Monthly Archives: December 2014

December 22nd


Hi All,

A shorter blog today because I’m meant to be on my hols, so bear with me on that front. Yesterday marked the Winter Solstice, so from today we begin the march towards spring 🙂 Outside it’s a mild 12.5°C, it might as well be early March from that perspective and already I can see the first signs that we’re turning the corner, with Hellebores just in the process of pushing out (what will be their flower heads) from under the soil. Looking at the coming week, we’re going to have an up and down ride with some colder, northerly fronts bringing wintry showers to some areas and some pretty windy, intense low pressure systems to boot.

General Weather Situation

So an abridged version today as I say, really just designed to give you a flavour for the coming week. For Monday and Tuesday we have a mild, westerly air flow in charge, so double figure temperatures and of course some rain showers, principally over Ireland and the north-west of England and Scotland, with other areas, south and east, staying dry. During Tuesday those showers will move northwards into western Scotland. Away from the rainfall, like the previous 2-3 days, you’ll have a drying wind, so that’s just what we need at present.

As we move into Wednesday, we lose that milder air, the winds remain westerly, but as skies clear, temperatures will drop in the north. That rain will push southwards overnight into Christmas Eve, so some rain overnight in the south, but it’ll soon move away to leave a dry picture over much of the U.K and Ireland, except for central Scotland where those showers will turn increasingly wintry in nature.

Onto Christmas Day and the wind swings round to the north, so a chilly, bright day in the west and north. Further south there’s some light rain and cloud cover to start the day, but this will slowly clear to leave a bright, but cold afternoon, with maybe a keen overnight frost.

Boxing Day sees the arrival of a rain front to Ireland and this will soon push eastwards on an westerly wind to give the north and Scotland a very wet second half of the day. Overnight that rain will affect most parts of the country I reckon and the wind will really ramp up.

By the time we reach Saturday, we have a potentially nasty, little northern low pressure in charge, so that means very wet and very windy, with those showers turning wintry over Scotland, the north of England and The Peak District, particularly in the 2nd part of the day. Those wintry showers could push further south later in the evening as the wind swings round to the north, so a cold end to Saturday.

Those northerly winds look set to remain through Christmas Sunday, but it’ll be a brighter, cold day with plenty of sunshine, though still with a risk of rain over western coasts.

Weather Outlook

After that low pressure moves away I think we are in for a spell of settled, high pressure, so lighter winds, cold, but crucially dry next week, with a risk of night frosts depending on cloud cover. Good weather for people to get out and just the thing we need to keep the disease pressure low.

Agronomic Notes

New GDD / Growth Potential 2015 Spreadsheet download it here

For 2015, we have a new spreadsheet already set up for you to enter your daily stats into. The chart has been updated over 2014, with the Growth Potential now working on an optimum temperature of 18°C, rather than 20°C. The reason for this is that I noticed during the hot conditions of July, the Growth Potential model didn’t show a reduction in growth during stress periods when the optimum was set at 20°C, but it did at 18°C. You can see how the 2 models work on the charts below for July, 2014. Micah Woods kindly commented that this was also the experience of other turf managers, so I’m not too far off the beaten track.


It is critical if we are to clearly identify the periods when the grass plant is under stress and manage these situations correctly. It is my contention that the Anthracnose activity that we saw in the summer and autumn of 2014 was intiated on or around the 20th / 21st July, even though the symptoms didn’t show for weeks afterwards. We can clearly see on the graphs above, a pronounced dip in the Growth Potential (@ 18°C) starting around this time and this was due to the combination of very hot days and warm nights.

The chart is also available in the menu at the side of the page, download it from wherever suits.


The USGA Green Section Record compile all of their articles released during 2014 in one place and some of them make great reading, so if you have 5 minutes to spare, have a look and see if there’s something down your street. The USGA Green Section Compendium of 2014 is available here


PGR’s in the summer – the debate goes on

On the subject of interesting articles, I read a really good one in Golfdom last week concerning the work that had been done on Trinexapac-ethyl usage during the warmer months of the summer. I know that end-users have fed back poorer efficacy with TE during the very hot periods of the summer and at least now we have part of the explanation why.

