Monthly Archives: March 2015

March 30th


Hi All,

Rainbow290315Well a topsy-turvy weekend with mild temperatures, a howling wind and plenty of rain between short periods of sunshine. The only upside was that there were also plenty of Rainbows and I just never get tired of looking at them. No pot of gold under this one though 🙁

I’m afraid Easter isn’t looking that good now from a weather perspective as you’ll see below when I roll through the weather forecast, but with any luck it shouldn’t be a wet one, more cool, dry and settled I think for the most part, except Good Friday which is looking to be pretty wet for some….

The concerning factor weather-wise is that I still cannot see any really warm weather signal on the horizon on the longer-term forecasts (10 day) though the week after Easter should be milder in the south.

A quick shout 150329142722-rossi-wins-exlarge-169out for an icon of motorcycle racing – Valentino Rossi, if any of you caught MotoGP yesterday, I bet like me you were riveted to the sofa. A Grand Prix winner at 36 years old and a hell of a fighter, it proves age is just a number, not a state of mind !


General Weather Situation

Monday looks to start off dull and dry for most, except for a band of wintry showers affecting the north-west coast of Scotland. This low cloud will break during the morning to reveal some nice sunshine, but for Ireland we have a concentrated band of rain pushing into west Munster and Connacht by lunchtime and rapidly pushing east across all of Ireland during the afternoon. This rain will be into the west coast of England, Scotland and Wales by the evening rush hour and through the evening it’ll move across the rest of the U.K bringing rain to all. That wind will still be strong and gusty and from the west and temperatures will be into double figures for most areas.

Through into Tuesday and overnight that rain has cleared most areas though by the morning rush hour we will still have a mix of rain and sleet affecting the north-west coast of Scotland and England pushing inland into northern England. Further south and east, it’ll be brighter but cool with that rain staying on in the north west and over Ireland to give a day of sunshine and blustery showers. Some of these showers falling as sleet or even snow over higher ground and later in the afternoon they’ll push eastwards across the north Midlands into the east of England. The south should stay dry in the main and sunny. Temperatures will be similar to Monday, single figures in the showers and into double figures in the sunshine. That wind if anything will be even stronger on Tuesday with some really strong, intense gusts, so hang onto your hats.

For the 1st day of April we still have that band of wintry showers affecting the north-west, it’s a real feature of the week for them and an unwelcome one to boot. During the morning those showers will cross east and push down into The Midlands, but again the south and south-east looks to stay dry. For Ireland the rain showers look mainly to affect the north-west coastline, Donegal and the like, but further south the chance of showers early on reduces so maybe a better start to the day for you on Wednesday. As we progress through Wednesday however, those showers sink south into Munster, Connacht and Leinster and for the U.K they slip down into North Wales and northern England / The North Midlands. Temperatures will be cooler on Wednesday, high single figures only, still with that westerly wind, but it’ll be declining in strength a little from Tuesday blasts, still strong though.

Into Thursday and that showery slant to the weather is still with us, with rain set in a band over Ireland and the south-west / south coast of England and Wales. It’s role reversal for Thursday because that rain is set to stay over Ireland and the southern half of the U.K with Scotland and the north of England looking largely dry, if a little on the dull side. One thing we will lose is that wind, calming down to light to moderate, but shifting a little to the north west so keeping the temperatures down.

For Good Friday we have a band of rain moving in overnight into Ireland and that progresses into the U.K by early morning. The band will orientate itself straight down the middle of the U.K from Scotland to the south coast and at present it looks like everyone save the far east of the U.K will be sitting under it. By the afternoon it looks to have cleared Ireland thankfully but elsewhere it will remain in situ for the whole day, so if you’re under the worst of it, they’ll be some appreciable rainfall totals. Definitely going to be a Good Friday where you do inside jobs 🙁 Temperatures will remain cool and the wind will swing all the way round to the east to become moderate in strength. Again some of those rain showers will fall as sleet or even snow over the high ground of Wales in particular.

Looking at the Easter break we have a much drier theme after Friday’s deluge you’ll be pleased to hear and although it will be on the cool side there will be some good spells of sunshine, particularly over Ireland, Wales and England. Scotland looks to have more in the way of cloud cover, particularly for the 2nd part of Easter, but it’ll be dry here as well. High pressure looks to be in charge for Easter so not a total disaster. They’ll be a chance of ground frost through the weekend to start the day but temperatures should be just into double figures in light northerly / north-westerly winds. For Easter Monday we have a new low dropping down and that may bring stronger westerly winds and rain to the northern tip of Scotland.

Weather Outlook

A tricky forecast to predict after Easter as we have a low pressure pushing down to affect the north of England, Ireland and Scotland on Tuesday, so that means mild, westerly winds and rain. Further south it looks more settled, light winds and maybe warm in them as well with temperatures pushing up a little as we go through the week. As we close out next week the outlook becomes more unsettled and so I expect a return to cooler, sunshine and showers.

Agronomic Notes

GDD – Where are we now ?

Continuing my theme of charting GDD  data this spring, we can see that (as predicted by Meteoturf) we did indeed get a nice lift in GDD over the weekend with the milder night temperatures playing a big part in this process.


That lift drags our cumulative total for the year up a bit, but we are still tracking 24days behind 2014 in terms of growth.


 Why do I use 6°C as a base temperature and other GDD models use 0°C ?

A number of people have asked me why I chose 6°C as the base temperature for my GDD model when I started out down this road 3 years ago ? In the U.S they use 0°C for their PGR models. The answer is that I think 6°C is the temperature when you start to see growth of the grass plant so if we have a day where the GDD is positive using this base temperature I think it correlates with actual growth. Now compare that to the GDD models that they use in the U.S, where for example they apply Trinexapac-ethyl every 200 GDD calculated with a 0°C base.

