Hi All,

After Storm Opehlia last week and Storm Brian over the weekend, the next ten due are called, in sequence, Caroline, Dylan, Eleanor, Fionn, Georgina, Hector, Iona, James, Karen and Larry.

No Storm Mark, Issacc or Yorac though which I find disappointing 🙁


Some of you reading this blog will be old enough to remember a group called “The Housemartins”, one of my favourites of the 80’s, and they had a track called “I smell winter” on the re-release of Hull 4 London 0, their first cracking album. The song always comes to my mind at this time of year because I can smell winter with the arrival of Redwings and Fieldfares from Scandinavia, over to feast on our berry crop. Now I’ve been hearing them at night for the last 2 weeks so in my books they’re here early as last year I reported them at the end of October. Is this a sign of a cold winter I wonder, well maybe in Scandinavia and Russia where they have shipped over from and incidentally where they are due to get their first snowfall this week. We may also feel winter ourselves in early November if the weather outlook pans out as projected.

For now though, we couldn’t be more different as will see warm weather at the end of October for the 8th year out of the last 10 and it wouldn’t surprise me if we hit 20°C at the weekend in the south of England, though we will have a northerly airstream, so that may peg things back a bit. Before you get your hopes up though, there’s another weather feature 10 days out that may take us back the other way quite quickly into winter, but that’s 10 days out, so plenty of time for things to change.

General Weather Situation

So for Monday we have low pressure out in the North Atlantic and so an unsettled start to the week as we have bands of rain crossing northern England, The Midlands and the west of Scotland. Through the morning we will see further bands of rain cross the U.K from west to east clearing to leave brighter weather behind them. This brighter weather was there from the off in Ireland and here you look to have a pretty nice day all in all once some showers along the west coast have fizzled out.  That rain may stay in situ across the north west of Scotland and keep with it a thicker cloud mass, so less chance of seeing the sun here. Wind-wise, well a lot calmer than the weekend with a moderate south westerly wind in situ and temperatures up in the mid-to high teens.

Onto Tuesday and overnight we see rain crossing Ireland and pushing into The South West, Wales, the west coast of England and Scotland. By the morning rush hour this may be quite heavy over South Wales and will likely extend in a line down from Scotland to The Midlands, so the South East and south of England may start dry. During the late morning we will see further rain into The South West and South Wales, making it a pretty sodden day down there. This rain will push east into The Midlands and north of England by dusk clearing Ireland and Scotland as it does so by early afternoon. Wind-wise we maintain that strong to moderate south westerly airflow but on the plus side this will push temperatures up into the high teens across the south of the U.K, low to mid-teens for Ireland and Scotland.

Mid-week already, how time flies when you’re enjoying yourself 🙂 So Wednesday looks to a much drier day everywhere as high pressure begins to exert itself from the south. Still a little bit of rain around across the south coast of Cornwall and Devon I reckon during the morning and as we approach dusk we could see a band of rain pushing up across The South West into South Wales. Scotland looks to have a mainly dry day save for some rain from the off across the north west coast. Mid to high teens with a more westerly wind in situ, a couple of degrees cooler for Scotland and Ireland.

Overnight that band of southerly rain has pushed north and east and will be sitting across The Midlands by dawn on Thursday.  This band of light rain and thick cloud wil lhang over the south of England up to The Midlands through most of Thursday so a cooler day here. North of this across northern England you should have a bright, warm and crucially dry day as I know you’ve copped a packet of rain this autumn. Pleasant too across Wales and Scotland with again only the north west of Scotland likely to see rain. A bit cooler on Thursday because of that cloud mass so only low to mid-teens expected and because of a change in the wind to a more north westerly orientation.

Rounding out the week on Friday and we have high pressure pushing up from the south of England so after that overnight thick cloud base and rain has departed from the south east of England we should see some brighter intervals and dry weather but it will feel cool with a strong to moderate north westerly wind calling the shots. For Ireland you look to start cool and dull with maybe some heavy drizzle over Connacht and Donegal but the skies will clear from the south at lunchtime to give you a pleasant end to the week. Scotland looks to have a thick cloud base across the country so cool and dull with a strong to moderate westerly wind for you. Temperature-wise, a good bit down on the rest of the week with low teens, low double figures likely in that cooler breeze.