In the linked article it makes the assertion that the half-life (the point where a substance has decreased in concentration by 50%) of TE is significantly affected by increased temperatures and  therefore breaks down faster. It states that the half life of TE is 6.4 days at 17.7°C, but only 3.1 days at 30°C, so this means that the efficacy / longevity of applications of TE will be drastically reduced during hotter conditions. It also makes the point that applying higher rates during these conditions is a waste of time and ineffective. (BIGGA formum contributors take note:P) and the only way of achieving consistency is to tighten your application frequency.

The article also talks about the regularity of applying TE according to their GDD model, which is different from the one I use because it has a base temperature of zero, whereas mine is 6°C. Roughly speaking applying every 200GDD using their model equates to 80GDD using mine. That said, I think their advice of applying every 200GDD provides too long between applications in our conditions,  so you see peaks and troughs in efficacy.

I think you should make your own mind up based on your experience, but what I would say is that it makes no sense applying TE when the grass plant is under stress and that’s where GDD models fall down (IMHO) as a way of predicting TE applications on fine turf, not on outfields, but on fine turf. GDD models will keep on increasing with increasing temperature, but as we’ve seen from the above grpahs, during hot conditions the actual potential for growth decreases, so plant’s do not need growth regulating because the climate is already doing this.

You can download the article here

Rainfall Data

Yep it’s nearly the end of the year and so I’ll be looking to see just how did this year pan out for you rainfall-wise vs. other areas of the U.K and Ireland. If you’re up for it, please email your rainfall stats for 2014 to


Just wanted to sign off the last blog of 2014 with a thank you to everyone that’s contributed with comments and feedback over the year. I really do appreciate it and I wish you all a relaxing break over the Christmas period, thanks again.

A special mention to Paul in I.T for keeping it going throughout the year and always having the animated Unisys GIF ready for me when I sit down bleary-eyed on a Monday morning and commit my thoughts to the screen.

See you in the New Year.

Mark Hunt







December 15th


Hi All,

Took this pic using the Sunseeker 3D app whilst out walking yesterday across Leicestershire and it shows how close we are now to the Winter Solstice.


The yellow line is the arc of the sun on the day (14th Dec) and the blue is the arc of the sun on Sunday 21st December, the Winter Solstice, and this marks the date when the sun is at its lowest on the horizon. So this coming Sunday is our shortest day and thereafter we start the slow journey back to spring, mindful that January and February usually encompass the worst of the winter weather.

Looking ahead to Christmas, it appears that Paddy Power will be keeping my bet this year (again !,  that’s 3-2 to them) as the outlook suggests a mild, westerly, windy Christmas Day 🙁 Bah humbug is all I can say to that…

On the subject of bah humbug, I note all the talk last week was of a ‘Weather Bomb’. Clearly someone in the Met Office had had too much plonk at the Christmas party and decided to add to the already crap media slant that is put on our weather by dramatising it even more. So what was a low pressure system with packed isobars (meaning windy), suddenly became this portent of doom, the ‘Weather Bomb’, ho hum….

So what does the weather have in store on the run up to Christmas ?

General Weather Situation

So starting off Christmas week we have a pretty settled and dry picture for a Monday morning, with some showers flirting with the south west of England, the north west of England, Scotland and north west Munster. Through the day these will fizzle out in all areas except North West Scotland where they’ll intensify to give general rain over The Highlands and across to the east coast as well. Temperatures will be mid-single figures with a light westerly wind.

Moving onto Tuesday, the start of the day looks frost-free, dry and sunny for central and eastern parts of the U.K, with more cloud cover over Ireland and the west of the U.K. By late morning though a heavy rain front is set to move into the west of Ireland and push in a vertical band across the country during the early afternoon, so a pretty wet day is forecast here. By the evening rush hour this will make landfall along the entire west coastline of the U.K and push inland. It looks to be particularly heavy over Donegal, the north west of Scotland, the Lakes and North Wales. By midnight that rain front will cover most of the U.K and give a very wet second part of the night for many. Temperatures will be similar to Monday, but the wind will be noticeably stronger, blowing hard from the west and will be thus for the rest of the week it looks like.

