Monthly Archives: February 2013

February 25th

Hi All,

This time last year we were heading full steam into spring on the back of a mild, south-west, airflow and 13 °C air temperature. It’s a different story in 2013, with for the first time I can remember, an easterly airflow running with us into March, so for the time-being the outlook looks to remain cold, a little warmer this week as we lose the overnight frosts, but it’ll still be on the dull side and dry with it, so a very different start to spring and one that’ll present some new challenges for sure.

Not wishing to depress anyone, but fundamentally we’re still in the trough system that first formed back in early April, 2012, so the jet-stream is sitting low and cold air keeps pouring down from north or east and there’s nothing to stop it. As you can see from the animation above, by the start of next week, that cold air will push down again and reach right down into North Africa and The Canary Islands , it’s that deep a trough.

General Weather Forecast

The current weather makes it a pretty straight forward forecast for the coming week because of the dominant high pressure and easterly / north-easterly airstream, so if you’re looking for more drying time for the golf course, then you’ll be happy, but if you want growth or have turfed recently, then you’ll be whistling in the wind!

For Monday, we have the threat of snow showers pushing in off The North Sea on the back of a raw, north-easterly wind. The main areas under threat are the south-east, eastern counties and the north-east of England and the risk is mainly confined to this morning. Elsewhere we’ll continue with the dry, dull theme unless you’re sitting in the West of Ireland, where that cloud from The North Sea doesn’t reach, so here it’ll be bright, but raw. Tuesday follows a similar pattern, with a risk of snow showers for the eastern coastal areas of the U.K, particularly Kent, early doors, elsewhere that cloud will push right across and cover almost all of the U.K and Ireland, so dull and cold with that sharp north-easterly wind continuing.This theme continues into Wednesday, with the only change being a break in the cloud cover from late morning and that’ll mean temperatures will lift a little as the sun breaks through. By Thursday, that cloud cover will build again for the morning, keeping off any risk of a hard frost, but again by late morning, it’ll begin to break up and the sun will be through again, so a little milder again. By Friday, the wind takes on a more northerly theme and that cloud cover returns, so dull and cold, but remaining dry with it.

For the weekend, Saturday is pretty much a re-run of Friday, but later on Sunday, that cold air begins to push in again, so temperatures will be dropping and for the start of next week, the risk of frost is with us again.

Weather Outlook

For the start of next week, that cold air is pushing down again, so dropping off what temperature we had…looking on the bright side if there is one, we lose the easterly, northerly winds for a time, so dry, dull, cold with overnight frost and maybe foggy with it. Cold air is set to dominate next week, so no rain and gradually that cloud cover should break down as we go through the week. As mentioned above, until that trough pattern changes, then I can’t see our weather doing anything fundamentally different either, so it’s odds on for a cold start to March. Later on in the week, next week, I think the winds will swing round to the south-east and that may bring some moisture off the continent and perhaps a little milder conditions. Here’s hoping….

Agronomic Notes

This cold, dry start to the spring is definitely going to present some challenges to growing grass, but at least it’ll allow areas to dry out, although there will be precious little E.T with the cold theme. On my travels last week, I saw a lot of greens with that familiar purpling in the Poa, as some biotypes put on growth before we lost the temperature. As explained before, these Poa plants accumulate glucose in the leaf tissue during the day, but with cold nights, this glucose remains in the leaf, with the plant unable to translocate it down to the roots. Eventually it accumulates to the point where it binds to the purple pigment – Anthocyanin and this becomes the dominant pigment expressed in the upper surface of the leaf, as this is exposed to the different temperature regimes. You can always tell its Anthocyanin that’s the cause by turning over the affected grass leaf, the top will be purple (exposed surface) and the underside of the leaf will be green. Purpling can also be seen in some bentgrass biotypes as well, but usually it’s most prominent in Poa and often most notable on greens in the open, subject to the most temperature change during the day, so these are the ones you’ll see it on first, rather than the shaded greens. In the picture below, the green was turfed with two different types of turf and it’s a fair bet that the one on the left side (showing the most purpling) came from a sunnier location compared to the area on the right.

Two different sources of turf with different Poa biotypes present. On the left, the Poa is showing more purpling, on the right, less so…

Disease levels appear low now as the lack of moisture and those cold winds dry out the surface and in addition, it’s so dry that there’s precious little dew around as well. I know it sounds slightly at odds to say it, but in a pretty short time we could do with a little, mild rain to take any surface dessication off the grass, particularly on newly-laid turf, which is curling up its toes a bit as we speak.

