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New U.S. Drought Monitor report shows 30.53 percent of Oklahoma in exceptional drought

Turfgrass specialist said it's important to look back to understand the current condition of some Bermuda grass lawns
BY BRYAN PAINTER Published: October 12, 2012

Martin said many people last year were commenting how bad the spring weed problem was and that's because of a mild winter. There was a little rain early, but the lawns were thinned by the drought last year.

“It's not only what this extreme did in late summer, fall and into winter, but how you manage the lawn next spring,” Martin said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday showed 80.57 percent of Oklahoma in extreme to exceptional drought.

A broader look

Oklahoma City has experienced some wild swings in weather from fall 2009 through the fall of 2012.

The fall of 2009 was dominated by a very cool and moist October in areas of the state, McManus said. The weather turned dry after that until the Christmas Eve blizzard. That storm had a record one-day total of 13.5 inches of snow to go along with winds of up to 60 mph, he said.

There was more to come. Oklahoma City experienced its fifth highest seasonal snowfall totals in its history with 23.2 inches. The first couple of weeks in January 2010 had some of the coldest weather the state had experienced in more than a decade. Temperatures fell below zero in some parts of the state, and into the single digits in Oklahoma City. The temperature in Oklahoma City fell below freezing Jan. 2 and didn't rise above 32 degrees until Jan. 6.

“What we had in the spring of 2010 was the worst winter kill of Bermuda grass since spring of 1990,” Martin said. “Now if you carry that into the summer of 2010 in some of the lower maintenance lawns, folks were waiting and waiting for things to green up and they didn't realize they had winter kill.”

So he said that many Bermuda lawns he looked at that fall hadn't been able to recover. Weather was very diverse in 2011, including the hottest summer on record in the United States in terms of statewide temperature.

“So there are some lawns around the state where this damage goes all the way back to the winter kill of 2010, and they've never had an opportunity to repair since if they had low intensity management, didn't fertilize or didn't irrigate,” he said.

“That's why those management practices are so essential for reliability because if you just put Bermuda out there, sure it survives, but the difference between surviving and thriving can be quite great.”