If you applied the U.S GDD model to this spring, you’d have already applied PGR on the 22nd February and the 26th March, Why would you do this when most end-users are reporting to me that they have barely cut greens-height turf this year and outfield turf has only shown a small amount of growth in early January and for a few days in March ? I think the 6°C GDD model correlates well with that and the 0°C doesn’t.  It is not always sensible to translate everything Stateside to the U.K and Ireland and think that it’ll work.

Plant Nutrition

I’m hoping that a lot of you took the opportunity to take advantage of the growth window forecast by Meteoturf last weekend and applied a granular fertiliser (if you needed recovery) If you didn’t and your turf surfaces need a pick me up before Easter, it’s going to be tricky this week because of the strength of the wind. You may get a chance to apply on Thursday but be mindful of Friday’s rainfall forecast. That’s why I said last week you have to seize the opportunities when they present themselves, easy for me to say when I’m sitting in my office I know, but harder to do for you guys sometimes. So in my mind we are still in a granular spell of weather if you are looking to apply some nutrition to your turf.

Looking ahead on Meteoturf, the growth forecast shows a declining trend with a small amount of response forecast this week due to the dropping day and night temperatures.


You can also see rainfall forecast for the end of the week, particularly on Friday 🙁

Wetter surfaces this winter and the penetrant debate

A lot of people have commented to me that in general their turf surfaces were wetter this winter and in some cases grass cover has been lost because of it. Why should this be when the rainfall up until mid-January 2015 was on a par with last year if you look at it from a total perspective ?

Well, firstly as I pointed out earlier this year in my blogs, rainfall totals are deceptive and it is rainfall patterns you should actually be looking at. In the autumn / winter of 2013 we had a 3- week dry spell from the beginning of November to early December and although it followed a very wet October (like 2014), surfaces and rootzones did dry out. In the autumn / winter of 2014 this was not the case as a wet October was followed by a wet November and a wet December, so surfaces never got a chance to dry out. That’s the first reason surfaces were wetter in general this past autumn / winter.

The reason grass cover was lost was down to hypoxia (lack of oxygen). When a rootzone becomes saturated it contains less oxygen because water is filling some of the pore space normally occupied by air. If this water-logging continues whilst temperatures are mild enough for the grass plant to continue growing (as they typically are in our mild autumn periods now)  the process of grass growth will further compound the problem. if you look at how a grass plant produces energy it breaks down carbohydrate molecules manufactured by photosynthesis, utilising oxygen as it does so and producing CO2 (Carbon Dioxide).

So if we have a rootzone that contains low soil oxygen because it is saturated with water and the grass plant continues growing, it will deplete the soil oxygen level and increase the soil carbon dioxide level. If uncorrected this leads to plant death. One of the first species to check out is Poa annua, the next is Ryegrass interestingly. (Note one of the most resilient is Bentgrass).

Rootzone schematic

Rootzone Schematic

So that’s why we lost grass cover on some surfaces over the winter because the rootzone is saturated, depleted in oxygen and potentially high in carbon dioxide and other toxic substances.

Would an application of a penetrant change this ?

Well no, (IMHO) because the reason that the rootzone is saturated is down to soil physics with either L1, L2, L3 and / or L4 not functioning correctly in terms of water movement. Applying a penetrant wetting agent with whatever claims are made on the label (and let’s face it, they are many and varied and often entirely unsubstantiated by trial data) won’t achieve ‘Diddly Squat’, if the rootzone is compromised physically.

If we look at my very simplified schematic of a rootzone above we can see we have a number of potential barriers to water movement.

The first is L1 – Here we have a layer typically high in organic matter and this one is where your topdressing practices have the most impact. If you apply sufficient topdressing this layer should feature organic matter and sand and this will be conducive to water movement. If you haven’t applied sufficient topdressing to ameliorate the organic matter, it will be tight in nature, compacted and very difficult for water (or anything) to move down through it into L2 and beyond.  A give -away is to cut a section across the profile and try to pull it apart, you’ll note it is very tight and often this is accompanied by bridged rooting as well if insufficient topdressing has been applied.

Assuming everything is fine and dandy with L1, we then have L2 and L3 to contend with. In my experience L2 tends to be pretty consistent with good levels of topdressing sand present mixed with organic matter to create what Dr. Beard calls a ‘Dirty Soil’. The exception to this is if past turf managers have used different dressings and / or if organic matter has been buried by topdressing on top of it past the point where aeration can remove it. You also see this sometimes on areas that have been turfed at some point in the past and the turf has brought in its own ‘unique’ soil and organic matter layer. In this instance you can have L2 acting as a barrier to water movement causing it to back water up into L1 and provide a wet surface, even if you’ve ticked all the boxes in terms of topdressing and surface aeration.

L3 to me is often the border between where topdressing runs out and native soil takes over. Of course in a USGA-Spec this is still sand, but in many ‘push up’ greens and sports pitches, this is native soil and more often than not clay. So we can easily have the same scenario with a non-functioning L3, as we have with a non-functioning L2, that is water perching above this layer, unable to move through it and eventually it will saturate L1 and L2, particularly during periods of prolonged rainfall.

In an ideal world L4 is a drainage layer, that is either a proper Herringbone drainage system or in some cases naturally sandy soil that allows water movement down into it. Another type of natural soil that is also very good in terms of drainage is limestone because it is naturally porous.

The above diagram and explanation is I accept a simplification, but hopefully you can see that simply trying to solve a dysfunctional soil issue by using a penetrant is not the answer. They will help for sure if your rootzone characteristics are conducive to water movement, but then again if they are already good in this area, you shouldn’t have a wet surface, should you ?

Ok that’s it for now, times up and a totally-saturated in tray beckons 🙁

I’m having some time off over Easter because I’m cream-crackered, so the blog may be later next week. In the meantime, all the best and a Happy Easter to all of you.

Mark Hunt




March 23rd


Hi All,

Well our cool start to the year continues courtesy of a north-easterly wind and North Sea Haar. That Haar played havoc with the Solar Eclipse sadly in some areas of the U.K last Friday. Very frustrating for me down in Oxfordshire as during the event it was dull and overcast and then it went greyer and colder and then 2 hours later the sun was fully out, bah humbug, I was stuck indoors in a meeting anyway !

