Weeds off to a Slow Start

Despite a quick start to the spring, soil temperatures remain low across the much of the state. Average soil temperatures (3-inch depth) have been hanging around the mid 60s in central NJ and many warm-season weeds such as crabgrass have hardly developed despite germinating over 6 weeks ago. This crabgrass at our research facility has not advanced past the leaf stage and I have observed this across the region over the past few weeks.

Smooth crabgrass in the leaf stage

The peak of annual bluegrass seedhead production has passed. It was a very difficult spring to properly time ethephon applications for optimum seedhead suppression. If the results of our seedhead suppression research trial are indicative of the region, then I suspect those that made a fall (December at the snow mold fungicide timing) application of ethephon were happy with suppression. Spring-only applications did not perform very well in our research.

A very seedy annual bluegrass putting green at Hort. Farm No. 2

When warmer weather arrives, warm-season weeds will develop rapidly. If you are relying exclusively on post-emergence herbicides for crabgrass control, an application of a post-emergence herbicide in the next few weeks may be warranted. This will only control what has already germinated and not what will emerge as we continue into the summer, so additional applications will be necessary. Especially if using fenoxaprop (Acclaim Extra, Last Call), lower herbicide rates often can be used when treating smaller plants. Mesotrione (Tenacity) is another post-emergence crabgrass herbicide that is most effective on smaller plants. Quinclorac (Drive XLR8, Quinclorac 75DF) is another post-emergence option but is often more effective against larger (> 4 tiller) plants than the smaller plants present right now. Topramezone (Pylex) has efficacy some against crabgrass but is an extremely effective product for goosegrass control. See the herbicide labels for more information.

We observed goosegrass emergence two weeks ago at certain sites but not others. This event is not particularly relevant for those who applied a pre-emergent herbicide. However, you may want to scout areas with a history of goosegrass problems to make sure your pre-emergence herbicide is working. Goosegrass seedlings can be difficult to differentiate from crabgrass seedlings. Goosegrass seedlings have a ridged adaxial leaf surface (ridges look similar to perennial ryegrass) and a blunt leaf tip while crabgrass seedlings are relatively smooth with a sharper leaf tip. If you applied a pre-emergence herbicide and are already seeing goosegrass germination please contact me.

Goosegrass seedlings

If you plan to make an herbicide application to control broadleaf weeds, the weather continues to be ideal for control and growth of the cool-season grass into voids. This is especially true for the summer annual knotweed.

Prostrate knotweed observed mid-May in New Brunswick

 

Prostrate knotweed is more easily controlled now while it is still relatively immature. Standard three-way or other broadleaf herbicides that contain 2,4-D may not provide complete control. So in the case of severe infestation, products that contain triclopyr (e.g., T-Zone, Battleship III, 4-Speed XT, Cool Power, others) will provide more control. Cultural practices such as aerification to reduce compaction and improve conditions for turf growth are also essential. For more information on whether you will disrupt the pre-emergence herbicide barrier by aerifying, see this information from Dr. Aaron Patton.

To Aerify or Not to Aerify when Using a Preemergence Herbicide

 

Sedges and Kyllingas

This week I visited several golf courses and other sites along the Garden State Parkway from Exit 9 (Cape May) to Exit 171 (A few miles from the NY State line. In terms of plant development, northern NJ seems to be about a week behind central NJ and southern NJ seems to be a week or two ahead of central NJ. The most noticeable difference across locations is the difference in kyllinga emergence from dormancy. In southern NJ, kyllinga is close to full emergence while kyllinga northern NJ is at approximately 50% emergence. In all locations, but especially those in southern NJ, now would be a good time to begin making applications if you haven’t already.

False-green kyllinga dominating a stand of tall fescue

False green kyllinga (foreground) has a lime green color compared to the tall fescue (background).