The outlook for the weekend looks pretty fab apart from Scotland I’m afraid where that cloud mass will give rain overnight on Friday and this will extend through Saturday to give a dull and sometimes wet day. You could see some light rain across north west Ireland as well early on Saturday but otherwise dry I think. For the rest of us we also look to have a pretty dry weekend with some spells of warm sunshine pushing temperatures up into the high teens across the south of England depending on cloud cover that is. Dry throughout with the only fly in the ointment being a cool, north west wind courtesy of that high pressure system. Out of the wind though it’ll feel lovely.

Weather Outlook

So it looks like we will have high pressure in charge for the start of next week so calm and settled with only some rain likely across the north east and perhaps eastern side of the U.K. We will be on the cool side though with that north westerly wind remaining in place so gradually through the week we will drop temperature and feel the winds increase in strength and become more northerly in nature. By Thursday we could start to see the influence of a rare easterly low pressure system and if this comes to pass it will really bring us down to earth with a bang compared to the prior week. Pulling cold air across from Siberia we could see frosts and even snowfall across the north east coast of the U.K. Quite a change. Now that’s 10 days away so alot can change in that time but it will be interesting to keep an eye on it. Quite a few of my weather models point to a cold northerly airstream for the start of November so we will see.

Agronomic Notes

Iprodione Withdrawal

On October 6th, the European Standing Committee voted not the renew the approval of Iprodione given safety concerns that were identified in a review. Although these concerns are more consumer-focussed and not related to turf and amenity, Iprodione is likely to disappear some time soon. The question is when ?

The smart money is that there will be a 3-month sell-out probably commencing close to year end and then a three-month use up, so effectively if that comes to pass, the last applications of Iprodione will be June 2018 or thereabouts. Whatever way it shapes out, it is highly likely we will enter autumn 2018 without a contact, curative fungicide and that my friends is a game changer.

Why is it a game changer ?

It will utimately change our industry in terms of disease management because we will no longer have a fungicide that we can apply onto visible, active disease and obtain control. The two classes of chemistries we will have available will be either Protectant Contacts – actives that work on the outside of the leaf and control spores and fungal mycelium before they enter the leaf epidermis or Systemics – actives that have to be taken up and into the plant in order to achieve control. Depending on the type of systemic, these may take up to 7-10 days during cold periods of weather to achieve control of Microdochium nivale.

mcelium3So if you see active disease on the turf surface like this during cold periods of weather then there will be no effective fungicide to control it. Incidentally this disease outbreak (on a greens approach I think) took place in the first week of December, 2016, when we had two days of mild night temperatures, mild day temperatures, no wind and high humidity.

So we will have to rise to this challenge as an industry and make no bones about it, it is a challenge that goes beyond just agronomics. If you have heavy disease scarring in October, November, then you are unlikely to grow it out until the following spring, that could be 6 months if we have a cold, dry start to the year. So from a revenue perspective, if your surfaces are poor because of disease, this could cause issues in terms of golfers and their perception and a potential hit on revenue.

What’s to be done…

Well in a word…lots….IMHO (In my humble opinion)

Firstly, we need to understand the situation clearly and communicate it within our clubs, that means to members, committees, club secretaries, directors of golf, owner-managers and the like. It’s not an armegeddon moment, but it will have consequences for how we manage turf going forward and perhaps just as importantly, for the perception of disease on a turf surface. We already accept disease on fairways without feeling the need to spray (unlike in the U.S), perhaps we have to make golfers more aware that this is likely to happen more often now on fine turf surfaces ?

This year, I’ll be speaking at the GCMA National Conference (Golf Course Managers Association) in early November and during my talk I will be highlighting the two drivers to increasing disease pressure, climate and legislation, and how I think we need to adapt going forward. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity and thank the GCMA for the invite in advance. (Cheers Karen and Bob)

New technologies for the future ?

Secondly, in terms of fungicides, I don’t think we are looking at a move towards the end of fungicides, more it is a changing of the guard in terms of what we have available and how we need to use the technologies. There will I’m sure be newer technologies coming through in the near and far future and some of these may use an entirely new approach to target a fungus.

There’s a lot of research work currently underway on RNA pesticides which instead of using an active ingredient / substance to target a pathogen, they use pieces of RNA specific to the pathogen itself. RNA is a key component of an organism’s genetic coding and plays an important role in gene expression. You can read about RNA here.

