Hi All,

Slightly bleary eyed as I start this week’s blog, but plenty to catch up on for sure. I won’t go on Costaabout the lovely weather in Orlando because I gather last week whilst I was away, it was pretty rotten here, evident by the sheer amount of water visible everywhere when we came through the clouds at Gatwick.

As some of you will know I’m a bit of a coffee hound and christ if anyone needs good coffee, it’s Orlando. You either get frothy, sweet dirge or bitter tasting crap, that would probably be more suited to cleaning my bikes exhaust system. In desperation one morning I looked at the Costa Coffee App to see where my closest Costa was. I was depressed, but amused to see if was 4,000 + miles away in Co. Sligo ! Needless to say it couldn’t navigate me there easily !

You are all well-informed enough to know that yet again the jet stream is the cause of the crap weather, now that thew BBC has finally cottoned onto it. Currently it’s sitting low across Spain, in contrast to last year when it was in the same position abut then we had a slow jet stream that allowed cold air to move in from the east, this year we have a strong jet stream and it’s pushing low after low across the U.K, but crucially instead of making landfall in the west and north, they’re coming into the south and south-west of the U.K.

It’s not just us that are suffering though as America has its own issues. The same jetstream is pushing Arctic air down into the north of America, bringing crippling snowfalls and ice storms. It’s been like this since mid-December, co-incidentally the same time our weather changed for the worse as well. Over on the west coast, California is in the grip of an extended drought so severe that some areas will totally run out of water unless rains arrive this Spring.


Graphic courtesy of Meteoblue showing peaks forming upstream of the U.K & Ireland which may change the orientation of the low pressure systems coming across the Atlantic.

So when will it end ? The answer is when heat starts to build at the equator and generate high pressures that will push the airflow further north and change the orientation of the jet stream. Is there any sight of this presently ? Maybe, is my answer because I’ve noticed that we’re starting to see some peaks forming in what was a totally flat pattern. (See above) These peaks will change the orientation of the low pressure systems and their severity. We’ve still got a couple of humdingers for this week, one mid-week, one at the weekend, but after that, things could be changing for the better….Whether that change is temporary or permanent we will have to see. One things for sure though, whatever happens we’re in a westerly airflow which means we’re likely to go through the winter without snow (for many) and with minimal frost compared to last year.

Before I go on to the weather, I’d just like to say thanks to all the lads from Ireland and the U.K that I met in classes last week at the GCSAA show, in particular the guys on the Bernhard trip and over with BIGGA. We had some good laughs, learnt a thing or two and you definitely lightened up the day for me. As usual I asked too many questions in the classes and for that I apologise 🙁

General Weather Situation

So for Monday we have a quiet, dry and frosty start (where the sky was clear) for many with two areas of rain sitting over the west coast of Ireland and the south-east of England. The former will move slowly across Ireland and into the north-west of England through the day. The latter will stay in situ and perhaps intensify later into the afternoon to give significant rain over Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Temperatures will be on the cool side, mid-single figures and winds will be light and from the south. Away from these rain fronts, it’ll be bright and dry, yes dry !

For Tuesday we have another low pressure on the way and this pushes the wind around to the west and strengthens in intensity. This pushes a rain front into the west of Ireland overnight into Tuesday, perhaps arriving late Monday night. This rain front makes landfall on the west coast of the U.K in time for the morning rush hour and will bring rain and wintry showers over higher ground for many. The rain pushes east to cover the U.K and then clears by dusk. Early afternoon, a new front pushes in to Ireland in the form of wintry showers and again moves east, but fragments into wintry showers, primarily for the north-west of England and west coast of Scotland.

Overnight into Wednesday, those wintry showers are still in place, pushed along by gale force, westerly / south-westerly winds, making it feel bitter in the wind. Elsewhere a dry start, but it won’t hold that way because by mid-morning, a new rain front pushes into south-west Munster and the south-west of England quickly moving north and east to cover both Ireland and the U.K with heavy rain. Again these showers will be wintry in nature on higher ground.

As we go into Thursday, those wintry showers have cleared the south and west, but remain firmly in place over the north east of England spreading north into Scotland to give significant snowfall over higher ground, and rainfall lower down, particularly around Edinburgh and the north-east of Scotland. To round out the day, a weak rainfront pushes into Kerry and the south-west of England and tracks north-east (where else?) to give wintry showers again on higher ground. Winds remain strong from the west and it’ll feel bitter in the wind, not nice for one and all.

As we close out the week, we have another deep Atlantic low to contend with pushing into Ireland and the U.K late in the day. At this stage it’s projected to skim along the east side of Munster and Leinster and mainly affect a line from South Wales upwards, with the north-west / north of England projected to receive the worst of the deluges. By the afternoon the rain will be across all parts, pushed along by strong westerly winds. Later on more rain arrives, this time for the south coast of England and gives some heavy bursts in a line from the Isle of Wight up to The Wash.

The weekend looks like being another test for us all as gale force north-westerly winds are set to hit us on Saturday and push blustery, wintry showers across the U.K and Ireland. The bulk of these falling in the early hours of Saturday for many. Temperatures will scrape into the mid-single figures, but it’ll feel bitter in the wind and squally showers. Sunday looks better at this stage, with a drier, possibly frosty start as the winds begin to drop from the north-west and we may even see the sun for a good spell of time 🙂

Weather Outlook

Next week looks to be a quieter one, certainly a drier one, with only a light low present early in the week to bring unsettled conditions with some rain for Monday. It’ll be cold with northerly winds for the start of the week, but from Wednesday the wind will shift round to the west as a new low pressure system approaches, but if I’m right the slight change in orientation of the jet stream will push the centre of the low northwards, so the worst hit areas of the country will miss the brunt of the rainfall. So the second part of next week looks like being milder, windy from the west and with unsettled conditions, but hopefully not the rainfall volumes we’ve seen of late, particularly for the south of the U.K. You guys really need a break I know.

