Sports Turf Agronomy Advice - April 2024

Tom Woodin Agronomy Advice

As March ends, many turf managers are now in a situation well out of their control. The wet weather has prolonged over such a long period unlike any recent year. In fact, between July and December last year was the wettest on record since 1890. And, unfortunately, it has continued each month of this year so far too. 

April usually brings with it a real feeling of spring, which, fingers crossed, will be what we get this year. The longer nights and lighter mornings are certainly helping to lift people’s mood, slightly.  On that note, it’s important to mention that in these challenging weather conditions, there are other turf managers going through the same processes and, as an industry, we are very good at communicating with one another and sharing experiences. It’s important to remember that friends and peers are only at the end of the phone should you need to speak with anyone, if only just to hear that they are dealing with those exact same issues you are faced with on your site.

The persistent wet weather has meant that many are now faced with postponing any planned spring maintenance work. Those involved in winter sports are continually battling with games being played on wet, heavy ground, which is increasing the damage caused by wear and restricting the recovery of the playing surfaces. Hopefully, some early season growth will now boost recovery and continue through to the end of the season before renovations take place.

Before we look ahead to the forecasted weather for April, let’s look back at March’s average figures. The rainfall figures highlight just how much the rain has continued to fall, on average another 100mm this month, that’s on top of last month’s high figure. Recently, I was told that a particular site has had 1000mm of rain since July last year, which was well over their typical annual average, in only 8 months!

It’s an all too familiar story, like February, where small breaks in the weather allow for some progress but then a few days later another deluge follows, which puts everything back again. Temperatures have remained constant all month and we are starting to see growth potential reach up towards 50%, which is providing good growth. As the model predicts, the grass is able to grow at 50% of its maximum rate, but obviously coupled with saturated ground, it’s not an ideal situation.  

Click here if you want to review weather data in your region for March. To keep up to date with the weather throughout April visit 

Looking ahead to the forecast for April, unfortunately it doesn’t look like there is going to be significant improvement to really have the drying effect required on playing surfaces. Generally, the expectation is that a more westerly or south-westerly Atlantic flow will develop with embedded low-pressure systems. There is likely to be periods of high pressure throughout, in between these lows; which would mean that spells of wet weather look likely to continue into April, but with some drier and brighter spells in between and perhaps less chance of any cold outbreaks returning.

Although it might not feel like it, given as of the 31st March we entered British Summer Time (BST) with (hopefully) milder temperatures, you will start to notice more ‘buzzing’ from the humble bee. Early flowers are essential for the survival of bee colonies and April is their first opportunity to find food to feed the colony.

There are numerous campaigns running nationwide to ensure the future of the bee. 2024 is also the 150th anniversary of the British Beekeepers Association, and for anyone interested there is an event being held this spring, click here for more details. One in three mouthfuls rely on pollinators, therefore if we can encourage the environments in which they thrive, we can help protect their and our futures. Spring is the perfect time to sow a wildflower mix and they can really transform areas into a bio-diversity haven that is also great to look at and enjoy. There is a wide variety of choice available, from the more visually stunning mixes to the more natural grass/flower mixes, depending on what best suits the environment.

The weather is undoubtedly having an impact on turfgrass nutrition and health. Not only the sheer volume of rainfall we are experiencing but, coupled with volume over a short period of time, means that applications are not being as effective as they would in typical spring conditions. Therefore, plans may have to be adapted and nitrogen/nutrient losses account for. This may mean that, instead of starting a programme of liquid applications, a further spring granular is utilised.  No two sites are the same, so it will depend on each location, but these extremes require us to approach things slightly differently if we are to reach the standards we have set.

April typically is when we see the first signs of annual meadow grass seeding, which can have an impact on playing quality, performance and overall aesthetics. Although grooming can be deployed to physically remove the seed, in some instances, depending on the surface you manage, this can provide the perfect seed bed for more annual meadow grass to develop. The current wet conditions may also be a limiting factor on what maintenance can be carried out on surfaces. Plant growth regulators (PGR) can be used to great effect to help regulate the flowering capacity of the Poa annua plant. Prohexadione-calcium (Class A late gibberellin inhibitor) can be used at cool temperatures and, as such, applications can be made in early April.

The PGR is active when sprayed onto the plant, therefore its regulatory effect is fast acting, getting to work within 4 hours. Early applications, when seedheads are still in the boot stage of development, ahead of stem dissection and flowering, will promote regulation through inhibition of the biosynthesis of the plant hormone gibberellin. A key benefit of this active ingredient is that it regulates Poa annua closely aligned with the desirable perennial grasses in the sward. This restricts the ability of the Poa annua to pioneer the sward, by not giving it the advantage of being out of regulation, whilst the perennial species are still being regulated. 

An increasing problem at varying points of the year is managing pest populations. There have been numerous reports of leatherjacket damage outside of the ‘typical’ peak season. Applications of acelepryn at this time of year are not in the optimum window for effective control, and therefore the one application permitted would be somewhat wasted. If damage is significant, it may be worth considering a spring application of nematodes to try combat the problem. Steinernema feltiae can be used at soil temperatures above 8°C and Steinernema carpocapsae above 13°C, therefore it’s important to choose the right treatment for your site at this time of year.

It would have been nice to fill this edition with sunshine and happiness, but unfortunately it looks like we are going to have to wait a bit longer yet…It will come, and it will not be long before social media accounts are filled with stripes and blue sky. Until then, keep up the amazing work you do!

Tom Wood
B.Sc (Hons) | BASIS | FACTS