With soil temperatures down below 5°C in a lot of places, they’ll be precious little growth in the coming week, but a number of you reported a bit of growth last week, even though temperatures were low and I put this down to increased light availability with the bright sunshine of early last week and that’s what’s caught out the Poa biotypes a little. So its a kids glove job for this week nutrition-wise, although you may find areas have dried out enough for aeration in the form of vertidraining / solid tining.

It may also be a good opportunity to get some iron out on outfield areas to hit moss, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword because with the cold winds, the iron will dry out the grass even more, so expect some tipping on the leaf if you do go out and apply. Personally I’d probably leave it be for a week or so until I could see a change in the weather on the horizon, but needs must for some….

All the best for the coming week, wrap up well….

Mark Hunt


February 18th

Hi All,

Firstly, my apologies for sending out a blind link earlier this morning, I published my blog prematurely so binned the link, now I know that when you hit the tab button, it publishes, whoops…….

Wasn’t it nice to feel the warmth of the sun on your shoulders again ?, truly beautiful and a great tonic for the system. I manged to get out for a lovely walk around Uppingham, (should have been there John!) across the rolling countryside of Rutland, though even at the top of this hill, it was very wet…it just shows, we won’t lose that rainfall legacy for a while yet !!

After a truly lovely weekend and the first 4 days that I can recall without rain and with sun, I think we’re into a dry spell for the coming week at least, maybe longer, protected by a stubborn high pressure that’s being squeezed from both sides. Mind you it won’t be a warm high because cold air is coming through to cool us down as the week progresses, but at least for once I can say, it’s going to be dry……:)

Speaking of rain, a big thank you for everyone who sent in their rainfall totals for 2012, Paul in I.T has coerced them into a pdf and it’s viewable and down-loadable by clicking on this link…2012 Rainfall Chart….A big thanks to Paul as well for completing this labour of love….If we’ve missed any off, my apologies, but I’m afraid the map is getting pretty chocker !

General Weather Situation

As intimated above, we have a dry scene set for this week, with just a merest hint of some rain on Monday nipping at the toes of south-west Kerry during Monday morning / afternoon, elsewhere for the whole of the U.K and Ireland, it’ll be dry and sunny, with the exception being the North Sea coast which may hang onto some cloud cover and keep it on the cool side. Cloud from the North Sea is going to be an issue this week as you’ll see. Tuesday follows a re-run of Monday, with light winds, sun for a lot of the U.K, but Ireland will be cloudier courtesy of an Atlantic low and that may push some light showers onto south-western coasts during the day. It’ll be warm in the sun and cool out of it, with mid-single figures the order of the day. Winds will be light and from the south/south-west.

A change occurs overnight on Tuesday as the wind swings round to the east and this will knock temperatures down markedly, leading to a frost early doors Wednesday (some may have had one on Monday / Tuesday in the north of the U.K) The easterly wind will push cloud cover in from The North Sea and this will knock out the sunshine and drop the temperatures for the east and central regions of the U.K, though the west should still stay sunny and dry. Ireland should also be cloudy, but this easterly wind will push that westerly cloud cover away overnight, so going into Thursday expect a frost and clear skies to greet you. Thursday and Friday are pretty much a re-run of Wednesday, that means cool, dull, but dry with overnight frost for many. Ireland and the west of the U.K has the most chance of seeing any sunshine though. Later in the day on Friday, there’s a chance that some snow showers may push in from the North Sea and affect North-East England / South eastern Scotland and these could push down the east coast into Yorkshire…

By the weekend those winds will have moved round to the north-east and that may mean a bit more sunshine around, but still very cold in the wind on both Saturday and Sunday, with a constant threat of snow showers over the highlands of Scotland and higher ground of north-east England.

Weather Outlook

Well at the moment it’s looking like that high pressure is going to stay in charge and as the cold continental weather slips southwards, it’ll begin to pull up some slightly warmer air as we go into next week. The wind will still be easterly though initially and that means it’ll be staying on the cool side for the start of the week. There should however be more sunshine and as we pass mid-week, next week, the winds will slowly move round to the south and that’ll pull up warmer air, still with a dry theme.

Agronomic Notes

This week will provide the first spray applications for many, whether it be light turf tonics to pick up the turf or a fungicide to knock back the Fusarium that came in under the snow 10 days or so back. Monday and Tuesday represent the best days for this application for the U.K at least, but thereafter, the night frosts may cause issues I’m afraid.

