Hurry Up and Wait. Now Go!

At the beginning of March we were potentially a week or two away from annual bluegrass seedhead emergence thanks to an extremely warm February. Cooler temperatures prevailed and significant snowfall across much of the Northeast brought soil temperatures down and put the brakes on annual bluegrass development for a few weeks. It’s now the beginning of April and we are very close to annual bluegrass seedhead emergence on putting greens in central New Jersey. Parts of northern New Jersey appear to be about a week behind the New Brunswick area.  If you haven’t already applied ethephon (i.e., Proxy, Ethephon 2 SL, Oskie) for seedhead suppression, this week might be ideal (see previous post for more information) for most courses in New Jersey.

Warmer temperatures this week will likely bring average 24-hour soil temperatures (one inch depth) into the 50s and turf will begin to grow more rapidly. Emergence of summer annual weeds is not far away. I first noticed prostrate knotweed emergence in mid February. These early germinating plants survived the winter weather and will continue to develop this week.

Prostrate knotweed seedlings

Note that knotweed seedlings will have two seed leaves and crabgrass will have only one.

Prostrate knotweed seedling with two seed leaves

 

Smooth crabgrass seedling with one seed leaf

I have not observed crabgrass emergence, even on south-facing slopes. I spent the latter part of last week in Washington D.C. and could not find any crabgrass along sidewalks and bare areas there either.

Crabgrass emerging with one seed leaf (in a previous year)

Depending on your location, forsythia may or may not be a reliable phenological indicator for crabgrass germination this year. In a normal year, pre-emergent herbicides (except for dithiopyr (Dimension), which can control crabgrass up to the pre-tiller stage) should be applied when forsythia is in full bloom because crabgrass germination will occur shortly thereafter. However, extremely cold temperatures killed or injured many forsythia flowers in central Jersey and areas south.

In northern New Jersey I’ve observed forsythia plants still in the bud stage and in this case they are likely to be effective indicators. Especially this year, it is important to use multiple forsythia plants because the bloom timing is affected by location among other factors. Plants that bloomed early were injured by the winter weather, but others were unaffected as this photo from @samcamuso demonstrates.

Soil temperature at a 1-inch depth has been reported as a reliable indicator of crabgrass germination assuming soil moisture is adequate. In a three-year study, Fidanza et al. (1996) found that crabgrass began to emerge when the soil temperature at a 1-inch depth averaged 57 to 63 degrees during a 7-day period. Soil temperatures at our research center in North Brunswick have been well below this threshold as of this writing. At this time we are holding off on making pre-emergent applications to our research trials. However, in southern New Jersey soil temperatures are warmer and crabgrass will germinate sooner. In these areas, making a pre-emergence herbicide application soon would be timely. If you are worried you may be too late, scout bare areas with crabgrass carcasses, especially those on south-facing slopes, as crabgrass will germinate earlier in these areas.

Making pre-emergent herbicides applications early is not thought to reduce efficacy. However, if you are using dithiopyr (i.e., Dimension) it’s a good idea to wait until shortly after emergence and take advantage of the early post-emergence efficacy this product provides against crabgrass.

Of course don’t forget to consider your potential renovation/seeding projects this spring. If you are planning on seeding, do not apply any pre-emergence herbicide.

Literature Cited

Fidanza MA, Dernoeden PH, Zhang M (1996) Degree-days for predicting smooth crabgrass emergence in cool-season turfgrass. Crop Sci. 36:990-996.

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.

Localized Drought Stress is Here

As stated in an early post, summer stress is developing throughout the state. Summer stress isn’t widespread or severe but it is developing, particularly wilt stress, within very localized areas of many landscapes. Landscapes that receive little to no irrigation are especially prone to wilt and drought stress right now.

It is important to scout and assess the severity of any wilt stress in moderate-to-high value areas of the landscape. Hours are important, don’t put off the scouting of wilt stress. Assuming the grass or other plants will tolerate wilt stress without confirming the severity of the situation can lead to severe drought stress and stand loss at this time of year.

Symptoms of subtle wilt stress on June 22. Healthy turf will likely to tolerate this level of wilt stress.

Symptoms of subtle wilt stress on June 22. Healthy turf will likely to tolerate this level of wilt stress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grasses such as the fine fescues and annual bluegrass will be [Read more…]

Crabgrass Emerging

Crabgrass has been emerging for several weeks now, depending on the exposure. Warmer and more open turfs will likely have more advanced (larger) plants while cooler and denser turfs will have smaller plants.

Relatively small crabgrass plants  (most pre-tillering stage) emerging from a footpath on June 11th.

Relatively small crabgrass plants (most pre-tillering stage) emerging from a footpath on June 11th.

 

Management options for this weed at this point in the season range from doing nothing to [Read more…]