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