By Wednesday that heavy rain is off into The North Sea, but they’ll still be outbreaks of showers, some blustery and heavy over the south west of Ireland and the England initially, however the good news is that these will soon die out to give a dry morning with some hazy sunshine over central and eastern parts of the U.K. Not for long I’m afraid though because a new rain front is set to push into the west of Ireland from The Atlantic by mid-afternoon and move rapidly across country. By early evening this will be into Wales and central England, but looks to stay mainly south of the Scottish border during the night, with central and southern regions liable to cop some more overnight rain again I’m afraid. It will feel much milder on Wednesday, up into double figures, possibly low teens in the south of England, balmy like, but typical now for a winter low pressure system from The Atlantic. The wind will remain westerly and the milder day temperatures will hold all the way through Wednesday night.

For the morning rush hour on Thursday that rain is mainly confined to the western coastline of the U.K, but unfortunately Ireland will still be getting a packet of the stuff, spread over most of the country. Through the morning that rain moves westerly into the west coast of the U.K, Scotland in the firing line as well this time. By the afternoon the rain is sitting over Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the west coast of England, with only lighter showers moving inland. Again it’ll feel mild, double figures with another mild night preceding Thursday, so no risk of frost.

Overnight into Friday that rain pushes south across England clearing all but the extreme southerly coast by morning rush hour to leave a dry picture over much of Ireland and the U.K, except central Scotland which looks wet again I’m afraid. That’s the way it’s largely set to stay with that rain sitting over Scotland, perhaps edging south into The Lakes, but elsewhere it looks dry and sunny, but a good bit cooler, back to those early week, single-figure temperatures. The wind will remain westerly though they’ll be a northerly slant on it later in the day for Scotland I think.

Heading into the last weekend before Christmas and time to sort out my shopping I guess :(, let’s see what’s forecast. Well Saturday looks a dead ringer of Friday with that rain still persisting over Scotland, but as the day progresses it dissipates and is replaced by sunshine. Dry and sunny on the whole is the forecast for Ireland and the U.K, with the exception of Scotland and possibly north-west England where some showers are likely. A cool day in what is now a north-westerly wind, but lots of sunshine so we can’t complain.Sunday looks the same with rain for central Scotland and elsewhere dry, bright and sunny, with that wind still sitting strong and from the west.

Weather Outlook

Unsettled with a westerly airflow seems to set the scene for the outlook for next week as one intense low pressure moves off and is replaced by another by mid-week. So a similar start to next week in that Scotland and the northern counties of Ireland look to be wet, but further south it’ll be dry and mild, with some sunny interludes. By Tuesday we have a small low pressure system pushing into Scotland and that threatens to bring some more heavy rain, you guys really are getting your unfair share of rainfall 🙁 Leading up to Christmas Eve there’s a brief respite when the wind whips round to the north and brings a colder feel to the weather, but for Christmas Day it looks mild, windy and very wet I’m afraid across most of the country. So if you’re trying to walk off the usual Turkey and Christmas Pud pot belly, I suggest you pack some waterproofs !

Agronomic Notes

Spray Windows


With most of the rainfall at night for The Midlands and south of England, you have a very fortunate ‘take your pick’ scenario this week, but definitely Monday and Tuesday are the best, driest choices for applying a winter tonic. Not only that but with the milder ‘blip’ midweek you also have some very good conditions for uptake of that applied product mix.

For Ireland this isn’t the case, with a very wet period envisaged from Tuesday lunchtime till Thursday night, so really Monday and Friday are the best slots though of course I take on board the actual practicalities concerning getting to areas to apply a spray !