 

Our research indicates that halosulfuron-methyl and imazosulfuron are effective options for control. Multiple applications will likely be necessary for effective control. Make follow-up applications after you observe re-growth from the previous application (usually 3 to 4 weeks later). For more information see this previous blog post by Dr. Murphy. http://turfblog.rutgers.edu/?p=934#more-934.

Soil Temperatures

Soil temperatures have been steadily warming since late March at Hort Farm No. 2 (North Brunswick). Temperatures consistently ran above 50 degree Fahrenheit in early April, and between 50 and 60 degrees from 10 to 27 April.

May 1st was the fifth consecutive day of the maximum soil temperature reaching at least 65 degrees. Thus, soil temperatures are essentially entering into an ‘ideal’ period for the growth of cool-season turfgrasses.

Those experienced with managing summer patch may recall that 5 consecutive days with a soil temperature maximum of 65 degrees is the threshold for initiating a preventive summer patch control program. Isn’t it ironic that ideal growth of the fungus that causes summer patch is synchronized with ideal growth temperatures for cool-season turfgrasses.

Damage from summer patch disease, however, typically is not seen until later in the summer when heat and drought stresses make it challenging for plants with a compromised root system to survive.

summer patch disease on hard fescue

Severe summer patch disease on hard fesuce at Hort Farm No. 2 in July 2013.

Some Early Disease Activity

Sorry no pictures for this post, but thought I would share some recent observations. The recent rains and warm night on Friday/Saturday brought out two diseases on annual bluegrass earlier than we typically experience at the research farm in North Brunswick NJ (Hort Farm No. 2).

Saturday morning, our graduate student found nickel- to quarter-sized spots of foliar Pythium on his annual bluegrass plots. Tended to be more spots on his plots with greater N fertility but the disease was also on low N plots. This is the earliest I have experienced foliar Pythium, but the Friday/Saturday nighttime temperature didn’t get much below 65 degrees F, ‘good’ for Pythium.

Also on annual bluegrass, was a slight outbreak of dollar spot on Saturday morning. Dollar spot in April is early but not unheard of in NJ.

You might notice that the pests mentioned have shown up first on annual bluegrass.

Warm Air, Cool Soil

Warm air temperatures build anticipation of plant growth but keep in mind that cool soil temperatures will strongly moderate growth during the spring. Turf growth typically will be very slow until [Read more…]

Weather Ideal for Pythium and Brown Patch

The weather this summer has been very conducive for brown patch and Pythium blight diseases. I have received number requests this summer to address turf problems related to one or both of these diseases in lawns, sports fields, sod and now my own plots.

Suspected initial outbreak of Pythium on velvet bentgrass maintained at a 0.110-inch height that occurred over the weekend (August 7) in a cultivation trial at Hort Farm No. 2 in North Brunswick NJ.

Suspected initial outbreak of Pythium on velvet bentgrass maintained at a 0.110-inch height that occurred over the weekend (August 7) in a cultivation trial at Hort Farm No. 2 in North Brunswick NJ.

The weather forecast for the rest of this week indicates [Read more…]

Kyllinga Awakens as Soil Temps Increase

Daily high soil temperatures at the 2-inch depth are consistently getting into the 60s °F. Yesterday, temperatures in sunny locations reached into the upper 60s. This means that the warm-season species are, or will be soon waking from winter slumber.

Leaf tips emerging from rhizomes of kyllinga on 15 April 2015 in central New Jersey.

Leaf tips emerging from rhizomes of kyllinga on 15 April 2015 in central New Jersey.

For the last three weeks, I have been watching the emergence of false green kyllinga (Kyllinga gracillima). Most sites infested with kyllinga are probably showing active shoot growth. So it appears that kyllinga needs soil temperatures that reach consistently into the 60s to emerge from winter dormancy. As temperatures continue to warm, re-growth of kyllinga should accelerate.