As areas dry out, I would be trying to get some air into your surfaces, whether by vertidraining with narrow tines, solid tining or hollow coring to remove some of that surplus organic matter. Bit early you may say for hollow coring ?, I don’t think so, in fact I know of a number of courses that hollow cored in January and early February and they’re looking good. The next few weeks will provide the opportunity for a light dressing to begin to fill those holes and so by March, you’re well on the way to having a good surface, long before the average golfer has switched into Augusta-mode 🙂

Gaseous exchange is key to all these aeration practices, that is venting those gases that have built up over the long period of saturated soil conditions that we have endured. During periods of water-logging, the pore spaces available in the soil become filled with water and since oxygen can only move through water at 1/10,000th of the rate that it can move through air, the oxygen content of the rootzone drops. As it does so the activity of the good microbes that we need to recycle nutrients, break down organic matter, etc declines and the soil population is replaced by anaerobic microbes that do not need oxygen to respire, they utilise sulphur. The activity of these anaerobic microbes produce gases that are ultimately toxic to the grass plant’s root system, carbon dioxide,  methane and hydrogen sulphide, the latter of these you can smell very distinctly (rotten egg gas) when you take samples or after you’ve aerated an anaerobic rootzone.

Ultimately, one of the key benefits of aeration (whatever type you end up doing) is to vent these gases out of the rootzone and replace them with oxygen and this allows the plant to breathe, to uptake nutrients (that’s why waterlogged grass does yellow, it can’t breath and uptake soil nitrogen) and it also encourages the microbial population that we want to colonise the rootzone naturally (saves putting them in from a tea pot)

On one of my courses in San Diego run by David Doherty of the International Sports Turf Research Centre (ISTRC for short), the lecturer showed the benefit of venting greens gases using a back pack blower connected to the clear-out hole of a tile drainage, it literally blew oxygen into the bottom of the green and it diffused up through the green with enough force to keep a ping-pong ball spinning an inch off the surface.

By the way, he also showed us a tine displacement chart (I know other companies have more interactive versions) that allow you to calculate the surface area of the green you’re impacting with aeration. You can download the pdf here

Ok, that’s it for this week, I’m getting a lot of phone calls, texts and emails to say the blog doesn’t work, because I published it prematurely, so I better publish the right one pretty sharpish !!!

All the best..

Mark Hunt


February 11th

Hi All,

Just winding the old grey matter into life, suffering under the effects of mild jet-lag and staring at the covering of snow that we have outside. As I’ve commented on before, these first two weeks of February are traditionally the grottiest weather-wise, so I’m hoping that the milder weather I can see on the horizon will be the first signs of Spring for us all and provide a welcome lift, because this winter has just seemed to drag….

San Diego was nice for sure, with good weather and surprisingly not that many super-size people around, I say surprisingly because when you look at the size of their side dishes, you wonder why everyone isn’t rather large…needless to say these Onion Rings weren’t mine……

General Weather Situation

At present we’re sitting in a low pressure system that’s pulling cold air off the continent on easterly / northerly winds and that’s pretty much set till mid-week when we start to see a change on the cards. So for Monday, we have a band of snow showers arranged diagonally (\) from North Wales to the south-east of England, above and below that we’re dull and cold, with an easterly air flow. These showers will hang around through the day, but gradually dissipate at dusk. For Ireland we have a localised area of rain sat over south-west Munster and again that will stay there for most of the day, with perhaps some wintry showers catching the high ground around Dublin and the Wicklow mountains. For Tuesday we have a settled day, with some sunshine after an overnight frost and a pretty dry picture across the U.K and Ireland save for some snow showers over the highlands of Scotland and later in the day, a new band of rain pushes into south-west Munster. By Wednesday, that rain is pushing eastwards over Ireland and heading towards the U.K, where it will encounter the cold air and initially fall as snow. By the late afternoon, this rain / sleet / snow will make the south-west / west of England and Wales and push eastwards across all of the U.K overnight into Thursday giving heavy rain in places as it does so. By Thursday morning, that band of rain / sleet will be sitting along the east coast of England and maybe still confined to the south-east, but elsewhere it’ll dry and feeling a little milder as the wind has switched round to the south-west / west over the latter part of Wednesday. The end of the week looks milder, dry and with a light westerly wind, a good bit nicer than of late, but it’s not till the weekend that temperatures start to lift in earnest. Late on Friday night, a band of rain pushes into the south-west and skims along the south coast during Saturday, but elsewhere it’ll be dry and settled. Sunday looks similar and slowly temperatures will push up on a strengthening south-westerly wind, so feeling milder and maybe hitting double figure air temperatures by close of play Sunday 🙂

Weather Outlook

Next week looks like being a milder affair all round with a dominating south-westerly airstream, so sunshine and showers is the way it looks at present with possibly more significant rain towards the end of next week.

