Mad March start to spring weather

Stadium under snow mr

After several successive years with an early start to spring, this February’s cold and wet weather conditions across most of the UK had dispelled hopes of early growth. And with March kicking off beneath a snow blanket and bitterly east winds, there’s little signs of potential for any turf activity – certainly before mid-month.

I’ve found that it’s not, until now, been excessively cold this winter, but persistently low temperatures at night has meant soil conditions rarely reached the growing trigger.

Making plans for March has always been difficult, given the huge variability in what the weather holds, and its implications for turf health.

For the past two years it’s been frustrating that a mild winter and an early start to spring has been somewhat of a false dawn, only to see temperatures fall away and then turn out to be a late season.

  • Last year, March temperatures reached an average a daily high of 12.1°C across England as a whole – over three degrees above the long term average.
  • Rainfall in March has been below the long-term average for the past six years.
  • In 2016 the north-west and west Scotland received over 50% more rain than average, but eastern counties were significantly drier than normal.
  • In 2013, the average UK temperature for the March was just 2.2°C with 18 nights of air frost – and 23 nights frost in the east of Scotland; which had an average low of -2°C for the entire month.

Whilst March daytime conditions may sometimes start to look good for turf repair and recovery, I found it interesting with the figures in the table below highlighting the UK still has an average eight nights with an air frost in March, which can frequently be as much as 15 nights in the east of Scotland – with far more forecast this year.

Overall UK March weather records for the past three years reveal consistently warmer temperatures – notably with exceptional daytime highs and just one or two nights of frost in southern England last year. It was also sunnier and, for many areas, drier than average.
Av Temp (°C) Sun (hours) Rain (mm) Days with air frost
2015 2016 2017 2015 2016 2017 2015 2016 2017 2015 2016 2017
5.5 5.3 7.3 123 118 123 96 87 99 7 8 4

Even later in the month, the extreme diurnal range of warm days and cold nights create added stress that limits the chance for turf plants to outgrow any damage caused by pests and diseases. It’s been a difficult winter for Microdochium Patch (Fusarium), with old scars and high levels of inoculum waiting for the weather conditions to resurrect.

Once again we’ve found that using the GreenCast website to identify the level of disease risk before it hits enables a strategic disease control approach, to prepare and plan for product choice and performance.

During the difficult spring timing, when there may be cool periods of no growth interspersed with warmer flushes, fungicide actives with contact and systemic multi-active components can cover both conditions. As temperatures warm up, the cool-weather systemic Banner Maxx II provides extra protection from within the leaf.

Early start with wetting agents

Starting wetting agent programmes earlier this spring could aid faster recovery of turf quality, and ensure plants remain healthier through the summer.

Even after February’s wet conditions, a prolonged dry spring weather, as experienced in late March and April for recent years, can seriously affect root growth and plant recovery.

Advanced wetting agent technology, combining genuine penetrating and polymer components in Qualibra, provides the opportunity to create firmer, faster and more durable playing surfaces earlier in the spring, along with preparing improved growing conditions for turf through the season.

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