Hedgehogs don’t obey Growth-Degree-Day models shock horror !Hedgepiglet2

My adopted Hedgepiglets duly emerged from hibernation on Friday evening, practically walking up to my lounge window where I was busy fly tying (I live life on the edge don’t I?) and demanding some Dried Mealworms and a drink. They were extremely hungry and will cost me a fortune over the year…..but I love them, as it’s the 3rd year in a row that they’ve raised young and kept them through the winter…..

They’ve emerged 4 days earlier than last year and a whopping 3 weeks earlier than spring 2013 when we had our worst winter for a long time and a very cold spring.

As you’ll note later in the GDD part of this blog, 2015 and 2013 aren’t that much different in terms of GDD and growth even though the conditions were a lot more severe 2 years ago weather-wise.

General Weather Situation

As we start the week we have a split weather situation with the east of Ireland, north-west of England and west of Scotland sitting under cloud and rain, with some of that moisture again falling as wintry showers over higher ground. Further south and east it’s a grand start to the week after a ground frost overnight. As we progress through the afternoon and evening, that rain and cloud cover will slip south clearing Ireland, Scotland and the north-west of England and bringing some rain to the west coast of Wales, the south-west of England, north of England and possibly The Midlands later this evening. Temperatures will be a little down on yesterday, high single figures, maybe a tad higher if you keep the sunshine in the south of England. Winds will be westerly and breezy in some places.

Moving onto Tuesday and during the night we see some rain moving down the east coast of England and into the south east. Further north in north-west Scotland we have a return of rain and wintry showers, again affecting Leinster, north-west Scotland and England. During the day this rain front will slip southwards into Wales, the south-west of England and The Midlands, fizzling out as it goes so, again the south should have another dry day.  As we move into Tuesday evening we see clear skies developing in all but the north-east of England and that could spell another ground frost. Winds will be from the north west and light to moderate in nature with slightly lower temperatures than Monday due to the change in wind direction.

By mid-week we have probably the last good dry day for many as proper rain is definitely on the way, a little later than predicted last week, but still on the way it is ! So Wednesday looks to be a cracker for most areas, with a bright start to the day, potentially with another ground frost in places. Almost immediately though it’ll start clouding over in the west of Ireland, a portent for some serious rain. By the afternoon this rain is into west Munster and Connacht and by the rush hour it’ll be cover all of Ireland and be heading eastwards. By Wednesday evening this milder wetter air butts up against the cooler air along the west coast of the U.K, so initially it may well fall as sleet and snow over higher ground before giving way to rain. Overnight into Thursday this rain band moves eastwards and should cross the entire U.K as it does so. Temperatures will be chilly under that rain, 6-8°C at best I think.

By Thursday morning that rain band will be sitting over the central and eastern areas of the U.K in a line down from Scotland to the south coast of England, again falling as sleet during the morning rush hour. Further west it’s long gone now and so you have a bright, chilly start to Thursday and a dry day to boot. By early afternoon that rain and wintry shower mix moves off into The North Sea (best place for it) and all areas of the U.K and Ireland should finish with a clear end to the day. Temperatures will drop under clear skies but should just stay high enough to miss a ground frost.

Closing out the week we have a re-run of Wednesday for Ireland with rain pushing into the west of Leinster and Connacht early doors and heading eastwards reaching the west coast of the U.K by mid-morning. This rain will push eastwards, but fragment to showers over Ireland and the west as it does so. So another wet day for many, but it’ll be a little milder as the wind swings round to the south-west pushing temperatures up to the giddy heights of high single figures, gosh golly and all that….

For the weekend we have a potentially wet Saturday morning (Looks like I’ll be bailing the boat out again!) as more rain pushes across Ireland into and across the U.K. At this stage it looks like mainly affecting The Midlands and north of England, but we’ll see. What you will notice is the milder temperatures pushing up the air temperature well into the teens along with those rain showers which will clear during the late afternoon and early evening on Saturday. Sunday looks a better day except for northern Scotland, northern Connacht and Donegal where a band of rain will push across during Sunday. Further south it’ll be a mix of some sunshine but plenty of cloud cover making it a dull day for many, but a mild one again with temperatures in the low teens.

Weather Outlook

So after the long cool spell we have endured, is there a change to milder and wetter weather on the way ?

Well yes and no because we look to start next week with a strong, westerly airstream so that means sunshine, showers and milder temperatures as we close out March. This looks to be set for the start of next week through till Wednesday, but as we move through Wednesday into Thursday, the winds look set to swing back to a northerly direction dropping the temperatures again as high pressure pushes in from The Atlantic. Thankfully this cold blast doesn’t appear to last long because as we close out next week the wind returns to a westerly direction and potentially with it some very reasonable temperatures for the south of England. Could that mean a pleasant Easter ? 🙂

Agronomic Notes

Growth Comparison using GDD Data

Following on from last week’s exercise in comparing the growth in 2015 with 2014, I have updated the chart and as you can see we are now sitting about 4 weeks behind what was an early season in 2014….


If we look at the pattern of growth during March to date we find that we’ve had approximately half of the growth days in March 2015 than we had last year…


So this got me thinking…If we are so far behind 2014 I wonder how we compare to 2013 when we had a really hard winter and cold spring ? Well the comparison of all 3 years to date is shown below ;


You can see that the two years of 2013 and 2015 are practically at the same end point by the 22nd March, so even though we haven’t had the severe frost and snow that we had in 2013, from a plant’s perspective there isn’t much to separate the two.