For Wales it also looks very tricky and although you could sneak an application today / tomorrow and get better uptake during the mid-week mild spell, maybe Friday would be the better bet as we look dry over the weekend as well so you may get more bangs for your buck. Tricky one to call either way.

For Scotland it is that ever-present rainfall that is the issue for you with possibly Tuesday the only chance of getting a spray out, but temperatures will not be as high as in the south in terms of facilitating uptake.

Anaerobicity / Hypoxia

With the extremely wet November, the start to this month and what now looks like a pretty unsettled Christmas, it’s likely that areas will begin to lose vigour due to waterlogging. Often this occurs where the surface is compacted and or where the rootzone is not functioning at its optimum in terms of moving water through. Tight clumps of perennial Poa annua will show the familiar ‘yellowing off’ phenomenon as oxygen levels decrease in the rootzone as will ryegrass.

Poa annua is the most sensitive grass species to low soil oxygen levels, this we know from its performance under ice cover when it will check out long before bentgrass does, so with the high levels of rainfall and mild weather, expect to see some issues around the periphery of greens (clean up strip). The mild weather is actually not a benefit to this situation because the higher temperatures will encourage grass growth and this will in turn deplete oxygen levels in the rootzone even further, hastening the point when the plant goes under hypoxic stress. This doesn’t just happen in the winter, the picture below was taken back in August 2008 when we had one of our wettest months on record due to a trough in the jet stream.


With a wet, saturated soil there isn’t a lot you can do about the situation now, but it serves to point out the value of aeration and efficient organic matter control during the time of year when aeration is more practically feasible.

Disease Management


It will be interesting to see how Microdochium behaves this week / month with the milder, wetter weather. Last year we had the same, mild, wet weather over Christmas and although conditions were perfect for disease growth, we didn’t see new outbreaks of disease, although we did see a resurgence of activity on older scars. I’d expect the same to be true this week, with the milder nights of Wednesday and Thursday potentially perfect for an increase in disease activity on the edge of older scars. A usual your feedback is greatly appreciated, it helps us all to make the right decisions going forward.

There’s still a bit of Anthracnose floating around, definitely the Basal Rot form after all this rain and I expect this to continue to be a feature though levels aren’t likely to increase dramatically anytime soon.

Mild and wet = pecking and I’ve noted some Badger, Corvid activity, potentially feeding on Chafers, Bibionids and Leatherjackets that are still active in the surface, though with some hard frosts at the back end of last week and over the weekend, that might just drop off a little.

Annual Rainfall Totals

Yes it’s that time of year again when I jog the grey matter concerning collating annual rainfall totals. If you’ve been filling in the spreadsheet we sent out, just forward that to us in early January when we’re back from the Christmas break. As usual we’ll aim to get these published in a map format on or around BTME.

Ok that’s it for now, one more week to go till batteries go onto recharge 🙂

All the best

Mark Hunt








December 8th


Hi All,

As I type this blog, we are less than 2 weeks away from the shortest day and for the last week it has felt like winter has arrived in earnest. The first snowfalls over Scotland, the north of England and Ireland have taken place and on Friday night we had our first decent frost for a long while. Deep enough to get into the ground and stay slippy-slidey in the shade all day, as I found out to my cost whilst mountain-biking, but wasn’t it a beautiful start to the weekend.


The wind will be the feature of this week, as an Atlantic low spins some cold temperatures, heavy rain for the north / north-west and strong winds to boot. In between though it’ll be mild and sunny for some.

Long-term forecasting is for La La Land….


Followers of this post will know how dismissive I am of long-range weather forecasting and it was with such an attitude that I greeted an email that dropped into my inbox in mid-November. A colleague of mine was set to travel abroad today and one of their family members subscribed to a weather forecasting service that predicted back in mid-November – “Heavy Snow and blizzards for the 5th-22nd December with severe travel disruption and closures of Heathrow and Gatwick”, So here we are on the 8th of December, I can still see my lawn, my baby Hedgehog is still feeding, trying desperately to pack on the pounds ahead of winter (His Mum and Dad went into hibernation last week, they’re clever !) and the only snow I’ve seen is the fake stuff wafting down Market Harborough High Street during Late Night Shopping. Ho Hum make of that what you will.

