Winter like start to spring

 As you are probably aware the golf course is slow to recover from winter. We have a few winter bare areas from traffic in wet conditions, the tees are still showing wear from play back of last year and most importantly the greens still showing the winter colour and are not growing much to aid any recovery.

This year since the wet weather retreated in January we was hit with a barrage of snow and ice for a month in February/March and now April is the driest coldest month on record. We have currently recorded 21 frosts in April alone.

The  cold night temperatures are fooling the grass into thinking we are still in winter. Plants need to take the suns energy and convert C02 and water into sugars and oxygen essentially and a lot of this process happens at night when the plant has collected maximum energy from the sun. When you have half decent day temperatures but freezing by night this process stops or slows down.

We plant growers use something called growing degree days (GDD) to see where we should be at any given time of the year and to judge certain practices or to time things like greens seeding (which is coming soon!!). Compared to this time last year I predict we are 5 weeks behind in terms of GDD and the plants recovery, not a good place to be but every course up and down the UK is in the same boat (see graph below).


This April has also been the driest month on record, we have currently recorded 1.5mm of rain. The average for April is 51mm, a far cry from what we have received. We are currently losing 2mm per day from the floor in evapotranspiration (ETs). Grass will not grow with out water and this puts pressure on our irrigation system to play catchup, but nothing grows as well as when it receives water from the sky as it has other freebies like nitrates etc and is temperature balanced with air. The water we put on with our irrigation is freezing cold which knocks back soil temperature and growth as a consequence.


There is another reason that we are slow to recover. leather jackets. Not the ones you wear for a pint at Phoenix haha!, but the Laval stage of the crane fly (daddy long legs). 

These pests eat our roots of the grass and cause thinning of the sward and can decimate a whole green. Since the banning of certain chemicals including chlorpyrifos, we no longer have any control of these grubs and the matter is getting worse year after year. In September these grubs will emerge as adults fly off and mate then shortly after lay eggs in the soil and cycle continues.

Every dewy morning we see these pests on the greens as some will surface ready to be eaten by hungry birds feeding chicks, others that don't surface get pecked out of the ground by the hungry birds and that leaves holes and bare patches in our greens, and that with no recovery due to weather we end up with bumpy greens.


So as you can see this April has been a nightmare to produce the healthy greens we are used to this time of year, but help will come from mother nature eventually and I'm sure by the end of May growth will catch up and so will our greens. Tough year so far 2021!


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