But we’ve had good light levels…

Although growth might be behind, we’ve had plenty of good light days courtesy of the drier weather and that counts a lot in grass plant terms, maximising photosynthesis and producing plenty of carbohydrates ready for spring growth. Some of those carbohydrates will have headed down to the roots hence the benefit of doing early aeration and maximising root development. The drier weather has also been great for winter projects so it’s not all bad news….:)

Growth going forwards and nutrition

Well we have some milder and wetter weather on the way at the end of the week, so we should be well-placed to apply granular nutrition on areas that require recovery from winter wear such as winter season pitches, tees and complexes around greens and of course areas that have been aerated and require canopy close (Bullshit Bingo term #1). If the rain falls during milder air temperatures then we will see a much quicker rise in soil temperatures as that warmer moisture warms the soil, so I’d expect a good response from a granular application applied prior to this week’s forecasted rainfall.

Spotting those growth windows and using them….

This game is all about spotting those windows for growth and taking the opportunity rather than bemoaning the fact next week that it’s now too wet and windy to apply…Again the MeteoTurf module on your Headland Weathercheck forecasting portal is showing this nicely in both GDD and Growth Potential formats highlighting the upswing in temperatures…..


Plant Pathogen Activity

We’ve been dry in some areas of the U.K for a good while now and the advent of rain and also milder temperatures over the weekend will most likely kick some Microdochium nivale activity into life, so if you’re aerating this week and / or topdressing, just be aware that this may be the case. I’m not really a fan of spraying fungicides going into the growing season because if we have plant health and nutrition in the right area then we should be able to grow it out, but if you have a covering of sand anticipated this may not be the case, a tricky one really…

Insect ActivityLeatherjacketfeedinghole

Whilst out walking yesterday along the Leicestershire / Rutland border desperately trying to get my Fitbit total up to somewhere decent after forgetting to wear it for a day :(, I noticed lines of Corvids (Crows, Rooks, etc) working along a ridge and these guys were undoubtedly feeding on Leatherjackets and / or Bibionids. With the mild and wet end to last year and early part of this year, insect pests are potentially a problem. So keep an eye out for feeding holes on your surfaces especially after aerating when they like to come up at night and feed along the core hole itself giving a countersunk effect and delaying recovery significantly. If you plan to apply an insecticide, this week’s rain will do a good job of moving it into the turf layer.

Ok that’s all for now, on a tight one as usual, but then hey it’s March !

All the best…

Mark Hunt







March 16th


Hi All,

Well we’ve been from winter to spring and back to winter over the last week or so….That rain forecast for last Friday got about as far as eastwards as Birmingham and then shifted back westwards, so for 2 of my calls on Friday they’d had 20mm+ and when I got home we’d had 0.7mm !

So what’s going on with the weather ?


Well our old friend the jet stream is on his travels again and as you can see from the graphic above instead of flowing straight across the Atlantic from west to east, it’s taking a pronounced turn half way and heading right up to The Arctic Circle. This leaves us at the mercy of easterly winds and high pressure systems from the continent, which this time of year happen to be cold. So that’s why winter has returned again, it also means for some areas of the country we are dry and to be honest in need of rain, So will we get it this week ?

General Weather Situation

So Monday is starting dull and dreary for many with a mix of sleet and rain affecting the western coastline of the U.K and inland as well. Ireland looks to be the same, dull with low cloud cover. Through the day this mix of wintry showers will slowly traverse eastwards across Ireland and the U.K, accompanied by a cool easterly / north-easterly wind and temperatures in the mid-single figures. Nothing to shout about really, but maybe away from this rain in westerly areas, it might just feel a little milder because the winds have dropped since the weekend.

Onto Tuesday and a slowly improving picture as temperatures begin to pick up and as that light, mizzly rain clears away from the south of England you might just see the SUN, yes it’s that yellow thing that’s been strangely absent for the last week or so 🙂 So Tuesday sees that cloud cover and mizzly rain slowly clearing from the south of the U.K and Ireland to give some breaks in the cloud and with them a rise in temperatures to double figures would you believe. Winds will be light and from the east.

By mid-week we have a dry picture over practically all of the U.K and Ireland, but after a brighter start for some we see more cloud cover move in off The North Sea, so eastern coasts will be dull from the start and the best brightness and temperatures will again be in the west. Winds will remain north-easterly / easterly and pick up during the day I’m afraid keeping temperatures around high single / low double figures 🙁

For Thursday we have the possibility of ground frost if the skies clear over your location, but a brighter start for many, though remaining cool under that north-east wind. Dry for most areas again, but by mid-afternoon we’ll see some sleet and wintry showers pushing into the north-east of Scotland and this will consolidate as we reach evening rush hour.

Closing out the week we have a slightly improving picture with lighter north-east winds allowing the temperature to build through the day into double figures in the sunshine (if you get it) The only fly in the ointment is some light rain scudding over The Highlands of Scotland and Western Isles. For most then another dry day with some broken cloud, sunshine and lighter winds, which should be swinging round to the north-west, a portent for things to come maybe…..

Looking ahead to the weekend we have a slow change to a north-westerly air stream, felt first in Scotland and the north of England / Ireland. At this stage Saturday looks good with plenty of sunshine amid broken cloud and much milder temperatures, likely to be well up into double figures, gosh golly. Winds will be light and from the north-west. Further north it’ll be duller I’m afraid and the chance of some mizzly, drizzle kicking around through the day. Sunday follows a similar pattern with more in the way of cloud cover, some nice breaks in the cloud particularly in the afternoon and some light rain clearing central and north-east Scotland through the day.

Weather Outlook

Well a very different week in prospect next week I think because as we start the week we will have that high pressure system slowly slinking off southwards to be replaced by a North Atlantic low pressure system. This will bring stronger winds, westerly / north-westerly in nature to Scotland and the north of England early next week and this will rapidly become the picture across all of the U.K and Ireland by Tuesday with rain showers and strong winds the order of the day, it’ll feel cool as well. By mid-week the temperatures will pick up a little as warmer air moves in to the westerly airstream, but those strong winds and bands of rain will be a feature of next week, particularly over Scotland and the north of England in terms of rainfall.

