January 23rd

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Hi All,

We are rattling through January and are already starting the third week with just one more winter month to go and typically it is the coldest one to come but who knows what we’ll get served up ?

fieldfrost

Last week the skies cleared from the south of the U.K as forecast and so we picked up some pretty heavy frosts with -6°C common. Depending on your location this continued through the weekend but I think there was more cloud cover up north and that kept you frost-free if a tad miserable. (as reported by Mike and Sue !)

We were sitting at -5°C at 8 a.m. yesterday morning which made for a beautiful winter walk (it may sound daft getting up early at the weekend to walk but all the ploughed fields are frozen solid so offer much better walking and you don’t end up with mud platform shoes 🙂 ). Our resident high pressure has been responsible for these cold nights but there are clear signs that this is being pushed aside in the coming week and that’ll give way to a more westerly airstream which means milder air and rain. We know what happens when a westerly low pressure meets a resident high pressure and typically you’ll see a much windier week in store for us all but particularly across the west and north initially.

So what’s ahead for us this week ?

General Weather Situation

This week will see a strengthening low pressure system butt up against our resident high pressure and this will slow the progression of the former. So initially you’ll see that milder air and rainfall falling in the classic diagonal pattern across Ireland up to the north west of England and Scotland with areas south and east of this still sitting under the effects of the high pressure till the weekend, so calmer and drier here.

For Monday we have a very settled picture and most likely one of the only dry days of the week for Ireland and Scotland in particular. So cloud is well distributed and for many has kept off a frost first thing. As we progress through the day we should see more breaks in that cloud across the eastern coastline of the U.K and in the south west. Dry for everybody with cool temperatures ranging from mid-single figures across England and Wales and high single figures across Ireland. Depending on your location, winds will be light to moderate and from the south or west. Those cold temperatures and light winds will present a problem with persistent fog especially across the south of England I am afraid.

Moving onto Tuesday and we see the first of those Atlantic rain fronts push into the west so overnight rain has moved into and across Ireland and by dawn that’ll be into the west coast of Scotland as well. Further south and east and this we will be dull and dry with the chance of mist and fog again presenting an issue. Through Tuesday morning that rain will drift slowly south and fizzle out as it does so leaving a vestige across the south west of Ireland and north west England. Other areas will have a dull but dry day with similar temperatures to Monday for most areas but milder where you get that rain and into low double figures across Ireland I think. There’s again a chance of some breaks in the cloud across eastern coasts. Winds will begin to strengthen from the south across the west and they’ll be more westerly across central parts of the U.K.

Onto Wednesday and again we start the day with some light rain and thick cloud across south west Ireland, Scotland and north west England. South and east of this we may be frost-free but it all depends on cloud cover in your area. Through the morning we’ll see rain, some of it heavy push into south west Munster and Connacht and this will slowly push north and east into Leinster by the afternoon. For most of the U.K we will see that early cloud cover clear to give a lovely winter’s day with plenty of sunshine. Later on Wednesday night we see that rain make landfall across south west Scotland and it’s likely to be heavy in nature. A clear west – east split in the weather with mild temperatures into double figures in Ireland with that colder air still hanging on across the south and east. One thing you’ll notice on Wednesday is the much stronger winds pushing more southerly now as the low and high butt up against each other so extremely windy across the west and lighter winds across the east.

For Thursday we have that low continuing to exert its influence and as it does so it’ll edge slowly eastwards so Thursday is due to start wet across Ireland and Scotland and particularly wet across the former. The west-east divide continues with a beautiful sunny start to the day on Thursday with ground frost likely if your skies cleared on Wednesday night. Through Thursday that rain will slowly move over Ireland and Scotland but south of The Borders you’ll be dry again. Not surprisngly you’ll see a west-east split in the temperature with 11-12°C across Ireland and 5 -6°C across England. For Scotland you’ll have a much cooler day on Thursday as cold air from that low pressure nudges in. Extremely windy again across the west and north and through the day those winds will ramp up down south to gale force so quite a chill factor in the wind I’d say.

Closing out the week on Friday and we see that slow moving band of rain push clear of Ireland into Scotland from first light and gradually that rain will push eastwards into north west England and South Wales by mid-morning. Through the course of the afternoon that rain will push south and east across England and Wales as the high pressure finally relinquishes its grip on the U.K so a potentially wet end to the week for England and Wales whereas Ireland may miss that rain and have a dry day. Still windy with perhaps the strength of the wind dropping across the west from gale force to moderate. Temperature-wise not such a difference now with most places looking to be between 6°C and 8°C, so hardly tropical 🙂

Looking ahead to the weekend and that intense low will dictate the weather for most of the U.K and Ireland so no clear sky, frosty walks next weekend me thinks. More like hang onto your hat and pack your waterproofs I’d say with rain likely over the west and north on Saturday, dry south and east of this but eventually this rain will push south later on Saturday though it may be very light by the time it does. More risk of rain on Sunday especially further south and east and all the time we will see a very windy aspect to the weather with strong westerly winds in place. It will however feel noticeably milder across the south of England with temperatures likely to creep into double figures later into the weekend.