What I will say though is that the chance of winter really getting a grip is igfs_500p_10d_eurncreasing as I look at the weather charts. On the right is the Unisys projection for the 18th December and you can see purple that indicates very cold air. Even though it’s not coming south yet, it is sat above us and that means an increasing chance as we go through December of a colder, northerly air stream and snow showers at times in my mind, particularly on the run up to Christmas. It all depends on the jet stream, if this drops then it’ll allow that cold air down and winter will really come into play. Paddy Power may yet take a pounding on a White Christmas 🙂

General Weather Situation

For Monday we have a mixed picture with rain lingering over the far south east of England and Scotland and the north west of England. Elsewhere the skies are clear and it’ll be bright, clear and sunny winter’s day, lovely. Temperatures will sit in the mid-single figures for most, maybe a tad warmer on west coasts and the wind will blow chilly from the north-west. A good drying day, but with the chance of frost if the sky clears on Monday night. There’s a risk of some showers inland pretty much all week, but the bulk will be west and north-orientated.

Moving onto Tuesday, that Atlantic low begins to spin in rain to the north and west of the U.K and Ireland, so by mid-morning, we’ll see showers over Ireland and heavier rain pushing into the north-west of Scotland with flooding a potential issue in the latter. By lunchtime that rain is pushing south into the north-west of England and Wales, potentially heavy in nature. The wind will swing round to the west on Tuesday and that’ll push temperatures noticeably up on Monday, so feeling much milder, up to double figures for most places. So away from the north-west of Scotland, Ireland and Wales, it’ll be a drier, mild and pleasant day with some hazy sunshine and light winds until the afternoon when it starts getting breezy. This breeze will increase the risk of showers moving inland during the second half of the day.

By mid-week we have densely packed isobars, so very windy and again very wet for Scotland, Ireland, particularly the north counties and the north-west of England. The wind will edge round to the north-west again so in these areas it’ll feel cooler. Further south away from these areas the temperatures will hold again so another mild, largely dry day, but a risk of showers everywhere, particularly along western coasts and Wales. With those strong winds, it’ll be another good drying day away from the rain.

Coming into Thursday we still have those tightly-packed isobars pushing strong winds in from the north-west. It also means more rain for Scotland, Ireland and the north-west coast of England. During the day this rain will push south and affect Wales and the south-west of England. Some of these showers will move inland later in the day, so a wet end to Thursday for The Midlands and the south of England, but don’t moan as you’ve got off lightly this week. Temperatures will drop back to mid-single figures

Closing out the week, we maintain that unsettled feel to the weather, with rain moving out of south-east England, but replaced in the north-west and over Scotland with more showers. This rain will push south over Ireland and western coasts, into Wales by lunchtime and here it may be pretty heavy in nature, pushing down into the south west of England by nightfall. Between and away from the rain, it’ll be bright with lovely winter sunshine, but those winds will remain strong, a real feature of this week and if skies clear, we may return to frost over much of the U.K and Ireland.

So everyone’s running around doing Christmas shopping at the weekend, how we all dance to the marketing tune every year :(, but what will the weather be like ? Bloody cold is the simple answer.

As the winds die down in strength at the end of the week, they’ll swing round to the north and that means most places will start off with a cracking frost on Saturday morning. Much of the country looks to be dry, bright and sunny, though there may be some rain lingering long western coasts. All in all a nice winter’s day for many. Sunday looks to follow a similar pattern, maybe with more cloud cover, so duller, but remaining cold after another sharp frost.

Weather Outlook

Now this is getting interesting meteorologically 🙂

Notice on the Unisys output that Paul has produced at the top of the blog, look at that purple patch of cold air above the U.K, notice that as the week progresses it doesn’t actually move. In fact over the 10 day period, once it arrives in mid-week, it stays pretty much located over Iceland and that’s the weather feature we need to keep an eye on. If the jet stream drops it’ll be proper winter, if it gets pushed away we’ll be back to mild, wet and westerly for Christmas week.