Agronomic Notes

So where are we in 2015 from a growth perspective ?

A couple of years ago you’ll all know I started playing around with growth-degree-days and latterly growth potential.

My initial aim back in what was then the extended winter of 2013 was to try and figure out how far behind we were in terms of growth vs. the previous year and since then I’ve been monitoring GDD and G.P at a number of sites thanks to the efforts of a small group of diligent helpers (A big thanks to you all)

So when we come to 2015 and we’re sitting here in Mid-March, just 3 weeks away from Augusta and you know what that means, every golfer expects their golf clubs greens to be like theirs or at the very least like they remember them to be 🙂

It’s not just a golf phenomenon, I appreciate on sports pitches you’re heading towards the end of the winter sports calendar and then there may be the rapid transition to cricket and / or athletics depending on your facility.


So I’ve charted out cumulative GDD from January 1st to Mar 15th, 2015 and compared them to the same date range in 2014. See below….


The shape of growth or more precisely lack of growth…

The first thing to look at is the shape of the 2015 graph vs. 2014, you’ll notice that it’s very flat – horizontal in nature and this means that very little growth was taking place (hence no increase in the cumulative GDD total) So we can see that really from the 13th January to 6th March, little or no growth took place.

A consequence of this is that areas that were receiving wear and tear during this period like golf tees, pathways from green to tee, etc and of course winter season pitches have had very little potential to recover with this growth pattern. In reality the first actual significant growth we got wasn’t until the 6th March.

So how far are we behind vs. last year from a growth perspective ?

Again this is where plotting GDD really comes into its own and why I use 6°C as my base temperature, rather than 0°C as they do in the U.S GDD models, particularly for PGR usage.

If you look at the graph below, all you need to do is look at the GDD total for March 15th, 2015 and run a line across to where we hit that same figure in 2014. The result is shown below ;


The graph shows that we hit 47 cumulative GDD in 2014 on the 22nd of February compared to the 15th of March in 2015. This means we are exactly 3 weeks behind last year from a growth perspective.

Looking at this week’s forecast from a GDD perspective on your Headland Weather check Meteoturf module (see below) we can see very little predicted growth this week either, whereas last year we had 14.5 cumulative GDD from 16th March to the 23rd. So in essence we are slipping further behind each week….


So just to summarise, we are 3 weeks behind in pure growth terms in 2015 compared to 2014 and we are slipping further back as we progress through March. Now hopefully you can see why I think recording temperature and converting that into GDD and G.P is very useful, especially when it comes to communicating with your powers that be.

How to deal with low growth potential weather patterns in early spring

Well you have 2 choices here depending on whether your have aerated and need recovery or you have a good sward coverage with little requirement for pushing growth.

If you’re in the latter scenario, well lucky you, then the order of the day is light foliar inputs (4-5kg/N/hectare per application) using cool-temperature nutrient sources that I’ve talked about already this month, combined with iron and I’d be timing my application this week because you’re not going to get much of a chance next week once that Atlantic low pitches up !

If you need recovery and therefore have to generate good growth at low temperatures and at present with dry conditions affecting the south and east of the U.K particularly, you have 2 choices. Use a heavier rate foliar this week, inputting 7-10kg/N/ha and I’d be going with 60 – 75% of that from low temperature N sources and the remainder from urea for a bit of turf safety and longevity. Your other choice is to apply a granular product towards the end of this week in time for the arrival of rain and slightly milder conditions next week.

Root Growth

This lack of growth isn’t all bad news you know because when we look at the growth-limiting affects of air temperature it really holds back new shoot and leaf production, but until temperatures drop to close to freezing, the grass plant is more than able to develop roots and that’s what I’m seeing plenty of when I take cores. So now is a good time to take a plug from your turf and look at how the grass plant is able to develop new roots. If they are lateral, sideways roots then the surface organic matter layer is either too dense (so not enough topdressing is integrated through it) or too thick in depth, or both. You don’t have to send samples away to a lab to see this, just use a knife or a profiler and analyse how the plant is growing it’s roots.












I hope that gives you food for thought and the ammunition to communicate with your heirachy…

Off to pack again, last week of flying then I need to get some roots down of my own !

All the best as always…..

Mark Hunt

March 9th


Hi All,

So we’re already through the first week of March and wasn’t it nice to feel some warm sunshine over the weekend ? if in fact you were in the right place to do so because not everyone was 🙁

I never saw so many people out running, cycling or walking, just lapping up the first warm sun of the year, priceless and something that no government can tax, but hey give them time and I’m sure the E.U will come up with something crap….

The bird life as gone into overdrive with a more pronounced dawn chorus and lots of squabbling over territory. Over the weekend I watched Red Kites displaying over Fineshade’s Forest, a cracking site as they cartwheeled around the skies chasing each other, these birds are great aviators !

I’d love to say spring has arrived for good and it’s all downhill pedalling from here but I’m afraid that isn’t the case. I think the issue we face is that high pressure will dictate much of March’s weather and that will mean the tricky prospect of initiating growth in a dry, cold spring, more on that later. Of course for Scotland, the north and west, the prospect of drier weather will be very attractive after the rain of last week, this weekend gone and the coming week, talk about a north-south divide.

General Weather Situation

So for Monday we have a west / east divide with rain already into West Munster and heading over most of Ireland through the morning, but elsewhere we have a dry, clear, sunny start and ground frost for many. That frost will soon clear in the warmth of the sun, but by lunchtime that rain has pushed into the west coast of the U.K falling as a mixture of snow, sleet and rain over the higher ground of Scotland. By dusk this rain is affecting most of Scotland, the north of England, Wales and the south-west and slowly it’ll creep eastwards, though the south-east may escape totally. Winds will be light and from the south / south-east with temperatures pushing into double figures in the sun and just making it under the cloud. Further north where you’re closer to the low, those winds will be stronger and the showers blustery in nature.

