered by regional variation and the trend for short but severe rainfall events; even last year with below average rainfall there was extensive flooding in the south and west of England later in the month. Diurnal range Already this year, February has broken some regional records with high temperatures, which has initiated turf growth in some areas. However, while daytime conditions look better for turf repair and recovery, it must be remembered that the UK still has an average eight nights with an air frost in March. The extreme diurnal range of warm days followed by cold nights does create added stress, which limits the chance for turf plants to outgrow any damage caused by pests and diseases. A review of last year's disease pressure in south west Scotland, for example, highlighted the potential risk of outbreaks in any wet periods in March. Two peaks in disease pressure clearly coincided with higher rainfall in the first and last weeks of the month. Using the GreenCast website to identify the level of disease risk before it hits enables proactive preventative treatments, to optimise product choice and performance. During the difficult spring timing, when there may be cool periods of no • Be aware that cold nights can put extra stress on freshly cut turf plants • Use ITM techniques to minimise stress and disease development • Sports turf surfaces affected by Microdochium (Fusarium) over the winter require protection to prevent further outbreaks • Watch for local weather and disease risk warnings on March Top Tips growth and warmer flushes, the contact and systemic multi-active components of Instrata covers both conditions for golf course managers, and gives the quick results necessary to prevent disease outbreaks. Fertiliser wash out The record rainfall over the winter months is also likely to have washed out available nutrients from sports turf surfaces, especially sand-based constructions. As growth commences, liquid feeds can provide readily available nutrients to match turf growth. Delivering appropriate nutrition is especially important where Primo Maxx growth regulator programmes are set to be started, once continuous growth occurs. Av Temp (°C) Sun (hours) Days with air frost 2012 2012 7.7 Av. 5.4 Av. Rain (mm) 2013 -2.2 2013 151 102 83 2012 Av. 2013 37 95 62 2012 Av. 2013 3 7 18 UK weather records for March 2012 and 2013, compared to the long-term average. Conditions in 2013 were exceptionally cold, but dry – against a trend of typically wetter and warmer March weather

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