Weather Outlook

So we look to start next week with low pressure firmly in charge and that’s the way I think it is set to stay for most of next week. With high pressure firmly out of the way, we will have a strong westerly airstream in place so that means milder but also much wetter with frequent rain across the U.K and Ireland. In particular there’s a risk of heavy rain from mid-week onwards as a tight low pushes in. Much milder in that westerly airstream so double figures for most of the week are very likely next week.

One caveat and that’s the high pressure system moving off as projected. It’s proved very stubborn this winter and whilst all the models point to this westerly airstream becoming dominant, keep an eye on your forecasts to make sure it does behave as projected 🙂

Agronomic Notes

Firstly thanks to everyone I met at Harrogate last week, always good to catch up and chew the cud so to speak. Before I get on my soapbox I should state that what I write in this blog are my views and not necessarily the views of the company I work for 🙂

Between a rock and a hard place….

Chafer

It was clear to me that one of the areas of most discussion was the chemical situation specifically the loss of an effective insecticide for Leatherjackets and Chafers. There was also much discussion about fungicides and the level of disease pressure autumn 2016 / winter 2017, not just on greens but also outfield areas as well.

I admit the current situation makes gloomy reading especially on the insecticide front and what I’m sure you’ll see is that unless we find a solution as an industry, it will drive usage underground with off-label products being utilised out of desperation. Whilst in any way I don’t condone this, it is dificult to blame an end-user who when faced with a deteriorating turf surface, pressure from management because of revenue loss, resorts to trying anything to resolve his or her situation.

This shouldn’t be the answer and you wonder how legislators in the U.K and Europe can leave our industry (and agriculture as I understand it) without an effective control whilst still expecting business as normal ?. It is the same piece of legislation that will leave most areas of Germany without an effective Microdochium fungicide going into this autumn 🙁

And before someone plays the sustainability card, remember that Leatherjackets and Chafers aren’t particularly fussy about which grass species they affect.

We are between a rock and a hard place for sure.

mcelium3

The situation with fungicides for the U.K and Ireland isn’t so grim and I see it more like a changing of the guard in terms of the likely loss of some established chemistries but importantly we are seeing newer ones take their place. It will necessitate change in terms of how we use products, specifically in terms of application windows and timing but I am confident with the tools at our disposal we can still present very good surfaces from October to March. We will also have to be more on the ball in terms of cultural controls, reducing surface organic matter, overseeding to give a mixture of plant species and trying to maintain as dry a leaf as possible during periods of high disease pressure.

Above all it will require a change in mindset.

Greenkeepers, groundsman and club management alike will have to buy into these changes, it’s no good loading fixtures onto a playing calendar regardless of the need for aeration, plants like human beings breath oxygen and we have to provide it, it’s as simple as that. We have to control surface organic matter or else it will detract from our playing quality and produce an environment for disease and that disease will be more difficult to control.

I am sure we will have to get used to seeing more disease on greens because the newer chemistries have much lower loadings of active ingredients / substances and so won’t be as effective as the ones we are used to, but they still will offer very effective solutions if applied correctly. If a golf green has 5% of its surface affected by Microdochium, it is still playable, if it has 20% then I think we are borderline. If I tell you that in our autumn 2016 / winter 2017 disease trials, our untreated plots were at 75% affected by Microdochium nivale prior to Christmas you can see how high the disease pressure was that we faced last autumn !

Ok soap box away although with my lack of height it does come in handy sometimes 🙂

Weather Window

So it looks to me like we have a weather window in front of us with milder temperatures and rainfall on the horizon, earlier this week for the west and north and from the weekend onwards further south. Before I talk about the potential for applying a bit of nutrition to push areas onwards let’s just consider the last two spring seasons.

If you look at the graph below you’ll see that in spring 2016 we had precious little good growing weather during March and April with very few days when day and night temperatures conspired to give us good growing conditions. The line drawn at 0.4 for Growth Potential is where I would consider you’d see as an end-user a nice amount of clip in the box during March and April.

Spring2016

The problem is that we often seem to struggle in springtime to have decent night temperatures and it is these that are the ‘handbrake’ to growth.

Consider two days in the spring with the same lovely day temperature (difficult to imagine that today though !) but two very different night temperatures.

SpringDayGP

So in scenario 1 we have a lovely warm day but it is preceeded by a cold night and you can see that despite the warmth of the day we have a very low G.P figure, 0.16, which means practically zero growth. In scenario 2 we have the same nice day but we have a semi-mild night with 5°C minimum temperature. You can see how the G.P increases to 0.44, high enough for some good growth and recovery.

So March and April are proving to be really fickle months to generate consistent growth and I accept there’s no guarantee that this coming spring will follow the same pattern, but if it did why not use weather windows like the one coming up in January and February to push on weak areas that need recovery ?

I accept you have to be careful on fine turf because of the ever-present threat of disease (though i believe if you’re clean now you’re more than likely to stay that way) but here a light tonic applied before the winds ramp up may suffice. On tees, aprons, wear areas and sportsfields currently receiving winter wear, there’s a good opportunity for some recovery over the next week or so if you apply ahead of the moisture and temperature rise. Obviously this will be different in different areas of the U.K and Ireland but I think next week offers a good window provided the weather plays ball.

Ok that’s it for today, wrap up well and remember we are heading rapidly towards spring, the nights are noticeably stretching out so we only have February to endure.

All the best

Mark Hunt

 

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