Monthly Archives: January 2018

January 29th

Hi All,

Yesterday could have been a very nice spring day with temperatures here in The Midlands topping 13.8°C during the day and barely dipping below double figures at night either. What’s more we had a drying wind as well so that was great and the sun came out. I took upon myself to have a nice yomp around Grafham Water and it was great to see everybody out cycling, running and walking, plenty of families as well. Be aware though of the dateline on this blog, we are only just tiptoeing out of January and have what is traditionally the coldest month of the year ahead. Still it’s a shorter month and then we will be into Spring. Last year winter sort of finished around the middle of February and we had a great 6 weeks of growth until we got to April and then things dropped back as they invariably do. (more on this later)

Last week was BTME, Harrogate and it was a cracker, I don’t think we have ever been busier so hats off to BIGGA for making it a success.  I was well and truly cream crackered on Thursday night though 🙁

A big thanks to Kate Entwistle who kindly supported me during our talk at the Turfgrass Managers Conference on disease management, cheers Kate and doesn’t 5 minutes feel like an age when you’re stood up in front of 140 people !

Onto the weather and will this mild spell continue or is winter due to make a reappearance ?

General Weather Situation

So Monday looks to start wet for some with a heavy rain front stretching from the south of Ireland across The Irish Sea into mid-Wales and across to The North Sea. This is set to move south and east through the morning so a bit of rain due today in these areas. South of this rain front we dawn dry and mild with temperatures already in the high single figures but it will be the last day of mild for everyone I’m afraid as colder air is due to make a reappearance. Mainly dry north of this rain front over The Borders and Central Scotland with just some scattered showers around through the day. By lunchtime this band of rain has sunk south over The Mildands, South Wales leaving Ireland, the north of England and Scotland bright but noticeably cooler. The reason for this temperature change is that the wind swings round to the north west later on Monday heralding a return to single digit temperatures. By evening the rain has cleared the south of England and we have a clear, dry but cooler night on the cards, it should be frost-free though.

Tuesday sees a largely dry day after the rain of Monday, bright, dry and cold mind. The only fly in the meteorological ointment is the north west of Scotland which sees wintry showers in from the off really. These will drift south along the coast and into central areas through the morning with some reaching The Lakes as well. By the afternoon we see cloud build over Ireland as a rain front pushes into Connacht and Donegal in time for dusk. This pushes south and east through the evening crossing the north of Ireland into Wales and The South West later on Tuesday night. We also see a consolidation of those wintry showers across western and central Scotland moving south down into north west England. South and east of this we see a dry day for The Midlands and Central England with cloud cover building through the day. Much, much cooler though with mid-single figures all that can be hoped for wherever you are.

Mid-week and Wednesday sees a raft of wintry showers pushing over Ireland, Scotland and the north of England extending down to mid-Wales. These will tend to be confined to western coasts though some may move inland. Again it’s a tale of west and east because east of this band of wintry showers it’ll be cold, bright and dry probably all the way from The Tweed down to Kent with the only blip being some rain pushing across The South West first thing. By the afternoon those wintry showers are confined to the north west coast of England and the south west / north west coast of Scotland. Across The Irish Sea we have a band of rain moving across Ireland in the afternoon turning wintry as it reaches the mountains of Wicklow. This moisture will also push into Wales on Wednesday evening and again here it’ll fall as wintry showers especially at elevation, with these showers moving inland overnight and petering out as they do so. Another cold day with mid-single figures on the cards and a keen westerly wind veering north westerly as we go into Thursday.

Thursday sees those wintry showers clearing east into The North Sea as we approach the morning rush hour to leave a dry, cold and bright picture for almost all of the U.K and Ireland. That’s the way it is set to stay all day with cloud cover building over Ireland in the afternoon heralding the approach of another wet front into the west arriving at dusk. Cold everywhere with mid-single figures the accepted norm now and a keen north west wind in situ.

Overnight into Friday and that rain front has crossed Ireland and given heavy rain across Wales and the north west of England before moving eastwards across all of the U.K. By dawn most of this rain has cleared Ireland leaving the west coast of England, Wales and Scotland with the familiar wintry showers. Some rain inland though and this will be slow to clear through the morning with some of it hanging around till the afternoon across the east Lincolnshire coast and East Anglia possibly. Once this rain has cleared Ireland and the west it’ll leave behind a sunny and cold day with an ever-present strong to gale force, north westerly wind in situ further lowering the temperatures with significant windchill. This sunshine will spread eastwards through Friday but it will be really windy particularly p.m.

