Monthly Archives: March 2012

March 26th

Hi All,

After last week’s dry weather, another week of warm days, cold nights and no rain is on the cards I’m afraid, but looking longer-term, I think I can see a subtle change in the weather patterns, more of this later.

General Weather Situation

Watching Countryfile last night (the program was based in Leicestershire & Rutland), their weather forecaster described the present weather situation as a ‘Mega Block’, caused by a meandering jet stream, old news really for followers of this blog, but nice to see everyone is waking up to the fact that the jet stream is and has been controlling our weather.

As hinted above, more of the same for this week with high pressure again the dominant weather system for the U.K and Ireland with warm daytime temperatures in their high teens (and perhaps breaking 20°C in some places, Ireland I think had its warmest March day on the east coast yesterday) and cold nights.(Last night we got down to -1.1°C here).. As we approach the end of the week, the wind will swing round to the north and it’ll feel decidedly cooler during the day. By Friday, the wind will really be pushing down from the north, so feeling very cold. This northerly cold theme continues into the weekend and if anything gets worse as Saturday looks like being particularly windy and therefore cold, possibly finishing the day with an overnight frost into Sunday. By Sunday, that north wind will drop, so it won’t feel quite as cold, but if you compare temperatures week on week, it’ll be 10°C colder during the day !

Outlook

As hinted earlier, I do sense a change in the underlying weather pattern is on the way, but we’re talking 10-14 days away at the moment and so that change could easily become a no-show, so I’m cautious. If it does transpire, the blocking high pressure system will shift westwards, out into The Atlantic and that will allow a colder, northerly, weather pattern to dominate. A likely consequence of this is that will also bring wetter weather on the back of it, pushed down across the U.K and Ireland. I have to stress this is just an inkling at present and we’re really looking from Easter Sunday onwards, so I’ll have a clearer idea by next Monday’s blog. So next week looks like being dry again, at least for the early part of the week, warmer than the weekend, but not as warm as this week, with light winds.

Agronomic Notes

These conditions, i.e dry and cold represent the worst combination to grow grass in, point blank. The soil temperature is up at 12°C + by midday, but it’s down to 5°C during the night, so grass growth is stop and start at best, particularly on high-sand content greens.

Purpling across a Poa / Bent sward in early Spring

This stop, start nature will manifest itself in the usual purpling across a grass sward, a typical feature of early spring growth. Here the grass plant is photosynthesising during the warm daytime temperatures and bright sunlight and producing glucose, but as temperatures drop sharply in the late afternoon, it is unable to translocate these sugars out of the leaf, so they accumulate and bind to a pigment in the leaf called Anthocyanin. This pigment is responsible for expressing the blue, purple or red colour in the leaf and so the grass takes on a red / purple appearance. The phenomenon is not universal across a sward, nor across 18 greens. It tends to be exhibited by different clones of Bentgrass and Poa plants in patches / clumps across a green, primarily by the ones that grow better in lower temperatures. Shady greens tend to exhibit this phenomenon more than greens in the open because the change in temperature is greater on this type of green during the day and night. If you look closely at the affected leaf, you’ll see it is only a feature of the upper leaf surface, i.e the one facing the sun, turn the leaf over and it’ll be green.

Nutrition-wise, we’re still fixed on ‘little and often’ liquid / water-soluble feeds applied in low water volumes (maximum 400L) to a grass leaf sitting in warm air, as opposed to a grass root sitting in cold soil. (as would be the case with a granular fertiliser). Try and make it a weekly application frequency to maximise growth potential during this period.

Soil moisture is becoming an issue in the surface and areas with light grass cover are crusting up, so if possible lightly irrigate these areas either early in the morning or during the day when it is warm. I appreciate the latter may not be practically feasible because the warm weather is certainly bringing out the golfer. It’s likely that we’re staying dry at least for the next 7-10 days, so this situation will only get worse. That said, the lower temperatures on the horizon will cut E.T (Evapotranspiration) rates right down so moisture loss should be less.

As with last week, I’d be tank-mixing in a biostimulant either with my wetting agent or my foliar application to maximise growth potential and minimise plant stress.

