February 24th

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Hi All,

It’s the last blog of February and we’re really moving towards Spring in a hurry. Yesterday’s mild weather (13°C here) certainly made it feel that way, with the spring bulbs coming through, bird’s beginning nesting, I saw my first Bumblebee and some of you may have been able to get a first cut on outfield areas since Christmas. Doesn’t that make a difference, the smell of fresh cut grass and some nice definition out there for the first time in ages? Of course along the worst hit areas of the south of England it will be a good while before you can even achieve that.MetOfficereportFeb14

I was looking at some data on the news from January and February on where the rainfall actually fell and happened upon this new report produced by the Metoffice on the flooding and the potential cause of it. It’s called “The Recent Storms and Floods in the U.K  – Feb 2014” – You can download it as a pdf here

It has some excellent graphics (see below) and explains that the storm path and moisture content were a result of a lowering in the position of the jet stream and also that the jet stream speed / strength was unusually high. Of course we’ve been chatting about that for the last 5 years, but here is the first suggestion that I’ve read that the change in position of the jet stream may be a permanent feature of our weather due to the temperature differential between the warming Arctic and the equator (The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet)

RainfallMetOffice2014

Graphics courtesy of The Met Office – see link to full report

What this means is that fluctuations in our climate will become the norm and that some of these fluctuations may stay for weeks or months, depending on the position / strength of the jet stream. Of course anything to do with climate isn’t that clear cut because we must remember only last year we had a weak jet stream (though it’s position was again a long way south of where it usually sat, like this year) and that meant cold air from Siberia / Scandinavia was able to influence our winter to make it the worst in 50 years.

So what I’m saying is that we must be prepared as an industry for more extremes in both the long and shorter-term and the courses / sportsgrounds that are able to invest in drainage, topdressing, quality rootzones, etc. will be the winners long-term from a playability / revenue perspective. It’s that simple (to say but not to achieve necessarily). Ok, so after last week’s not so bad weather (I know some of you down south got more rain than forecast on Tue though), how are we looking this week ?

General Weather Situation

Monday looks like being a wet day for some, particularly for the west, north and Scotland where we have had some rain to start the day. Further east and south it’s a dull, mild start with much lighter winds than the weekend. As we go into the afternoon, the cloud should lift to give a few glimpses of the sun, more for the south and east of the U.K.  At dusk, a rain front pushes into the west of Ireland to give a wet night, particularly for the south-east coast, so some heavy rain for Wexford, Cork potentially.

This rain reaches the south-west and west coast of the U.K. overnight into Tuesday and pushes eastwards, so a wet start for the morning rush hour is to be expected. The unsettled conditions will affect all of the the U.K. and Ireland on Tuesday, so sunshine and showers, with a south-westerly wind and temperatures in the high single figures, maybe warmer if you see the sun and get out of the wind 🙂 The main path of the rain is west and north as predicted 2 weeks ago when I suggested the orientation of the rain will change (unlike Mr Cameron :)) . Further east and south, it should be mainly dry and in that wind with Sean reporting an E.T. of 1.3mm at The Oxfordshire for Sunday, things will / are likely to dry out.

Overnight into Wednesday, the unsettled conditions continue, again affecting more westerly coasts, Ireland and Scotland. Further east sits drier and potentially sunnier in that south-west wind, with temperatures remaining high single figures. Later on in the day, a new rain front is projected to affect the west coast of Munster and Connacht by early evening and that’ll push across Ireland overnight reaching the west coastline of the U.K. in the early hours of Thursday.

So Thursday is set to start very wet for the west coast of the U.K. (the bulk of the rain should have cleared Ireland by then) early doors and then this rain pushes eastwards across the U.K. falling as wintry showers over higher ground in Scotland and the North. That rain will reach the east coast by the morning and then push through on the back of a brisk westerly wind. For the rest of Thursday for the U.K and Ireland, it will be unsettled, so sunshine and showers, with again more chance of seeing the sun in the east and south.

We close out the week staying unsettled with the risk of further significant rain over the south-west of the U.K, Ireland and Scotland. Later on in the morning, this rain may track along the south coast and affect The Midlands and Home Counties of the U.K, not ideal I know, but it still may change. As we close out Friday, the rain looks to become localised to Scotland and the south-east/ east corner of the U.K. with a band of drier, brighter weather affecting central areas. Ireland looks to be drier, still unsettled, so you’re never far from the risk of a shower, but hopefully far enough away to have a drier day on the whole, if that makes sense 🙂

So how are we looking for the coming weekend ?