For Tuesday we have that rain clearing most of the U.K and Ireland save for some wintry showers over the Highlands of Scotland. Tuesday looks a cracking day with plenty of sunshine and dry weather. Temperatures will be a little down on Monday due to a north-west wind, but out of the wind it’ll feel grand.

Overnight into Wednesday, temperatures may dip under clear skies to give a ground frost in places, (eastern and central areas particularly) but further west we have a new low pressure system butting up against that high pressure and trying to push in. This will bring rain overnight into Ireland and a pronounced change in the wind direction to milder southerlies as it does so. By dawn this rain is intensifying over Ireland so a wet day ahead for you guys and it is also pushing north-east into the north of England and Scotland. Again falling as wintry showers over higher ground.  During the morning this rain will push into all of Scotland intensifying as it does so, but also sinking south to affect northern England, Wales and the south-west by the afternoon. By evening those showers may affect most of the U.K, except the south and south-east of England that may escape them. Temperatures will be similar to Tuesday, high single / low double figures. Winds will pick up in strength with moderate gusts under those showers.

Overnight into Thursday that rain and wintry showers clears everywhere, except the extreme tip of Scotland and I shouldn’t think I have many readers that far north ! By dawn it’s a lovely clear day, plenty of sunshine for the east coastline of the U.K, elsewhere it’ll be dull and that cloud cover signifies the arrival of another front of rain. Again under clear skies we have a high chance of ground frost. By the start of the rush hour it’ll be nibbling the south-west of Ireland and quickly moving north and east again through the morning to affect all of Ireland, the north-west of England and Scotland. Elsewhere it’ll be dry and settled. Again this rain will be particularly heavy over the west coast of Scotland and the north of England. Further south and east, it’ll be dull and dry with temperatures nudging into double figures under that cloud cover. Winds will pick up again as the rain approaches and swing more westerly / southerly as they do so.

Overnight into Friday that rain moves centrally across the U.K in two pronounced bands so most areas waking up to a wet scenario here. Thankfully though it clears Ireland overnight and here it’ll be a bright and sunny start to the last day of the week with a widespread ground frost. By the morning rush hour that rain has cleared most of the U.K, except the east / south-east of England where it may be heavy in nature and reluctant to whisk off into The Channel. 🙁 Further west a nice dry sunny start to the day and although chilly in nature it’ll be a nice way to end the week. Winds will be light and from the south turning northerly through the day and that’ll drop the temperature later in the day. Temperatures will be similar to Thursday, high single figures maybe nudging into double figures in the sunshine.

Onto the all important weekend, well Saturday looks like a dry day for many with variable cloud cover and again the risk of ground frost under clear skies. A dull day for many but gradually this cloud will clear to leave a sunny end to the day. Winds will be light and temperatures in the high single figures I think perhaps cooler than the end of the week. Sunday looks dry again for many except the north-west of Scotland where some rain will push in during Saturday night. A chance of a much clearer day on Sunday with good amounts of sunshine and of course the risk of ground frost if skies are clear and winds light. All in all not too bad.

Weather Outlook

So the start of next week looks settled as high pressure keeps an incoming low pressure away. As the two butt up against each other it’ll freshen up the winds and they’ll be southerly in the main so not too bad from a temperature perspective. With an Atlantic low sitting off Ireland I expect this to push in some rain fronts to the west of Ireland and north-west of Scotland, but away from here it should be dry and settled. Dry and settled in March means a risk of ground frost, but reasonably nice days with temperatures pushing up into high single and maybe double figures in the south-west and south of England later in the week.

Agronomic Notes

Purple Greens are all the rage 🙂

You know by this stage what dry and sunny means with cold nights during March ? Yes that’s right, my fine turf areas are going purple…..


I know I write this every year, but just to refresh your memories why it is happening,,,,

During dry, bright days the grass plant photosynthesises and produces sugars in the leaves which ordinarily are translocated down and around the plant during the latter part of the day and at night. When the temperature drops rapidly as soon as the sun goes down, not all of these sugars move out of the leaves so they accumulate and bind to pigments in the leaf, one of which is Anthocyanin. Now Anthocyanin is the pigment responsible for giving us those lovely red, brown and purple colours in the autumn, so when it accumulates in the grass leaf blade it turns the leaf purple rather than green because Anthocyanin dominates over Chlorophyll.

Why doesn’t this happen evenly rather than in patches ?

Well particularly for Poa biotypes, but it’s also true of some biotypes of bentgrasses, some grow better at lower temperatures than others so this phenomenon occurs in patches where these faster growing biotypes are present. It’s also due to the location of greens. Greens that are in the open will warm up quicker and cool down faster whereas greens in the shade do not warm up as quick. So early doors we tend to see this purpling on more open greens or on non-shaded areas of greens. One last point is that the temperature fluctuations are experienced by the top of the leaf so this purpling takes place in the upper epidermis region of the grass leaf, flip it over and it’s nice and green. This phenomenon does affect outfield turf but the appearance isn’t as pronounced usually.

How can you stop it ?

Well to a large part you can’t stop it entirely, it doesn’t harm the grass plant, it’s not a nutrient deficiency, but of course it is a function of plant growth. So if you can pick up the growth with a well-timed nutrient input and get most of your biotypes growing then it’ll go someway to reducing the effect.

Turf Nutrition – Use the weather window….

One size doesn’t fit all so they say and with the mixed weather forecast this week that’s definitely the case when it comes to grass plant nutrition and fertiliser inputs.


For the central and southern areas of the U.K this week we have the prospect of light rain pushing over late in the week and that may be the only rain for a week or so. Coming on the back of a relatively dry week last week that means if your forecast is showing rain then timing a spring granular before it may give you a nice boost of growth if you need to stimulate recovery. Further west and north this isn’t such an issue because the rainfall we’ve had and will get this week will provide you with plenty of opportunities to apply a granular fertiliser if you so wish…

If your forecast isn’t showing rain this week, then you can count on probably 2 dry weeks and that will mean a number of factors coming into play. Firstly the surface of the greens will start to dry out (heaven for some) and also that foliar fertilisation will be more effective than granulars for the time-being. As I explained last week foliar fertilisers come into their own when the air is warm and the soil generally cold and this will be the case this week and next, particularly if you get some ground frosts which will lower the soil temperature markedly.

