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