So next week look likes starting off similar to this week with unsettled conditions and a cold north-westerly wind. So rain in the north and west, interspersed by periods of bright sunshine and a strong to moderate wind. That’s the way is stays really, wet, windy and unsettled and remaining cool. Towards the end of next week we look to have some pretty heavy rain pushing down and that may well affect much of the west and south of the U.K. The cloud cover will see less risk of frost next week, but on the flipside it’ll be a wetter one for sure.

Agronomic Notes

Pre-Christmas Tonic Application…

On the run up to Christmas and thoughts are turning to putting on a nice conditioning spray to keep the plant ticking, looking healthy and up to the rigours of the Christmas week. Some of you may even be thinking of adding a fungicide to this mix if you have some disease scars from earlier in the autumn, but by and large I feel if you’re clean now, you’re likely to remain clean until temperatures rise in earnest in the spring time. So how are we looking to tick this box ?

Well this week is out for Ireland, Scotland, most of Wales and the north-west of England, too wet and too windy for sure. Further south you have a two-day window on Monday and Tuesday, not completely clear of rain everywhere, but mild and with lighter winds for the first part of the week and personally I’d take it because we look unsettled for the foreseeable thereafter. Further north and west, you may just get a window on Friday, but that all depends on how much rain you receive prior to it. I’ll do the same next Monday to see how we’re tickinGP081214g.

The chart above of growth potential for this coming week shows that you should get some uptake on Tuesday and Wednesday, but little after that….


As commented upon last week, a lot of moss about because of the wetter conditions and lower light levels of winter. Now is a great time to hit areas with a granular Mosskiller (easier to apply in the weather we have) and just check that moss growth on tees, approaches and the like (particularly Ladies and Medal tees), tipping the balance back in favour of grass growth.

PPN’s, Chafers, Leatherjackets, Bibionids…

The milder winter of 2013 and the warm, wet year of 2014 has played right into the hands of the above. Even this late in the year we are still seeing PPN (Plant-Parasitic Nematode) activity on some areas, though I’d expect this to drop back as we receive more frosts. Elsewhere Chafer grubs and the associated picking from Crows, Rooks and foraging Badgers continue to be a real pain. I’ve seen the latter even where an insecticide has been sprayed prior to the winter. Not a lot you can do about this now really, but if we continue to experience mild weather it’ll be a sign of things to come I’m afraid.

Ok that’s all for now, off on my travels again.

Wrap up well.

Mark Hunt





December 1st


Hi All,

Just back from a flying weekend visit to a place that is aptly known as ‘ArranScotland in minature’, the beautiful Isle of Arran. If you’ve never been there, I can recommend it, especially as CalMac, the ferry company, have just halved their prices to encourage people to visit 🙂

There’s plenty of golf options on the island and my favourite is a 12-hole links course at Blackwaterfoot on the west side of the island, called Shiskine Golf Club.


What a lovely view off the 1st tee…..


As usual for this time of year, it’s been a week of galavanting around for me. Early last week I attended the GCSAI Educational Conference at Croke Park, Dublingolf-course-superintendants-ireland-logo, a superb venue.

Congratulations to Damian, Alan and Michael on putting on a great day and how relaxing it was for me to sit back, listen to some good talks and not have to chew my fingernails in readiness for my stint, bliss  😛

Ok, enough of the small talk, onto the weather and I’m happy to report that last week’s prediction appears spot on with Atlantic high pressure systems in charge for the next week or so and that means drier and settled, but a bit cooler than of late.

General Weather Situation

So for Monday and much of this week we have a pretty dull, cool, but crucially dry picture for most of the U.K and Ireland, though Scotland will pick up the bottom of a low pressure later in the week and we have a rain front to get clear of first that’s currently moving / over Ireland into the west coast of Scotland. So for Ireland and the west coast of Scotland, you’ll be noticing a pretty intense band of rain moving across both countries during Monday. Eslewhere it’ll be dull, cool and dry, with temperatures in the high single figures, accompanied by a light to moderate northerly / north-easterly wind.