So here we are looking to input 4-5 kg/N/hectare in immediately-available form, so that’s ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate and ammonium sulphate as the most efficient forms of nutrient. Adding Amino acids to this mix won’t do any harm either. Obviously mixing in a low rate iron to enhance colour and blend all those biotypes in will also be beneficial. It’s all about keeping the grass plant happy and that means light, regular inputs of N rather than big chunks. Obviously if you’ve aerated the run of cold, dry weather may prove tricky to gain recovery and allow you to topdress and get growth through the dressing. So look to fertilise on a weekly basis here with foliars if that’s practically feasible, little and often the order of the day.


Well ok it may be drier in some areas of the U.K, but we don’t need irrigation just yet, that said why not take this opportunity to get your system primed up and ready to go before we experience that annual rush when everyone wants their system opening up quickly and there aren’t enough irrigation people to go round….

Disease Activity

MicrodochiumThe milder temperatures at the back end of last week and warmer days of the weekend mixed in with some rainfall yesterday for most areas means that we will see a spring flush of Microdochium nivale. This will especially be the case where you have old scars and they become re-activated on the periphery of the scar because this is where the highest disease population is present. You could spot treat a contact like Iprodione on these areas or plug them out to the edge of the green or simply grow them out but as I’ve explained above we are less likely to be able to do this over the next week or so with the expected weather forecast.

Ok that’s it for this week, enjoy the sun if you get it, off to get my bags packed..

All the best…

Mark Hunt





March 2nd


Hi All,

Slightly bleary-eyed typing this as I shake off the last vestige of a not-too-bad jet lagHunts episode on my return from San Antonio. A good trip, some interesting classes and not a bad show either, though it’s noticeably smaller every year. America is a country of contradictions for me and sometimes hard to get your head round. Food portions continue to remain at an excessive level when viewed from a European perspective and their waste must be mountainous. Good coffee and tea remain as elusive as ever, but I note that a relation of mine is obviously doing well with his brand of Tomato Ketchup ! I’ll talk about their turf perspective later in the blog….


We had a good lesson in the power of the Atlantic Jet Stream (see above) on the way home, 10 1/2 hrs to get out to Houston flying against it and only 7 1/2 hours with it behind us, sometimes reaching up to 200mph as a tailwind, the plane was shaking big time 🙁 That same jet stream has been funneling down Arctic air since late last year and many states on the east coast are having a winter to forget. Whilst we were out in San Antonio, the temperature went from 20°C to 4°C in an evening with a negative windchill and some superintendents told me that they’d had up to 9ft of snow in 2015 ! Apparently there’s so much snow in Boston they’re considering pushing it into the harbour because there’s nowhere left to move it to !….

SnowdropsSo onto our weather, we had a cold, rough, wet week last week, but with a very mild end to it and now as I watch sleet fall past the window, it’s dropped cold again. Of course we’ve now tip-toed into March and as I walked through the lovely snow drops at Lamport Hall this weekend, I wondered if there is any sign that spring is around the corner ?…well the answer is a tentative yes, but don’t break out your factor 30 just yet…

General Weather Situation

A typical early spring day really for Monday with a cold wind, blustery, wintry showers falling as rain, sleet and snow depending on location and some nice sunny spells in-between. For Monday morning we have those wintry showers primarily affecting the west and north coasts of Ireland and the U.K. The east and south of the U.K looks largely dry, cold and sunny at present, but as we move through the day those showers will push east and northwards becoming confined to the north and west coasts of Ireland and the U.K. Temperatures will be cold, single figures for the day and winds will be blustery in those showers, so a fair degree of wind chill as well.

Overnight into Tuesday we have those wintry showers still lurking and a band of rain pushing into the south west of England. If you’re clear and you stay clear, then you can expect a ground frost for Monday night. By Tuesday morning those wintry showers sit stubbornly over the west and north coasts of Ireland and the U.K, whereas further south a band of rain pushes across in a line stretching from the Severn Estuary to the Thames Estuary. By close of play that rain is sitting over the south-east of England and the wintry showers of rain, sleet and snow (over higher ground) are camped out over the north west of the the U.K and west coast of Ireland. Again it’ll feel parky in a moderate, westerly wind with mid-single figures the order of the day, perhaps a little warmer in the sun and out of the wind. We should avoid a frost in most places on Tuesday night, but it’ll be close.

Over to Wednesday and a much better day is in order with those wintry showers dying out, maybe becoming confined to The Lakes on Wednesday morning. Elsewhere they’ll be plenty of sunshine across the U.K and Ireland and although it’ll still feel cold, it will be a lot better than earlier in the week for many, especially the north and west. Winds will be a little lighter, from the west, but still mid to high single figures the order of the day, so a cold start to March.

For Thursday we have a dry start for much of the U.K, but in Ireland a band of rain is pushing into west Munster and Connacht and moving eastwards during the morning. This rain will push into north-west Scotland later in the morning. Elsewhere it’ll be a dry and sunny start to the day, but cloud will push into the north-west of England and move down across country through the day. This cloud will be heavy enough to bring rain into North Wales and the north of England by Thursday afternoon. Temperatures will remain cold in the north, but further south it’ll be milder, maybe edging into double figures in the south-east.

Closing out the week that rain will become confined to the lower half of Ireland and the U.K, potentially affecting Wales in particular. A duller day with more in the way of cloud cover and again that cloud cover may be thick enough to bring rain to the north of England, Wales and Ireland through the course of the day. Further east and south, you may escape with just the cloud, but that will keep temperatures pegged back to high single figures at best in a lighter north-west / westerly wind.