 Agronomic Notes

Not a great deal to say this week because being State-side last week means I didn’t get out to see a lot of golf courses, though I have to say the GCSAA classes were really interesting, particularly the ones on greens rootzones and shade management. Times are a changing in the U.S for sure, but the superintendents I sat with voiced many of the same issues we’re up against here in the U.K and in Ireland.

Planning aeration, communication with members, greens speed, extreme weather fluctuations and surprisingly to me, regulations were high on the list of issues. In California the use of pesticides is becoming quite regulated, though they still have many more products available over there than we do. In other states, limitations on the use of nitrogen and phosphorus-based fertilisers are coming into play, on the back of agricultural legislation limiting the use, timing and application of fertilisers to crops. As is so often the case, the amenity market is conveniently lumped in with agriculture so they make no differentiation between applying fertiliser to a crop grown in a bare soil situation and one of managed amenity turf. Time after time, leaching data has shown that a healthy grass sward is extremely efficient at nutrient uptake and so losses of nitrogen and phosphorus through leaching are minimal. Coupled to that, we don’t apply much phosphorus to established turf anyway, so the amount available for leaching is very small. In Ireland with their calcareous rootzones, we found minimal leaching (in our leachate trials) of phosphorus because a large part of soil-applied P is ‘locked up’ in insoluble form with calcium. The E.U-inspired – Water Framework Directive (WFD) is on the horizon for us here and it’ll be interesting to see if our industry is lumped in with agriculture in terms of these regulations, I wouldn’t take a bet on Paddy Power against that one….

All the best

Mark Hunt


February 6th

Hi All,

As mentioned last week, I’m over in San Diego for the Golf Industry Show this week, so currently running 8 hours behind and on very little sleep courtesy of a somewhat skewed body clock. I’ve done two days of classes, covering physical properties of greens, shade research and the latest research on phosphorus and potassium. All in all, fascinating really. I had to laugh though when we checked into our hotel on the first night after an 11hour flight to see that it’s not only the Europeans that have gone slightly barking on rules and regulations. On the right is my erstwhile colleague Andy Russell pointing to the Quiet Zone regulations in the hotel detailing that “No children, leisure groups, marching bands or circus animals will be assigned to this area “, not surprising really when you consider we’re on the 15th floor! There was also a warning of “No loud singing in the shower”. Crazy man, crazy 🙂

General Weather Situation

It’s slightly surreal typing this  9.30 a.m. with a warm sun just breaking through the clouds, when I can see courtesy of Meteoblue and constant updates by text from my Dad, that it’s absolutely freezing back home, but here goes anyway.

The talk is of more snow and a severe wind-chill, and I can see the north and Scotland has already had some of the white stuff. At present we have the situation I eluded to last week: that of a westerly high sitting out in the Atlantic, and butting up against a cold, easterly low over the continent. Because the systems are pushed against each other, the air flow is squeezed in between so, it’s a strong, northerly airstream that’s in place. This is funnelling cold air from Iceland, down through the Mediterranean all the way down into northern Africa and we’re just on the edge of it (see animation above).

So, for Thursday, we look like maintaining this northerly air flow, but the bite will be going out of the wind compared with earlier in the week, so temperatures will creep up a little (it’ll still feel raw though). A band of moist air is projected to move into the west of Ireland in a vertical orientation (I) during the early morning, bringing rain to west Connacht / Munster and this will move eastwards turning to snow over the highlands of Scotland by late afternoon. At the same time, another strip of moisture is sitting just to the east of us and this may bring in some snow showers off the North Sea along the east coast of England through the day. Inland it’ll cloud over after a sunny start and frost as cloud builds from the west. Overnight and into Friday that rain, sleet and snow mix pushes into northern England, the South-West and North Wales, so a risk of snow here, particularly over higher ground. For Friday morning, it’ll be a bright start after a cold night, with a widespread frost and that band of moisture will be centred over the middle of the U.K but, by this stage it’ll be light in intensity and possibly falling as snow showers through the day, pushed along on a northerly wind, so still feeling raw.

