Hi All,

I’m typing this blog from my lovely, little hotel in the Cevenne, looking out at a gloomy sky, which is set to clear later and listening to the ever-present sounds of Black Redstart and Cirl Buntings, nice. Looking at the stage of growth of the grasses and wild flowers over here, it’s pretty obvious that France, like the U.K and Ireland, had a very long, cold winter, indeed there is still snow visible on the mountains here. I met a couple of Dutch cyclists who travelled on Ryanair to Bergamo in Italy, with their bikes (brave) and then cycled over The Alps to Meyrueis here in France. They said some of the passes over The Alps are still impassable due to snow. You’ll also have seen the flooding in Germany, Austria, etc and that’s courtesy of a jet stream trough that we got this time last year and now it’s positioned further east, so they’re on the receiving end…not nice.

General Weather Situation

Obviously this one’s going to be a test of my abilities because I’m in France, so can’t even look out of the window at home for a clue 🙂 . I do know that last week was dry, but one with mixed temperatures depending on whether cloud cover was present from The North Sea or not. Some days we had 20°C, when it was clear, other days, just 12.5°C and no sign of the sun.

So looking to this week, we have a dull start for most places with some light rain positioned over central Scotland and the north of England and this will be stubborn to clear for most of the day. Elsewhere that cloud cover will break and the sun will come through to give a warm day, but this is more likely south of the M62, than north of it. For Ireland, a similar picture, but with an east-west split, with the east coast having a sunny, warm day and the west, more cloud cover with a rain front pushing in to eastern Munster and Connacht late morning and staying put for the afternoon. Winds should be pretty light and southerly.

For Tuesday, that rain pushes east over Ireland, so a wet start to the day for you and later in the morning, it may just reach west Wales and the south-west coast of England. Elsewhere that rain will push on to affect the western coast line of the U.K, but inland, they’ll be more cloud cover and less sun and that’ll cap the temperatures back a bit, however it’ll stay dry. Overnight that rain is set to persist over Ireland and push north-west into Scotland, southern, south-western and northern England during the morning and it may even move further inland during the day to affect areas north-west of London. Again they’ll be more cloud cover, so less chance of seeing the sun, but temperatures should be pleasant in the high teens. One things you will notice is that southerly wind will kick up a gear for Wednesday and Thursday, so strong winds accompanying that rain front.

Overnight into Thursday, that rain finally clears Ireland, but lingers on in northern England / southern Scotland to give a dull, wet start to the day. Further south, the sun is due to break through for awhile, but by early afternoon they’ll be more cloud, pushed along on strong winds again, as rain moves into the west coast of Ireland and tracks eastwards. There’s also a separate band due to push across north Wales and into The Midlands, but this may well be a bit hit and miss, if you’re desperate for some. Into Thursday evening, the rain mostly dies out over Ireland, but that U.K rain may push south into the London area, initially, dissipating as it does.

Not for long though because early into Friday, another rain front pushes into the south coast of England and moves northwards in a line west of Bristol, so quite possibly a wet start to Friday for this area. Further west we’ll have sunshine for the west coast of England and Wales and also east Leinster / Munster, whilst the west coast of Ireland looks to play host to some light rain again 🙁 By midday, that rain will be confined to the east coast of England and the sun will break through, pushing up the temperature. Elsewhere, over Ireland, that west coast rain will push eastwards, but maybe east Leinster / Munster will see the day out sunny, before the cloud pushes over in the evening.

The outlook for the weekend, hmmm, a tricky one this because it does look like we’ll have rain making an appearance for most places at some point in time, there, that’s nice and vague, bit BBC Weather-like, perhaps I’ll leave it at that 🙂 . At this stage it looks like we’ll have rain for the east coast of Ireland / west coast of the U.K on Saturday, elsewhere, it looks like being a pretty reasonable day, with warm temperatures, perhaps hot for awhile if the sun breaks through early where you are. Enjoy it though, because Sunday doesn’t look as good for some with another band of rain pushing in, that said, it’ll be quite defined, so a number of you will miss it. Least likely is the west of Scotland, which looks to be cool and wet for Sunday. Further south if you miss the rain, temperatures will build and could well be pretty hot again, even amongst the rain showers, so a humid day.

A slight digression, but the 16th of June is of course known as the glorious 16th, that is, it marks the day when the fishing season starts again on rivers in the U.K and one that I look forward to every year 🙂 (A big shout to us sad people eh..Ray, Marcus, John, Chris et al) 🙂

Weather Outlook

As you can see from the image above, we are actually still in a trough-scenario, jet stream-wise, so as such we still have the potential for pretty poor weather, but so far it isn’t dealing that up as it did last year and that’s because it isn’t as fixed / strongly set a pattern as last year.

Next week’s weather looks different to me in that the prevailing wind direction will be westerly / south-westerly, so that means a more changeable weather scenario, with more risk of rain showers accompanied by strongish winds later in the week. For Ireland and Scotland, it may be cooler than of late, but further south I think we’ll have some pretty warm days, with high humidity, so that may present a new challenge agronomically, more on this below. In this type of weather scenario, we are sometimes at risk of pulling heavy, thundery rain off the continent into the south of England, so that’s something to watch for, particularly towards the end of next week.

Grass Agronomics

GDD Data

Carrying on where we left off, below is the cumulative GDD data till the end of May, downloadable as a pdf here

The data shows that May 2013 wasn’t a great growth month, with a total of 133 GDD, vs. 198 last year , for example. The reason was because of the cold night temperatures (again) that have been a feature of this spring. Below you can see a graph of the maximum and minimum air temperatures and their affect on GDD, with the best growth potential only possible when the minimum night temperature exceeded 10°C, and that only occurred on 4 nights in May 2013.

So in a word, that’s why greens growth has been a bit hit and miss, but I think with the higher, night temperatures last week, this is well and truly on the way now.

So how far behind last year are we ?

Looking at the data for April and May, we can see the dates when various ‘events’ took place this year, primarily Poa seedhead formation.

If we look at the same GDD benchmark dates, we reached a GDD total of 143.5 (Annual Poa started seeding) on the 5th April, 2012 (vs. 7th May, 2013) and a GDD total of 183 on the 27th April, 2012 (vs. 15th May, 2013), so we know by using this data that we are between 3-4 weeks behind last year.

 Disease Activity

With the onset of warmer days, nights and with good soil moisture levels, I expect disease to be a feature of the next few weeks, particularly if humidity builds on some of those days. The usual suspects of Fusarium, Fairy Rings and Red Thread (Fescue, Rye areas particularly) will be present. Red Thread seems to be much more aggressive in latter years on tees, outfield and sports pitches and I think this is primarily because of the climate / weather patterns changing. Certainly we often see it nowadays occurring on areas which have good fertility and are growing well, putting pay to the myth that it’s a disease of low-fertility. It certainly was and still is in some cases, but it isn’t the only cause now. Light foliars with iron are often enough to knock it on the head before it causes too much damage.

Ok, time to sign off, the sun is breaking through and the mountains beckon. I hope you all have a good week and back to ‘normal’ service next week for me 🙂

Mark Hunt