So how is the weekend looking ?

Well opinions are divided forecast-wise with Saturday looking like a dry start for the U.K but Ireland looks to pick up some rain into the south west on Saturday morning and I think this will cross country through the day and push into The South West, Wales and the west of England later on in the day. So Saturday looks to start dry with a decreasing westerly wind but it won’t be a mild one as it originates from a cold, low pressure system. I think there’s a chance of showers rattling across the U.K for the 2nd half of Saturday and this unsettled theme will continue into Sunday accompanied by strong northerly winds so feeling bitter for sure. As we go through Sunday the wind will swing round to the north east and this may push in some showers from The Wash so it looks like the west will be drier on Sunday potentially.

Weather Outlook

Well next week looks interesting and perhaps delicately balanced weather-wise but if it all pans out we should see high pressure extending its influence from the start of next week so that means calmer, dry and settled through the week with cool, northerly winds initially changing to westerly (I make it) towards the end of next week which may mean some milder air. I think you are more likely to see this across Ireland and the west because you are closer to the centre of the high. Much drier though and settled which after this week will be just what the weather doctor ordered for Scotland and the north west of England / Wales after the battering of this week.

Agronomic Notes

So first up we can talk weather windows and the fact that we’ve enjoyed some pretty mild weather over the weekend and of course last week.

This is how it shaped up in sunny Leicestershire 🙂

You can see from the above chart that the air temperature exceeded 8°C and the relative humidity 90% or thereabouts for long periods of the week. By my calculations around 67 hours and counting, so that means over a 7-day period, roughly 3 days of it was conducive to Microdochium nivale activity in my books. So if you are staring at disease scars that have become active again or possibly some new activity off-green on approaches, tees and fairways, this is why.

It’s not all bad news because this window was also sufficient for new grass plant growth with good air temperature and light levels so you’ve probably also seen a gentle uplift in growth over the last week which is good news if you carried out any early season aeration and / or need recovery on areas affected by disease. Remember also that above ground growth is just one feature we are looking at, root development is just as important or arguably more important if you take into account the subsequent effect on nutrient and moisture uptake.

Bye Bye Growth Window

This growth window lasted a week but after today things will return to winter with cool days and colder nights though we should stay the right side of frost for most of us depending on cloud cover over the coming week in your location.

This will definitely drop the disease pressure well and truly off

It was a popular subject on the stand at Harrogate that of using these windows to optimise growth when moisture and temperature are forthcoming and ‘if’ and only ‘if’ ground conditions allow you to do so, carrying out some early season organic matter removal.

It’s a fact that with our changing climate and its effect on plant and pathogen growth alike we need to change how we manage turf and adapt our methods accordingly. With modern machinery, optimising aeration in these windows is easier nowadays but I accept not every club has the money to afford it.

Deep aeration is key..

The importance of deep aeration using machines like the compact vertidrain and Air2G2 in promoting better root development and ultimately moisture and nutrient uptake is really shown in the pictures below sent in awhile ago now by a course manager in Kent.

You can clearly see the area missed by the vertidrain and the poor drought tolerance that has resulted. Remember that droughting out / browning off of grass is caused by a lack of nitrogen uptake due to low levels of soil moisture (nutrients move in solution so if there’s no solution, there’s no nutrient uptake). Classic pictures that clearly demonstrate a point. (Spot on Marky Mark and thanks again for sending them my way)

It isn’t just soil moisture that is affected by deep aeration, it also enhances soil oxygen levels which in turn allow better plant health and growth particularly during periods of stress.

Die Back from Anthracnose Foliar Blight

I remember back in 2014 calling on a golf course in mid / late August that was badly affected by Anthracnose after a particularly prolonged stress period. A large number of greens showed the disease and it took a lot of hard work to get the areas back, however two greens showed much less disease, significantly less as a matter of fact and I was curious as to why. The only thing different on these greens was a July vertidraining with compact narrow tines and no heave. I remain convinced that the benefits of this work in elevating soil oxygen levels, plant rooting and the ability of the plant to withstand the subsequent stress was the reason the greens showed much less disease activity.