That rain should clear Ireland overnight into Tuesday to be followed by some brighter, fresher weather and the same for Scotland. Further south on Tuesday that rain will move inland to bring some light showers, reducing in intensity as it sinks south, so maybe only a mm or two for some and the far east may miss it altogether. (Hurrah I hear you shout) Even in the sunshine of Scotland and Ireland, it’ll remain cold, mid to high single figures, so pretty fresh out there and quite a change from the weekend when I could have walked on Shiskine beach in a T-Shirt ! So further south, a duller day for most with some light rain as the day progresses accompanied by brisker northerly winds.

For Wednesday that light, mizzly rain is set to hug the south-east corner of the U.K, so dull and dreary here. Elsewhere it looks dry, cold with maybe some broken sunshine away from east coasts where there’s a chance of thicker cloud and some light rain right along the eastern coastline. Winds will be light and from the north-east over the southern half of the U.K, but westerly further north / Scotland. Temperatures again will be mid-single figures and therefore cool with it.

Moving onto Thursday, we have the bottom of a low pressure that will influence Scotland’s weather, whereas further south it’ll remain dull, cool, but dry on the whole. That said, there is a risk of wetter air moving into the west coast of Ireland and the south coast of England later in the day and this may drift inland. Again on the cold side.

Closing out the week we have a low pressure above Scotland that’ll start to push showers down into the west coast, some of these will be wintry in nature over higher ground. Elsewhere the change in wind direction to a more northerly aspect will have one benefit, it’ll mean that that North Sea Haar that’s been sitting around most of the week will be pushed away and Friday promises to be a brighter day for many, but cold with it, proper winter cold that is in that wind.

The weekend looks pretty good for most of us though Scotland and the north of Ireland will pick up some heavy showers during Saturday, especially on the west coast. It’ll feel milder though as the wind changes round to the west, especially further south, though the warmer air may not reach here till Sunday. So not a bad weekend, westerly winds, milder, brighter for many except Scotland where those showers will become more frequent and heavier as the weekend progresses.

Weather Outlook

So after a relatively dry, but cold week, how are we looking for next week ?

Well it depends on where you are in the U.K and Ireland.

Presently it’s looking like the west and north will stay unsettled, sunshine and showers type weather in a westerly wind flow for the start of next week. Further south we should stay drier, at least for the early part of the week. By Wednesday next week it looks like a sneaky Atlantic low pressure will push in and bring heavy rain to Ireland, the north-west of England and Scotland from mid-week onwards. I think the tendency will be for this rain to push south and eastwards over the U.K towards the end of next week, so wet and windy looks to be the case for the 2nd half of the week, but staying mild in that westerly wind.

Agronomic Notes

Disease Activity

The milder weather over the weekend has produced another peak in Microdochium nivale activity, but I hope it’ll be the last for a while as temperatures drop back and the weather dries up compared to recent weeks. As I’ve noted before, it’s the larger disease scars that are the main culprits because they contain the highest disease populations. With the colder outlook, especially to this week, I think you can only really use a contact / local penetrant like Iprodione in order to get a knock-back of the fungal population because uptake of systemics will be too slow in the cooler temperatures.

Elsewhere and especially where it’s been wetter there’s still some Anthracnose Basal Rot floating around and really all I’d suggest here it punching some holes to encourage new root activity and maintaining good nutrient availability.

Root Development

It’s interesting that the cooler weather of the winter often provides us with the best conditions to promote new root development. You see these lovely graphs where root development increases in the spring and autumn, only to be lost in the summer and winter. I think they’re a bit out of date, especially in our climate, with the grass plant still able to produce good root development between 2-6°C soil temperature, even if shoot / leaf development has ground to a halt. One of the reasons for this is ‘resource partitioning’.