Agronomic Notes

So what’s new in the States ?, Well interestingly I think they’re in danger of meeting themselves coming back in some areas. The cold weather has got a lot of people twitching because there had been a trend to re-grass with Tifdwarf Bermuda further and further north to withstand the hot summers. Obviously this grass isn’t good at taking prolonged cold weather, so once the snow goes it’ll be interesting to see how it has coped. The same on the Poa annua / Bentgrass greens along the transition zone, where they are just going past the 30 day mark under ice., not nice.

Changing Perceptions ?

I think their game and the perception from golfers of what is acceptable is going to have to change longer-term, not on greens, but on fairways. They still have an issue with any blemishes of disease / pests on fairway areas, so they spray fungicide, insecticide, etc on large areas, regularly. Great news for the chemical companies, but is it really such an issue to have some disease on these areas and for them not to be verdant green all year round ? Ok we must appreciate their climate is a lot more extreme than ours, but ultimately I think they’re in danger of meeting themselves coming back in terms of pesticide usage. It’s not like this for everyone of course, some guys have educated their members, changing their perceptions and it’s working, I met some whilst i was out there and they were a pleasure to chat to.

How Relevant is the U.S Turf Industry to the U.K, Ireland and the rest of Europe ?

I ask this question because I left many of my classes quite frustrated, firstly because their climatic conditions mean that what works for them patently doesn’t work for us, specifically in terms of grass species. For example, I asked Frank Rossi, “What grass species would be best suited to compete with Poa in a low light, cool, high rainfall climate?” and he said, “You need a companion grass to Poa”..Yes I know that, but what is it ???…….they’re looking again at Velvet Bentgrass, Red Fescue, etc, but I’m afraid whatever you think, none of these will out-compete Poa from October to March in low light conditions, particularly if there is no winter dormancy. In the U.S, they typically have hot summers that stresses out Poa or cold winters that render all grasses dormant. We don’t, certainly not consistently over here in the U.K or Ireland.

To illustrate the last point, look at the GDD data for January 2014 and you can see how much opportunity there was for growth, 18 out of 31 days no less. And what grass species will be growing ? Poa.


So should we just live with it ?, maybe, but my concern is that with a tighter range of fungicides likely to be available in 3-5 years time, we may not have the control options for Microdochium that we have today. So to the European grass breeders, we need new cultivars of Bentgrass, that grow well in low light and have good disease resistance.

A lack of Research

A lot of the research papers I saw being quoted were old, 70’s and 80’s research on nutrition, hardly relevant nowadays. In the U.S for example, they’re totally revamping their guidelines on soil analysis, taking levels much lower than they have been because they’ve been over-applying certain nutrients according to Base Saturation Analysis, particularly calcium and potassium. Indeed it appears this system of analysis is now largely discredited in the U.S, unless you’re in a high salt situation, whereas 15 years ago, it was the way to go and anything different was old school.

Bottom line is that we need more research in the U.K and Europe to provide a sound basis for our industry going forward because we can’t look to / expect it to come from the U.S. The problem is the lack of funding and places to do that research. (IMHO)

Rainfall Data

Paul in I.T has collated all the rainfall data that you sent in, it’s available in an interactive version on the bottom right of this blog under ‘Useful Weather Links’ and we’ll have a downloadable version too, later in the week.

GDD and Growth Potential Spreadsheet

After my talk at BTME, I had a number of guys ask me for the formula for calculating GDD (that I use) and if it was available in a spreadsheet, so you could just enter your minimum and maximum temperature and the GDD was automatically calculated for you. Paul’s been busy on this and together with the downloadable rainfall pdf, we will have a spreadsheet this week that automatically converts temperature data into GDD and Growth Potential, so you can track it through the year.

I’ll do a mini update later this week with a hopefully firmed up next week’s forecast (to give you some better news fingers crossed) and with the two downloadable files available as well.

Off-Colour Turf

It’s hardly surprising that one of the consistent bits of feedback I’m getting relates to off-colour surfaces. It’s unlikely that this is due to lack of nutrient and more likely that it is due to a lack of oxygen because if the grass plant can’t respire efficiently, then it won’t uptake N effectively and so will begin to show yellowing, particularly on the older leaves, as it moves N around the plant to the younger growth. So if you see your sward yellowing and you’ve been on the receiving end of high, localised rainfall, then reaching for fertiliser alone is not the answer. It may actually make the situation worse by encouraging the plant to grow and use up the low levels of available oxygen. So as soon as conditions allow, I’d advise getting out with a spiker, slitter, solid tining, small tine, compact vertidrain and help that grass plant breathe. The latter is particularly relevant on poor-draining rootzones and less so on good quality, coarse / medium sand ones. Once you’ve achieved this, then yes fertiliser will help bring the sward back to where it needs to be. A big ask I know at present because many clubs can’t move machinery out of their sheds, but if we get a window, then I suggest you use it.

Ok that’s all for now, I’ve a long to-do list and a meeting in a Costa !

Mark Hunt