If anything changes from a rainfall or more precisely lack of rainfall perspective, I’ll update this blog during the week.

regards

Mark Hunt

 

 

March 20th

Hi All,

Sign on verge in Breckenridge, Colorado asking people not to walk on the grass !

Just back from my Best Man jaunt to Breckenridge, Colorado and all in one piece, despite a very steep learning curve on the skiing front…..spent a lot of my time doing the splits or on my backside, but by the end I was doing the Blue runs, albeit with some trepidation. On the way back I spent nearly the entire flight watching the in-flight map to see whether the pilot used the jet stream to hitch a quicker ride home (which he did) and I can report at 7 miles up, it was providing a 110mph tail wind to our 757 !. Emerged into bright, warm sunshine at Heathrow and spring has definitely sprung !.

General Weather Situation

Well, it’s high pressure remaining in charge for the foreseeable and at the same time, this pressure system is beginning to build up some heat, so dry and warm, particularly over the weekend, with no rainfall in sight for most areas. So a pretty straight-forward forecast with the only rain looking like a weak front that may skim across the south-west of England and Wales on Thursday morning / afternoon, before pushing into Munster and Connacht by early evening. Cloud cover will decrease as we approach the end of the week and that’s what will push the temperatures up, so a cracking weekend in store, but not ideal I know, for those of us short of water. It wouldn’t surprise me if we hit the low 20°C’s from Sunday onwards as well, I bet record temperatures for March will be the headline on the Beeb !.

Outlook

That high pressure is providing a blocking effect that looks firmly stuck in place, so even at this stage I see very little sign of change for next week, maybe varying amounts of cloud cover during the week, but dry and warm on some days, particularly early on in the week. If this weather looks like breaking I’ll do an update before my normal Monday blog.

Agronomic Notes

Not much feedback because I’ve been out of circulation for the last 7-10 days, but obviously with the weather as it is, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to deduce that moisture will be the main issue. I expect the irrigation companies are flat out opening up systems and if they’re not, they will be pretty soon. If I look back at my previous posts this year, I mentioned on the 27th February, that it was worth kitting yourself out for dealing with low moisture conditions. That means getting irrigation systems optimised in terms of coverage particularly and fine-tuning run times, sprinkler settings, to take account of greens that require more or less moisture, depending on their aspect / location. A bit of time spent here will pay dividends later in the spring and during the summer, when E.T rates really start to ramp up, by optimising the water you do have available.

Wetting agent usage is and should be on the cards because a good product will maximise moisture availability to the grass plant, firstly by allowing the water that you do put on to penetrate surface fibre layers and secondly by optimising availability in the soil profile. If we’re talking stress management, they’re an essential tool and particularly when combined with a good quality biostimulant.

Colin Fleming did a talk at Harrogate this year and amongst the slides was some very good data showing the effect of applying biostimulants on gene expression in a lab plant (Arabidopsis) under stress (in this case salt stress). There were nearly 50% extra genes ‘turned on’ in the plant after applying biostimulants and many of these gene functions were linked to maximising plant growth under stress. So combining a good quality wetting agent with a good quality biostimulant will pay dividends in combating stress and particularly when applied in a preventative, rather than a curative manner.

Nutrition-wise, foliar feeding is the order of the day for the time-being, combining light rates of urea, potassium nitrate and ammonium sulphate with chelated irons and seaweeds. Aim for applying 5-6 kg / N / hectare on a ‘little and often’ basis and monitor longevity from clipping yields.

If you have your irrigation system up and running, then I’d be using it to wet up the surface of the profile and prevent it crusting up, but only light syringing is required. Again monitoring soil profile moisture levels across your greens will be the best way to determine how accurate your irrigation is being applied and whether you need irrigation at all. You can do this the old fashioned way with a knife or if you have the budget, get hold of a soil moisture meter.

All the best and apologies for missing last week’s post.

Mark Hunt

 

 

 

 

March 5th

Hi All,

The first post of March ! and let us hope Spring is just around the corner. That’s certainly what it felt like on Saturday, warm sunshine with the odd, blustery shower..but Sunday was a day of (very welcome) rain, cold temperatures, enough for it to turn to snow for awhile and back to rain, a biting north-west wind and 12mm in total for the day. This blog may be subject to a degree of disruption over the next couple of weeks as I’m off to Colorado to attend the marriage of my brother, as best man. Of course being a virginal skier / boarder, it’s likely that there’s a tree in Breckenridge with my name on it and as you can see from the image on the right, me and snow don’t necessarily mix :)

I’ll do my best to keep you posted of course…

General Weather Situation

This week will start off cool / cold with strong winds most of the week, rain in mid-week and then milder with a westerly airflow for the end of the week and weekend.