During periods of low air temperature (< 6°C),  the grass plant is diverting food / energy resources towards root development because there is less requirement for this to be used promoting new shoot and leaf tissue. If you time your aeration with such a phase of growth, for instance vertidraining to open up the soil and decrease compaction, you can gain a real benefit in new root development, even though nothing is readily apparent above ground.

A look back at October and November


In this game it’s so easy to forget last month and definitely last year when you’re comparing how your surfaces are behaving. I’ve taken some weather statistics from Long Ashton Golf Club (Cheers James) to compare the last 2 months and this year vs. last year.

October20134 November20134

So firstly we can see why surfaces are so wet coming into the beginning of December. In 2013 we had a very wet October, but by the end of the first week in November, high pressure had taken over so we went into a period of dull, cool weather with very little rainfall past the middle of the month. Contrast this with November 2014, where you see some real peaks in rainfall, especially at the end of the first week, but even going into the last week, we’d had rain a plenty. Now I know all your rainfall figures are different, but the pattern is often similar.

Grass and Pathogen Growth Potential

Next let’s look at the growing potential of grass this autumn vs. last autumn, but of course this also indicates the growth potential of our no.1 pathogen – Microdochium nivale.


Looking at the red trace for 2014, you can see some pretty significant peaks of not only grass growth, but also disease activity. Remember everytime that the graph is showing a peak in growth potential, it means that the air temperature is increasing significantly, which is perfect for disease.

I’ve highlighted those peaks in the graph below and you can see that for 2014 (red circles) the disease activity is extending further into the winter, whereas in 2013 it had ceased by mid-November.


 GDD Day Comparison


This trait of milder weather extending longer into the winter is a consequence of a peak and trough pattern jet stream, which has the potential to push very cold air further south (As they are experiencing in the U.S at the moment) and milder air, further north (As we are and have experienced). The GDD totals for October and November 2014 are the highest of the last 5 years, even beating 2011, which was a famously mild winter up until after Christmas. Whatever the cause and we can let the scientists and politicians pontificate over that, the fact is that we are getting milder, later into the year and that brings consequences, some good, some bad.

Disease management in the future

The most worrying aspect for me of this change in our weather is our potential to control disease. Now at present we have 64 different fungicide products available for amenity in the U.K, but when you just focus on active ingredients, we have 3 Triazoles (the best systemic chemistry for M.nivale), 1 contact – local penetrant and 1 contact – protectant. Ok we have the Strobilurins, but they are pretty hopeless for M.nivale even before you take into account the very real potential for resistance. In Ireland they have only 1 Triazole A.I available. Now that’s a pretty limited range of fungicide options and that means we have to focus on other areas in order to reduce disease pressure.


Commercial Break (Cue Rank Advertising Music)

If you want to hear about the latest on our Microdochium research, please come along to my free fringe talk at Harrogate. Currently there are only 18 places remaining, it’s on the Wednesday of Harrogate week, from 12 – 12.30 p.m. and being only 30 minutes,  you’ve an excellent chance of me keeping you awake 🙂 Click here to go to the booking link for BIGGA members.


Listening to Trevor Myles from the Pesticide Control Service talking on “Sustainable Use Directive and its Implications for Irish Greenkeeping and Sports Turf Management” at the GCSAI Conference, I came away wondering quite where our industry is going ?. If we lose any more actives and if the weather continues its current trend, I think it’s going to be pretty near impossible to control M.nivale unless we have new products coming onto the market. My concern is where is our lobbying to PCS and CRD for our amenity sector, outside of the Amenity Forum in the U.K ?

Longer-term we can try to reduce the pressure of disease by changing species away from Poa annua to bentgrass and maybe other species, but we all know it’s a long, hard drag and with milder, wetter weather in the winter, it just plays into the hands of Poa. We also know that Poa out-competes these other species in low light conditions.

It’s a tricky and somewhat depressing scenario I’m afraid and my apologies for leaving you on a negative 🙁

Must go, a very long things-to-do list beckons 🙁 , wrap up well…

Mark Hunt