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.

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