February may officially still be winter but, if the trend of recent years is to be repeated, it can feel like the start of spring. However, after a wet season with frequently waterlogged soils over recent months, further wet and windy weather could see conditions quickly deteriorate.
Looking at GreenCast weather records and Met Office figures, last year the average February temperature across the UK of 5.3°C was nearly 2.5 degrees above the long-term average. Temperatures reached over 18°C at times in southern England, with warming south-Atlantic winds.
But whilst temperatures were breaking records, it was those winds that were most memorable, with first Storm Doris causing widespread disruption and damage, and then Storm Ewan blowing in wet and wintery showers at end the month.
February weather highlights:
- Since 1997, all bar two seasons have seen temperatures above the long-term average of 2.9°C for February, with 2010 and 2013 the exceptions.
- Although 2017 was warm, it proved duller than normal – with 15% below average sunlight. Only Scotland was brighter than normal.
- 2017 was another above average February rainfall – wet and warm conditions have become the norm.
- Rain fell on half the days in February across the UK, with an average 6.7 mm per rain event. In parts of Scotland, only 10 days were dry, and its average rain event was nearly 11 mm.
|Table 1. UK February weather conditions for the past three years. 2017 was a tale of two halves; overall significantly warmer and half the average frosty nights, but also duller and wetter.|
Av Temp (°C)
|Sun (hours)||Rain (mm)||Days with air frost|
After a season where Microdochium Patch (Fusarium) disease has been so widespread, you have to be aware that it could flare up from old scars or thatch at any time when conditions are right. Protecting the turf with Medallion TL fungicide applications before forecast disease risk periods can knock-down infective spore levels and provide long-lasting results.
Intermittent turf growth, as a result of warm days and cold nights we often experience in February – can put extra stress on turf plants. Multi-active fungicides including both contact and systemic activity can help to cover all risks.
It’s a time of year that highlights the value of a strategic approach to disease control – when you’ve made the plans and have the tools ready if required; then you tailor the actual applications to the specific seasonal risks and situations.
But always bear in mind if you’ll be able to get the application on at the right time and how that might influence choice. Looking at last year’s weather, with the wet and windy conditions there were very few spray window opportunities in February.
If you believe leaves may already be infected at the time of application, even if you can’t see any symptoms of disease, then you’ll need an active that can get into the leaf and target disease activity in the leaf – which is again when appropriate multi-active options have a real benefit.
Light relief for stress
By the end of February, typical day length should have extended to some 650 minutes – close to 11 hours. More importantly, the Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) element of the light spectrum utilised by plants, also starts to increase rapidly through February.
Turf managers can review grass growth curves on GreenCast to optimise timing of agronomics, including Primo Maxx and Qualibra wetting agent programmes to enhance turf health. It is the first step to creating strong plants more able to withstand periods of stress use of good growing conditions for recovery, providing an early start to better spring playing surfaces.