For the weekend, the focus is on two rain fronts coming in from the west, with the first one due to reach Ireland early on Saturday, falling as rain over west Connacht and pushing into Leinster by the afternoon, however Munster should stay dry, but dull. That rain pushes into Scotland and Wales in the morning and moves eastwards and south, so by mid-afternoon it’ll be reaching The Midlands. That rain will intensify later in the evening as the second rain front follows it in after crossing Ireland on Saturday evening / Sunday morning, so a wet start to Sunday and possibly rain all day for some, with the temperature sitting at just 3-4°C. It’ll be a miserable day I’m afraid but, at least the slightly milder air should ensure it falls as rain and not snow!

Weather Outlook

For next week, the pendulum swings back and colder air pushes into the U.K and Ireland, so any moisture kicking about on Monday may turn to snow, particularly along the east side of the U.K. and Scotland. Those snow showers could easily push inland on Monday evening into central England and Wales; expect a covering here by Tuesday morning. For Tuesday, a quiet, cold day is expected after a night frost but, by Wednesday there looks to be a milder airstream on it’s way; the wind increases in intensity and swings round to the west to lift temperatures and push rain showers into Scotland and Ireland and even further south later in the day. By Thursday, the wind is cranking round to the north-west, so chillier again, with further wintry showers and overnight frost and that’s how we see out next week.

Traditionally, we know these first two weeks of February are the coldest, gnarliest sorts of weather we usually experience, but for things to change longer-term, the westerly airstream has to push these cold, continental systems out of the way. Unfortunately, at the moment this isn’t happening. Look at the animation at the top of the page and focus on the position of the yellow-orange, high pressure sitting out to the west of Ireland. It doesn’t actually move from left to right or vice-versa through the 10 days of the loop and, until it does, our weather is stuck.

Agronomic Notes

This content is a little out of date, so bear with me for that as I haven’t been U.K.-side this week. Looking back to last week, two things were evident: Firstly after the rapid thaw and milder temperatures, Fusarium activity had been quite aggressive. In some cases this activity was confined to ‘flare ups’ around older scars as we’ve chatted about before, but in others, new activity was apparent under the snow and with the windy weather, spraying this disease has been difficult. Coupled to that, the wind-chill, night frosts and colder temperatures of this week will make fungicide take up very slow indeed, even for contacts like Iprodione.

I also had a number of reports of discolouration across the surface of greens and this seemed to be related to specifically, distributed, Poa annua populations. A lot of you guys reported that the turf was not actually frozen while it was under snow and this meant that the temperature under the snow layer would have been high enough to support growth, particularly of certain Poa. populations but, of course, there’s little or no light, so the plant will have been respiring, using up carbohydrate reserves and not replacing them, because it was not able to photosynthesise (you can tell I’ve been at classes!). I think certain patches of Poa. depleted their food reserves and began to die off, older leaves first, hence the yellowing. This process is also likely to have been compounded by a lack of oxygen in some instances (water-logging).

So, when the temperatures became milder and the thaw set in, the plant started to grow, but had no food reserves, hence we saw die-back, however the integrity of the crown was good and with Poa. being such a good survivor, new growth pushed through in a matter of days so, after a few cuts, things looked a good deal better again. Obviously this week we’ve gone round to totally the opposite conditions, so I expect to see a good deal of tip scorch caused by the cold wind, particularly since it was so mild early on last week.

It is interesting over here, Stateside, that they now classify 6mm, micro-tining as ‘Venting the greens’ rather than aerating because, whilst the organic matter removed is minimal (2% odd depending on your tine spacing in the block), they see the main benefit of this aeration being gas exchange i.e. allowing crap, anaerobic gases out and oxygen in. Some of you have already reported to me that when they’ve tined or vertidrained this year, the smell of anaerobic gases (hydrogen sulphide primarily) has been very pronounced. No surprise really when you think that the rootzones we manage have been running a high water/low oxygen status for such a long time now due to the predominantly wet weather we’ve had.

My advice is don’t describe to your club that 6mm tining in your aeration program is for organic matter removal/aeration, describe it as venting and leave the proper organic matter removal to some meatier tines. On this note, their research is showing 12mm, close-spaced tines as optimum for O.M. removal and recovery and that when you exceed this size, recovery time dramatically increases. I’ll be writing more about this in the weeks to come.

All the best…

Mark Hunt