Putting some more detail to it, this week will start off cold, with a northerly wind and possible ground frost. The weekend’s rain is currently clearing the south-east of England and then we’ll be dry today on the whole, with just a chance of the odd shower down the west coast of Wales. The change comes during Tuesday and will be felt first in Ireland and Scotland as the wind whips round to the west, freshening in intensity and temperatures lift to mild, double figures briefly. This is signalling the arrival of a low pressure system which will bring some more rain mid-week to England. I expect this rain to affect the coast of Connacht and Munster from Tuesday morning and then push east across Ireland during Tuesday into Scotland, falling as snow at higher elevations. By Wednesday, that rain will be into Wales and Northern England, lingering close to the coast of Leinster and slowing pushing south into The Midlands and the south-west / south-east of England during the morning and prevailing for the rest of the day down in the south-east corner. Winds will be strong, from the north-west now and it’ll feel cool in the wind with temperature’s struggling to hit double figures. During Thursday, temperature’s pick up again as the wind switches round to the south-west direction and we’ll some sunshine after early showers affecting Leinster and the north of England move off, so feeling like Spring again by the end of the day. By Friday a weak band of rain pushes south through Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the north of England, perhaps reaching The Midlands, but amounts will be light, more sunshine and showers really.

Outlook

At present the weekend looks warm, dry and settled, but there’s a real battle going on between the high and low pressure systems , so that may change, but at this stage I can’t see it getting colder again. Next week looks like starting off mild, dry and settled, with mild (ish) temperatures, high pressure in charge and the chance of showers for the north and west of the U.K and Ireland. I’d expect this to break down as we approach mid week, next week, with a new low pushing through, but I’ll try and get out a blog whilst I’m sitting in Terminal 5 next Monday :)

Agronomic Notes

That rainfall of yesterday will certainly help raise soil moisture levels and with the milder temperatures later this week, that should initiate some growth on outfield areas. With the milder air last week and moisture, there’s a good bit of Fusarium doing the rounds, but until we get a sharp increase in air temperatures, I expect this to just tick away in the background without the need to apply a pesticide, unless of course if you’re coring and dressing.

Nutrition-wise, more of the same really as light tonics remain the order of the week, though that belt of rain mid-week may be advantageous if you’re applying granular’s at present, though I can’t see a lot of rain after that.

Newly seeded Ryegrass plant from last November

A number of clubs are over-seeding fairway areas damaged by last year’s drought and some even seeded as late as the first week of November last year. There’s always a debate about what grass species to go with ; Fescue or Ryegrass. For me there’s no debate because nowadays, the fine-leaved, ryegrass cultivars have some excellent growth properties that mean they out-perform fescue in terms of establishment in a non-irrigated scenario specifically. Drought tolerance being one of them and this is really a function of root development and plant vigour. Ryegrass can establish faster than fescue and develop its root system down through surface fibre into the soil below very quickly, thus enabling it to withstand dry periods. Fescue on the other hand is less vigorous as we know and often its root will not develop sufficiently to penetrate the surface fibre layer until year 2, so if that area goes under drought stress in the meantime, it can die out. Fine, if irrigation is controlled and the rootzone doesn’t have surface fibre, but not so good if the area is non-irrigated and there’s the typical 2-4cm of surface fibre present.. I took a picture recently of a ryegrass plant seeded in the first week of November and it’s root system at the middle of February was over 6″ long, that plant will survive this year for sure. My comments are specific to this scenario and of course, the best situation is to have a mix of grass species so the sward is more resistant to environmental stress. It’s not that I’m anti-Fescue, far from it, but every grass has baggage, negative and positive and you have to play to those respective strengths and recognise the weaknesses. Monoswards don’t prevail in a natural grassland situation and there’s a very good reason for that.

All the best.

Mark Hunt