The weekend looks potentially wet / very wet over north-west Scotland and this rain will also push into northern England and Ireland through the day on Saturday, but always wettest over Scotland and primarily affecting western coastlines the worst. Further south and east it looks like being a dull day, but mild with potentially a strong westerly / south-westerly wind. Sunday looks much nicer with sunshine over much of England and in it those temperatures will zip into double figures so nice really. They’ll still be rain sitting over north-west Scotland and Ireland and that will peg things back there. Winds will be moderate and from the west.

Weather Outlook

As the Unisys Weather GIF shows at the top of this blog, we have a very cold, wet area of low pressure sitting right above us next week, but we look to be sheltered from this by high pressure keeping it north of us, so the weather looks settled next week, mainly dry with perhaps some rain affecting Ireland and Scotland early in the week, but otherwise a good week really for early March.

Agronomic Notes

The year so far…

Well February passed with a relatively dry month (save for the end) for the south of England and Midlands, but wet / very wet for the north of England, Scotland, Wales and for Ireland as well. Growth-wise you can see how different the last two years have been in the graphs below ;


The graphs show that practically no growth occurred during February 2015 and as is often the case, January was a better growth month than February. The figure for February in terms of GDD was actually lower than February 2013, when we had our worst winter for years, so it shows just how prolonged the cold spell was this year, practically the entire month of February.

Unfortunately this year it was another wet January for many so that means early hollow coring opportunities weren’t great during the month, however with February being relatively dry for many till the end of the last week, a good number of clubs have aerated already. Reports from the south of England and Midlands indicate The Midlands, south and east of England only received 30 – 40mm of rain during February, but I know further west and north of this, amounts were much higher.

A consequence of the lack of growth during February for both winter sports fields and heavy play areas like tees, walkways between green and tees, etc is that there has been little recovery from play, so I anticipate these areas are going into March with significantly less grass cover than last year.

The problem will be generating growth if no rainfall is forthcoming in the drier areas of the U.K and Ireland, to wash granules in and get things moving, particularly if next week’s high pressure looks like keeping things dry. Ironic really that we will need some rainfall to get some growth in some areas of the country. It may be the case if air temperatures lift up for us that liquid fertilisation using low water volumes (to bypass a cold soil) will be the order of the day and certainly when it comes to greens fertilisation, I think this will be the case.

Is a foliar fertiliser different from a liquid fertiliser ?

I attended an ok class on Foliar Fertilisation at GIS2015, only ok because it tended to deal with the use of liquid and foliar fertilisers during warmer climates and its conclusion was that urea was the best foliar fertiliser.

Of course the issue over here is that urea has to be converted by hydrolysis and the presence of an enzyme (urease) before it is plant-available and this process requires temperature. Now temperature is something we don’t have in the spring in the U.K and Ireland, so if you went spraying straight urea everywhere this week for example, you would need a calendar to gauge the response it would be that slow. This time of year, ammonium and nitrate N forms are key to getting an early spring response because they don’t require conversion to be plant-available and even if they are less efficient in terms of plant uptake (the plant leaf takes up nitrate less effectively than ammonium or urea it appears) you still see an excellent turf response from applying these N forms in a foliar form.

Back to my question, is a foliar fertiliser different from a liquid fertiliser ?, the answer is yes in terms of application water volumes, but no in terms of nutrient forms. Their guidance was that anything over 500 litres of spray solution per hectare tended to wash the spray solution off the leaf and so you got limited leaf uptake, but more root uptake.

Of course there are a lot of variables associated with this statement, cutting height, grass species, leaf wetness, E.T rates and nozzle / spray droplet characteristics to name but a few. I always work on 400L per hectare for foliar applications on fine turf and lower on outfield turf provided you have the sprayer set up properly and can avoid streaking and misses.

They also maintained that 90% of nitrogen uptake occurs in the first 1 – 4 hours after spraying, but that the grass plant leaf itself is relatively inefficient at nutrient uptake with the majority of nutrients entering the grass plant by the root via soil exchange.

Using mild air temperature to your advantage

One of the best uses of low water application rates (foliar fertilisation) occurs at this time of year when we get days of relatively mild air temperature, but the soil is still cold. For instance we may hit double figure air temperatures by the end of the week and possibly higher at the weekend, but the soil temperature is still low, sitting at 5.2°C here as I speak….So by inputting a cool temperature-biased nitrogen feed into the leaf accompanied by iron (for better colour) you can gain a good turf response, early, and get  the grass ‘attuned’ to fertilisation. (by breaking dormancy)

Sustainability U.S Style ?

Without a doubt the biggest difference between the U.S and Europe in terms of product usage surrounds pesticide usage. They still have in many places a zero tolerance perspective towards disease on a lot of golf courses and this includes fairways. When I attended a class on plant stress that covered Anthracnose prevention, I couldn’t help but look a tad bemused when I saw that their preventative program for this disease included 7 fungicide applications from April onwards on a fortnightly basis ! Can the disease pressure really be that much higher over there than here to warrant such an approach ?

Hardly surprising then that disease resistance to fungicides is an issue.

Base Saturation – A discredited system for soil analysis….

The U.S appears to have come full circle with respect to soil analysis with their lecturers now referring to Base Saturation as a discredited system for calculated nutrient input from soil analysis.

Slightly hypocritical when you consider it was the U.S that led the foisting of this approach on our industry over here and I can clearly remember attending classes 15 years ago when they advocated this system.

Now they are relying on SLAN (Sufficiency Level of Available Nutrients) for their soil analysis but they have no guidelines and little new credible research to back up recommendations. I came away from the classes in this area with a book full of conflicting notes and a comment “As clear as mud” written by me in bold. I think we are on the right lines over here in terms of nutrient input and really don’t need to look across the Atlantic for the best way forward any more, not in this area at least.

Ok that’s it for this week, off my Soapbox and dreading the size of my things-to-do list !

All the best..

Mark Hunt