False green kyllinga is a perennial sedge species with well-developed rhizomes (underground lateral spreading stems). Kyllinga is relatively low growing so it [Read more…]

Looks Like Grass… But It Isn’t

Other than today and yesterday, soil temperatures in New Brunswick have been reaching into the lower 50s °F during the last week or so. And you see the effects, some plants are finally awakening from winter slumber. Cool-season turfgrasses are slowly greening up. Tree buds are swelling, some are flowering. Forsythia is just starting to bloom. And prostrate knotweed, one of the earliest germinating summer annual weeds, is emerging.

Prostrate knotweed is frequently found invading [Read more…]

Winterkill on Annual Bluegrass: Don’t Skip the K

We lost the ice cover on our Poa annua trials two weekends ago (March 7-8th) and initially the turf looked okay. But now… it doesn’t. And it will probably get worse, if we are reading the symptoms correctly.

Blotchy, tan-colored plots and borders around this potassium trial are suffering from winterkill. Photo taken 15 March 2015. Healthier looking turf has received K fertilization; dying turf has not.

Blotchy, tan-colored plots and borders around this potassium trial are suffering from winterkill. Green, healthier looking turf received K fertilization; dying turf did not. (15 March 2015)

Last Friday (March 13), my graduate student, Chas Schmid, informed me that I needed to look at his potassium trial on our Poa annua turf. There was a huge difference between no-K and K fertilized plots. The no-K plots have steadily lost green color and become very blotchy. Plants taken from those plots are water-soaked and feel mushy when squeezed (How is that for a scientific description?). Dr. Lindsey Hoffman has a lot of experience with winterkill on Poa annua in Massachusetts and she is convinced that many of the plants are dead. And it smells like it – silage on a dairy farm!

Take home for me – don’t let your Poa annua turf become potassium deficient! Chas’ data for suppressing anthracnose severity indicates that a soil test (Mehlich 3) ≥50 ppm K and a tissue level of ≥2% K in the clippings are indicators that the K level is good. And winterkill in March 2015 hasn’t changed my mind about that data!

Looks like this might be the end of this Poa annua field. Dr. William Meyer said, “Good riddance.”

Traffic Alert: Damage Threat is High

Damage to landscapes from traffic can be severe during winter and especially now during the thaw. Soil conditions currently range from being frozen to partially thawed/frozen to thawed.

Partially frozen soil will be thawed and very wet at the surface while being frozen at some depth below. Under this condition, soil and turf will be extremely vulnerable to shearing and rutting damage. Traffic, even light foot traffic, must be withheld when this condition exists otherwise severe rutting (soil displacement) will occur.

Severe rut in partially thawed soil.

Severe rut caused by a wheeled vehicle driving on partially thawed soil.

Soil temperature has been “stuck” at freezing for some time now. Today is the first time this year that I have noticed the 2-inch deep bare soil temperature was above 33 °F (> 35 °F at the time of writing this post) at the New Brunswick Rutgers Gardens weather station. Interestingly, the 2-inch soil temperature under sod at this station remains only tenths of a degree above 32 °F, illustrating the insulating effect that vegetative cover has on soil.

Keep in mind that just because a soil has thawed doesn’t mean it is out of danger from traffic. At this time of year, soil will be very loose from frost heaving and very wet or saturated. Soil on very well drained sites will firm up sooner than poorly drained sites but all sites will be very susceptible to damage from traffic for some time after a thaw. Care should be taken to avoid traffic of any kind when the soil and turf is vulnerable.

Allow soil to thaw completely and drain to at least field capacity (preferably drier) before allowing traffic on the landscape. Draining and drying will help to re-settle areas that frost heaved. Light-weight rolling may be need on soil that experienced extensive frost heaving and remains too loose after draining and drying.

The 2014 Rutgers Turfgrass Research Field Days Sets Attendance Record!!

The annual event, held on July 29-30, highlighted ongoing turfgrass research at Rutgers and was attended by over 800 industry professionals! Read the full story here.