We should always remember that many plant pathogens tend to take advantage of a grass plant under stress and use it as a trigger perhaps ?

Biotroph and Necrotroph…..Two definitions to remember when we talk about plant pathogenic fungi…

During last week’s Turf Managers Conference talk, Kate Entwistle of the Turfgrass Disease Centre, highlighted the different growth phases of the Anthracnose fungus, Colletotrichum cereale.

After spore germination on the grass plant leaf, the fungus (sneakily you might say) enters through the surface layer using a specialised structure called an Appressorium and grows between the cells rather than into them. This is important because in this state it is undetected by the plant and also it can take advantage of nutrients within the plant to grow.

It is kind of in a resting state, just waiting for a trigger. Possibly in the case of Anthrancose this could be a stress-related trigger that activates the fungus and changes it from being a Biotroph to a Necrotroph. In the Necrotrophic phase the fungus actively enters the plant cell, kills it and lives off the proceeds 🙁

Reading up on this further, strictly speaking Anthracnose is a hemibiotroph, meaning a fungus that has an initial Biotrophic phase that is then followed by a Necrotrophic phase. I think Rust diseases and Powdery Mildew are also examples……(cue Kate’s correction if I’m wrong on this :)) I found this fascinating and I don’t mind admitting the terminology was new to me although Bruce Clarke from Rutgers mentioned this phenomenon in his lecture on Anthracnose that I attended last year so I sort of knew about it (but not properly :))

Ok that’s it for this grim January morning, a things-to-do-list of immense proportions awaits..(yikes)

All the best..

Mark Hunt





January 22nd – Mini Blog

Hi All,

Just a brief blog this week as I’m up at Harrogate prepping for the Turf Managers Conference where I’m speaking later today and then of course we have the exhibition from tomorrow.

As you can see from this rooftop pic taken from my luxury penthouse apartment (ahaha) here in Harrogate, the snow is fast disappearing and currently it is a thoroughly pleasant 7.1°C. That temperature is set to climb nicely into double figures for nearly all of us this week peaking on Wednesday before dropping back to more normal temps for January.

So no issue getting to and from the show this week if you’re planning on attending, but bring a raincoat 🙂

So this week I am just going to do a general summary of how we are looking weather-wise for the week ahead and beyond rather than providing more detail.

General Weather Situation

So this week we have low pressure in charge pushing mild, south westerly winds and rain across the U.K and Ireland from today with the mildest days being Tuesday and Wednesday before the wind turns round more to the north west and temperatures drop back a tad.

Rainfall-wise it shouldn’t be a big surprise that with an Atlantic low pressure system, the west and north west will bear the brunt of the rain fall through the coming week but they’ll also be rain inland.

So expect showers through Monday and Tuesday on western coasts, occasionally pushing inland, but the first proper front comes into play across western Ireland on Tuesday evening and quickly crosses The Irish Sea into Wales and Scotland overnight into Wednesday. Some of that rain will be pretty heavy and it’ll be pushed along by very strong to gale force, south westerly winds. By dawn Wednesday that rain will be across Ireland, Scotland and Wales and tracking east into all areas through the 2nd half of Wednesday clearing the west and north as it does so to leave showers behind for the late afternoon.

As skies clear after that rain, temperatures will drop back from their very mild double figures (in some areas) to high single figures.

The second half of the week sees more showers of rain pushing across Ireland, western coasts of England, Wales and Western Scotland through the course of Thursday with some of these pushing inland as well. South and east of this you should stay dry. A cooler feel to the weather but I think frost-free owing to the cloud cover. By Friday we have a clearer, drier picture with longer spells of sunshine for nearly all of us with just a risk of rain pushing into Connacht later in the afternoon.

Weather Outlook

Now some more good news (after the better temperatures that is) for everyone who is busy doing winter project work and fed up with the constant rainfall that January has brought so far. The good news is that there is a (very rare in my experience anyway) Atlantic high pressure system on its way and projected to influence the weather from the end of the week.

Ok it won’t be completely dry because low pressure will still influence the north of the U.K and Ireland so there’ll be some rain for these areas particularly over the weekend but it will get consistently drier for the central and southern half of the U.K and Ireland. It’ll be nice and mild as well I think with temperatures in the high single figures, maybe higher for Ireland over the weekend, before the westerly winds turn more to the north for the second half of the week. When they do so they’ll be just a chance of some wintry showers down the eastern coastline of the U.K and it will of course feel cooler. So some rain still for the north over the weekend and early part of the week but definitely a drier outlook next week than this week / weekend for you guys.