The scope of RNA pesticides isn’t just restricted to fungi, it also has applications on insects and already in the U.S, they have genetically modified crops that target a specific insect pest and because it is RNA-based, it is specific to that pathogen and that pathogen only. Read about it here

Of course the E.U won’t approve it because it is genetically-modified.

Just like the nonsensical situation we had recently with the example of a genetically-modified Potato that was resistant to late season Potato Blight, a severe disease of Potatoes. Scientists at The John Innes Institute, Norfolk used a gene from a South American Potato to turn on the plants natural defences to blight and in a three-year trial, the GM Potatoes proved higher yielding and required far fewer pesticides.

So here you see the farcity of E.U legislation in all of its hypocritical glory.

They don’t want to approve a crop because it is genetically modified (to be resistant to disease), so the alternative is for farmers to grow a crop that requires more pesticide inputs. Where is the sense in that I ask you ?

The technology ended up in the U.S, where they are commercially producing and eating this potato. So here we have a technology developed in the U.K, currently banned in Europe and now exploited in the U.S. Read about it here

You can probably tell that I am not a fan of the E.U with respect to legislation in any shape or form, I find it totally nonsensical, restrictive to innovation and scientific advancement, particularly in our industry. Quite frankly it makes my blood boil.

Ok heart rate monitor back to normal and back to the subject in hand 🙂

Heightened Cultural Emphasis

Without a doubt the loss of a contact curative fungicide like Iprodione will heighten the focus on the cultural factors that increase the severity of disease and specifically Microdochium nivale.

In my mind that means surface organic matter which perches moisture and provides higher canopy humidity levels as a result, a key driver to this disease. I think it will also increase our focus on the level of topdressing we apply in order to make the surface free-draining and move moisture away from the upper fibre layer. Air flow across a turf surface is another one, the better the air flow, the drier the turf canopy, the less aggressive the disease. Grass species will also play a part and here I think we should look at the role of plant breeding in providing us with cultivars that are naturally more resistant to Microdochium nivale.


Disease in Poa annua in a mixed Poa annua, Bentgrass sward

After all we know Poa annua is the most susceptiable grass to this disease and bentgrass, be it Colonial or Creeping is far more resistant to Microdochium and in some cases, Anthracnose as well. I’d make the point that I think Creeping Bentgrass breeding has been more focussed on disease resistance than other bentgrass breeding programs, certainly if we look at the results we currently have in the respective trials programs in the U.S and within Europe.

I’d love someone with more knowledge of grass breeding than I have to correct me on my perception, as I freely admit this isn’t one of my strongest areas and I’d be happy to publish some facts and data on this if you have them available. Whatever the rights or wrongs of my perception, it seems logical to me that if we introduce a mixture of grass species into a sward (and that’s no easy task in itself because it has a cost and is also inter-related to surface organic matter as well), we will reduce the disease pressure because it’s less easy for the disease to move from plant to plant.

Back in the late 80’s in my formative years (ahem) I used to work in agriculture contracting seed acreage for Wheat and Barley mainly. I had an area that stretched from Gloucestershire right up to 40 miles north of The Black Isle in Scotland (so north of Inverness) and I serviced that area whilst driving a leaf spring suspension, 4-speed, Volvo 340, which I eventually wrote off out of sympathy (but that’s another story 🙂 ). At the time there was a variety of Winter Wheat called Slejpner, it was high-yielding and so become very popular to the point where > 60% of the Winter Wheat acreage was sown down to this one variety. That meant that 6 out of every 10 fields of Winter Wheat you could see growing was the same variety. This Winter Wheat showed a sensitivity to Yellow Rust that severely affected it’s yield and that pathogen took less than a month to show up across my entire area. How did it move so fast ?, well because there were some many identical fields of the same host wheat variety that it could move from field to field with impunity. It was a very early lesson to me in terms of the importance of biodiversity.

The same holds true for our turf surfaces, biodiversity will be important in terms of grass species within a turf canopy and their sensitivity to disease.

Ok a big jump off a very high soap box today, but as you can probably guess it’s a subject I’m passionate about 🙂

All the best for the coming week.

Mark Hunt