Sports Turf Agronomy Advice - March 2024

Tom Woodin Agronomy Advice

As I look back on last year’s notes, the first line reads “February has been an uncharacteristically dry month…” If only that were true for this February!

The constant wet weather has meant that many have had to delay any significant maintenance work they may have had planned. Some may have taken advantage of a small window earlier in the month but for most ground conditions have been unsuitable. This has meant that many winter projects are still unfinished and for many with the main playing season fast approaching it is condensing the period in which preparation works can be carried out. For those involved in winter sports, the conditions have had a significant impact on wear and recovery on the playing surfaces. Hopefully some early season growth will now boost recovery and continue through to the end of the season.

Before we look ahead to the forecasted weather for March, let’s look back at February’s average figures. The rainfall figures highlight just how much the rain has continued to fall, on average 168mm this month, which has been the tipping point for many people. Periods of a few dry days in which progress can be made has been hampered with a deluge to follow shortly afterwards which has put grounds managers on the back foot again.

Temperatures have remained constant all month but with some low night-time temperatures, growth hasn’t really got going just yet, which is reflected in the base nitrogen requirement figures for the month. Whilst ground conditions still aren’t suitable for widescale mowing for many, similar base nitrogen requirements for next month would mean you could allow some time before having to mow, however if there is a rise in the N requirements this could increase the demand for getting mowing equipment out onto the surfaces to keep on top of the subsequent growth.

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

As we see an increase in growth this month, this is typically met with some maintenance work to ‘renovate’ the turf having gone through the winter, which will improve conditions over the summer period.  This could involve small scale maintenance which is utilised to keep disruption to a minimum but still has a beneficial impact on conditions, or it could be more heavy duty ‘corrective’ maintenance, which can have a big impact on playing conditions through the removal of material or incorporation of sand dressings, this will all depend on the site, conditions, budget and staff levels etc…. Crucial to the success of these types of maintenance is the recovery following to work being carried out. Applying a fertiliser with a suitable nitrogen source, with nitrogen that is readily available for plant uptake, will stimulate the growth needed to get successful recovery.


Nitrate and ammonium are both readily available nitrogen sources. Nitrate is freely available for plants to uptake and can therefore stimulate growth in cooler conditions, it is highly mobile and can reach plants roots quickly, providing a quick nutrient supply, conversely it can be easily leached from the profile with high water volumes. Ammonium also provides a readily available form of nitrogen making it a particularly good choice in the early season. Both forms of readily available nitrogen need to be balanced with the growth response it will generate.

Too much nitrogen content can provide a high growth response which can initially be weak and therefore can result in leggy growth and be susceptible to disease. Therefore, choosing the right analysis which will give the optimum amount of growth response is recommended. Utilising a mixtures of nitrogen sources can also provide excellent results in that you get both an immediate uptake of nutrition but also a longer release of nutrition which keeps the plant supplied with nutrients over many more weeks than conventional fertilisers. Methylene Urea (MU) is an example of a long release source of urea nitrogen fertiliser. MU’s rate of decomposition is determined by the action of microbes found naturally in most soils. The activity of these microbes, and therefore, the rate of nitrogen release, is temperature dependent. Organic fertiliser, another slow-release nitrogen source, is composed of natural materials derived from animals and plants. Relying on natural biological and chemical processes, nutrient content tends to be lower, less exacting and released much slower. As the nutrient release is slower, so is the turf response.


Over the last two weeks there have been many reported cases of damage to surfaces from bird pecking. For leatherjacket issues, Acelepryn is recommended to manage population numbers. However, the best application period is towards October and November, therefore currently would not be the best time to apply as the pests would be too large in the growth stage for the product to have a significant effect. There are nematode options for early in the season however and lower temperatures the efficacy may not be a high compared to later in the season.

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