Agronomic Notes

There be some pecking…

Received a few reports of bird pecking last week and with the milder weather this week I would expect this to increase. Out walking at the weekend I noticed some large flocks of Jackdaws, Crows and Rooks grazing on sloped areas of arable land and that’s always a give away that grubs are on the menu. Currently we have no labelled pesticidal control for this pest, but with the advent of newer, safer chemistries coming into the U.S Turf & Ornamental market hopefully that may change in the future and some of them may find their way across here. I could be a tad mischevious here and suggest that you use some of your time at Harrogate to talk to the chemical companies present to see what they have to say on this subject. (Bet you’ll thank me for that one Dan 🙂 )

Mild Weather Window

As predicted last week we have a nice weather window both mid-week and over the weekend / early part of next week as well. Now I fully appreciate it isn’t good news for everyone because for some it also comes with heavy rain as well but for others it is an opportunity. These weather windows are now becoming more and more common through January and February and if ground conditions lend themselves, are there to be used.

I have discussed this before (and will no doubt again) but taking advantage of these windows to make an early start on organic matter removal before we get to spring proper can be greatly beneficial. It’s not for everyone I admit because I’m fully aware there are courses out there at present where simply getting a piece of machinery to the greens is out of the question because of inclement rainfall. This is particularly true across the north, north west and west. Another potential fly in the ointment is that these spells of mild weather and high humidity can also bring with them increased disease activity with often re-activity noted around existing scars. All this has to be weighed up but there are plusses as well in getting the job done now rather than in March or dare I say it, April.

No two greens, sportspitches or cricket squares are alike and so it’s often the case that amongst the ones you manage they’ll be some that have more organic matter than you’d ideally like. So even if it is just these ones that you concentrate on at this time of year and squeeze in that one extra hollow coring, you will have achieved something positive going forward into the spring. The grass plant breathes oxygen and so inputting this vital gas by aeration will enable it to perform better, uptake nutrients more effectively from the rootzone and be healthier. I know a growing number of golf courses that have already carried out their spring aeration and save for some verticutting and topdressing will be nicely set come March for the spring season.

Collars and approaches will also benefit from this approach because often at this time of year it is the higher organic matter content on these areas that is acting as an impediment to water movement off a green. So you end up with an area of localised, waterlogged green immediately adjacent to a collar / approach. Invariably this is on the clean-up strip and so gets twice the hammer from mowers  and being waterlogged, soon loses grass cover as the grass checks out. What tends to volunteer in afterwards during the spring is the annual biotype of Poa annua, the clumpy, coarse, pale and prolific seed producer that ideally you don’t want in your turf surface. Remembering as we must that this type of Poa will produce viable seed 12 months of the year in our glorious U.K and Irish climatic conditions.

Ok that’s it for this week, short and sweet, hopefully I’ll see some of you at the show and at my talks this week. (no heckling please :))

All the best.

Mark Hunt


January 15th

Hi All,

I’m pretty sure today is ‘Blue Monday’, claimed to be the most depressing day of the year but also a cracking track by New Order, a real toe tapper if ever I heard one….Looking out it’s still pitch dark, the rain is coming down steadily and for sure it’s a gloomy one but I can think of worse days than this.  As predicted we are entering a trough pattern in the jet stream that is pulling in a big, deep, cold and narly low pressure and that’s going to return us to winter this week particularly this coming weekend. Don’t worry though I don’t think it’ll last…..(famous last words eh..)

General Weather Situation

So Monday starts with a rain front sitting across East Anglia / South of England and another one moving across Wales, The South West and the north of England. We also have some more showery weather across Ireland and Scotland to start the week so yes a little bit grim like. Through the morning the rain will move eastwards across the U.K and Ireland and we will start to see the presence of colder air over Scotland as those rain showers will turn increasingly to snow over higher elevations. Now it’ll feel mild today, particularly in the south and west with a westerly wind pushing mild air across Ireland, central and southern regions but across Scotland that very strong westerly wind will have a raw edge to it. Going through to the afternoon we see a continuation of that wet weather perhaps with a clear spell across the spine of England but the wintry showers will spread south across The Borders and into northern England as we go into the evening. A mild, windy day then with plenty of rain but ‘enjoy’ those temperatures which may hit double figures down south and across Ireland because we are in for some raw weather later in the week / weekend.

