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