Well colder and drier looks to be the answer, with the low pressure system that brought rain at the end of the week pushing away.  So Saturday is looking cold with potentially a night frost on Friday night kicking off Saturday. Just about everywhere should be dry save for some wintry showers over Scotland that will become isolated to the Central Highlands (good for skiing:)). The wind will be significantly cooler than of late, swinging round to the north-west and temperatures will struggle to get much above mid-single figures, perhaps a tad warmer in the sun. Sunday looks potentially the duller of the two days, remaining cool in that north-westerly wind, though the wind strength over the weekend should remain light.

Weather Outlook w/c 3rd March

Well after an unsettled week for some this week, we have an Atlantic high (yes, an Atlantic high! :)) pressure system drifting across to influence our weather. This will mean two things: firstly it’ll keep an intense low pressure system well north of the U.K. and secondly, it’ll be drier as a consequence, certainly for the first part of the week. The winds will shift slightly westerly, so temperatures should pick up to high single figures, maybe into double figures you never know :). Moving towards mid-week I think there’s a stronger chance of rain, especially in the north of Ireland (Donegal) and Scotland. So a chance of some rain in the south, nothing significant and with the jet stream remaining nicely up level with the U.K. that should keep the worst of the rain away from us. Later in the week looks to go a bit cooler as the wind swings round to the north-west, but there’s plenty of time for that to change.

 Agronomic Notes

The first thing to comment on is insect activity, with a number of reports of huge Leatherjacket populations visible on the surface after spraying. I think in a mild, wet winter, insect grubs tend to stay closer to the surface, only moving deeper when conditions go colder and so this winter you’re likely to see significant kills from Chlorpyrifos and because the grubs are closer to the surface, visible evidence of product efficacy may be notable. (see below)

Leatherjacketkill

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of spraying this type of product, but if in doubt, just spray a test plot and see if you get a reaction. Certainly when it comes to spring aeration these guys are past masters at sitting in a core hole and chewing a nice counter-sunk pattern around the edge, delaying recovery. Thanks to Alex for the above photo.

Again I’ll mention the requirement for aeration as soon as you are physically able to get a machine onto your greens without causing issues. The plant is definitely low in oxygen, so anything you do fertility wise will be handicapped by the inability of the grass plant to respire. Often just punching some holes through the surface fibre will be enough to see an overall improvement in sward vigour as oxygen allows the plant to take advantage of available nutrition and grow. With the soil temperature sitting higher than normal for late Feb (what’s normal nowadays!) the sooner the better in terms of gaining a plant response from aeration, if of course practically feasible. We have a window before things cool down at the weekend, if you can and are able, I suggest you use it. Even taking a lightweight slitter across the greens, pitches, and vertically cleaving those bridged, surface roots can be great for early season root development.

Disease-wise I’m not getting reports of active, aggressive disease, but again keep an eye on the drier areas of your greens for this because that’s (IMHO) where you’re likely to see it first.

Last week, I did a talk at the German Greenkeepers meeting in Fulda, near Frankfurt. Thanks to Marc Biber, Michael Schlosser and Christa Lung for making me feel so welcome. It’s interesting how each country is approaching the pesticide legislation, bearing in mind that the Sustainable Use Directive has been driven by the German Green Party. So in Germany they currently have 3-4 fungicides available and it’s hoped that in the near future more will become available. There they have a specific structure for discussing / lobbying the rule makers on the requirements of the amenity sector and the backing of course of some large chemical companies to get products registered. The same is true in Scandinavia with STERF and here we have the Amenity Forum doing the same job, providing a voice for our industry with the legislators.

Time will tell how successful they are, but it struck me why when we are in Europe, there isn’t a more integrated approach to this, rather than each country having to re-invent the wheel with their respective legislators. Isn’t that supposed to be one of the advantages of the E.U. I mean if a fungicide can get registered in Germany for the golf market, why can’t it be registered in the U.K. or Ireland, without a seperate, expensive, registration process?

Ok, time to get off my little soapbox again, I need to get my 4th Educational Conference talk finished because next week I’m in Scotland for their conference. After this one I’m taking a break from talks for 6 months at least !!!!!

So next weeks blog may or may not happen depending on how much time I can wangle and the hotels Wifi. Oh the joys of living out of a suitcase from January to April!

Mark Hunt

 

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