Overnight into Tuesday we see a continuation of that wet weather across western and central Scotland, north west England, north west Ireland and North Wales. Those showers will increasingly have a wintry feel to them. Further south and east it’ll be a clear start to the day but we’ll see plenty of wintry showers pushing across Ireland, Wales and possibly pushing into The Midlands later in the morning. A much cooler feel to the weather with that strong, westerly wind in situ and temperatures a good 4-5°C lower than Monday making it feel raw with a capital ‘R’. So the bulk of the wintry showers likely across Ireland, Scotland, the north west and central parts of northern England, Wales and The South West with central and eastern areas of England and north eastern Scotland missing the worst I think. With a strong westerly wind in place though there’s always a chance for showers to move inland I think. Much colder as mentioned earlier with 3-5°C the norm in that strong, cold, westerly wind.

Wednesday sees us start clear across Scotland and the north of England as the bulk of the showers have sunk south overnight into The Midlands, Wales and southern England. Ireland will still see plenty of wintry showers across The Midlands and north of the country extending into Northern Ireland. Through the morning we will see more wintry showers move into western Scotland, north west England, mid and North Wales. South and east of this, it’ll be a much brighter day, clear skies with plenty of sun but it’ll feel raw. Through the second part of Wednesday we will see those westerly winds turn milder across Ireland pushing temperatures into double figures through Wednesday night. This milder air will push eastwards to push temperatures up through Wednesday night into Thursday across most of the U.K. That mild air will be associated with rain which will move into Ireland from the west after dusk and quickly move eastwards across the country, across The Irish Sea and into Wales overnight pushed along by gale force westerly winds which could cause damage.

Thursday sees that rain move across the U.K early doors to leave a clearing picture by dawn except for a band of wintry showers down the spine of England extending up from the north Midlands to The Borders. They’ll still be some scattered wintry showers across the north and east of Ireland on elevated ground and across North Wales. Through the morning we will see rain move into the west of Ireland and the west coast of the U.K extending up from The South West all the way to north west Scotland. Again we will see a mix of rain, sleet and snow depending on elevation. That mild air passes with the rain so once you’ve seen this move through early on Thursday we will see the temperature drop through the day with clearing skies, hence the reason for the wintry showers. Come Thursday evening that rain over Ireland will turn increasingly wintry and although the south and east will be clear, we will see a continuation of wintry showers across the higher ground of Wales, the north west of England and western Scotland. Temperature-wise after a mild start (overnight) expect to see 5-7°C as the norm and winds will be moderate to gale force in the early hours and late into Thursday night.

Closing out the week we have a dynamic weather picture with strong westerly winds pulling round to the north west through Friday and that’ll knock the temperatures down even further with a pronounced windchill. A similar picture on Friday as we have seen for most of the week, that is Ireland, the west coast of Scotland, The North West, Wales and The South West feature as the areas most affected by a combination of wintry showers throughout the day. Further south and east I think we will be sunny and dry but very cold with a pronounced windchill. These wintry showers will affect the above areas most of the day on and off and later on another batch moves into north east Scotland and drifts down the east coast of the U.K. Real Brass Monkeys weather on Friday even where you are dry with nearly a negative windchill for most of the day…wrap up well and make sure you take a neck warmer / buff with you, invaluable I find, here’s my favourite one 🙂

Ok so how are we looking for the weekend knowing that some of us will be en route to Harrogate ?

Well Saturday looks fine really after clearing skies across the vast % of the U.K and Ireland on Friday night will likely give us a ground frost first thing. The outlook for Saturday looks dry, cold and bright with a really cold north westerly wind in situ, feeling milder across the west as a warmer air front pushes in. Late on Saturday night we see a return of rain, sleet and snow to the south west of Ireland but everywhere elese I think will have a dry, cold night with another frost. Sunday again looks a pretty dry day. cold in central and northern areas, slightly milder across Ireland and the west. There’s a slight risk of rain across The South West early on Sunday but this should clear through the morning if it actually reaches you. So another pleasant day, cold but crucially dry so no problem getting too and around Harrogate me thinks.

Weather Outlook

So after another blast of winter how are we looking for BTME week ?

Well first off I think we should be fine for snow and ice because from Monday we pick up a south westerly air stream courtesy of a new low pressure system that will come in to play next week. So I think a little milder next week, remaining pretty windy and some pronounced pulses of rain which will push in from the south west and move up country. Monday, Wednesday and the end of the week from Thursday onwards look to be some of the wettest periods of weather but as mentioned above, this moisture will be south west-orientated rather than north west so you guys will get a bit of a break from heavy rain (not saying it won’t rain it’s just you won’t be in the direct firing line as you are this week). I think we will be mid, high-single figures so better than this week and we will be windy for sure.

Agronomic Notes

BTME, Harrogate Weather Link

Ok first off please find the link for Headland Weathercheck for BTME, Harrogate here

Netatmo Weather Station Review and PWS’s

Now I know I promised this feature before Christmas but I’ve been doing some additional work on linking the weather station into the Weather Underground network because I found the Netatmo backend software system pretty unreliable. The weather station itself has worked faultlessly since last August, but I want to find a more user friendly way of looking at the data, particularly historically.

Linking your Personal Weather Station (PWS) to a weather network is a pretty recent development and it’s fair to say that it’s still a work in progress however the advantages are that you are able to view your current and historical data in a comprehensive manner and this allows transposing of data into GDD / G.P calculations a much easier job. Last week I found some new software that works with the Netamo weather station specifically and seems to provide a much more reliable link. Here’s my data so far so you can see what’s available (note I don’t have a wind gauge currently because I have nowhere to mount it and I’m not going up a ladder for awhile)

So you can see (hopefully) you get a tabulated summary view of your data showing minimum and maximum air temperature (which we need for GDD and G.P calculations) and you get daily rainfall totals as well alongside humidity, pressure and if I had it, wind speed. You simply enter the air temperature data into our GDD / G.P spreadsheet and the GDD and G.P readings are calculated automatically. (Note the spreadsheet is available here)

Going forward I think we will be become more reliant on this type of data to make accurate application decisions particularly those related to pesticides like PGR’s and fungicides. Working from the calendar will I think become less and less reliable…

Using Weather Slots..

Talking of not working from the calendar I think this time of year can be perfect for gaining a head start into spring from a plant nutrition pespective. Now granted we don’t have much in the way of GDD’s or G.P’s but we do have some and taking advantage of them through January and February could reap benefits when we come into spring time proper getting you ahead of the game.

If we take a look at our Meteoturf module on Headland Weathercheck for the coming week we will probably see something like this if you are in Ireland, Wales and England (but not Scotland I’ll grant you)

So you can see Monday, Thursday and next Monday show a small amount of growth whether it’s described by GDD or G.P. What’s important about this type of growth at this time of year is that with daylight levels being low (because days are shorter), the grass plant is less likely to be able to flush and produce soft growth. In turn we know that whilst leaf shoot growth kicks off from 6°C air temperature upwards, but we also know the grass plant is developing roots really anywhere up from freezing (how many times have you put a turf down in the middle of winter to see new white roots emerging even though it hasn’t put on any top growth ?). So I think we are more likely to see good root development and more lateral rather than upright growth during the early part of the year as a result of applied nutrition.

We know also that these short windows of growth during January and February are almost a permanent feature of our weather now and that March, but in particular April can be quite problematic in terms of generating consistent growth.

I mention April because for 7 years out of the last 10, it has been a very difficult month for grass growth, often it is dry, often with warm days but cold nights, so the actual growth potential is limited. Dovetail that in with high moisture loss through high Evapotranspiration (E.T) and you could almost discount it as a consistent growth month. Here’s the rainfall vs. E.T stats for April 2017 at our Thame, Oxfordshire location…

You can see what I mean in terms of lack of moisture presenting an issue from a growth perspective. It isn’t just moisture that can be growth-limiting in April, we also have a nasty habit of picking up late frosts with the same location recording 7 frosts during April 2017 and 4 of them in the last week of the month.

If we look at the pattern of growth as denoted by G.P last spring at the same location you can see quite clearly peaks of active growth in January and February…

If we look at the G.P totals for the month, they make interesting reading ;

Month                         Total G.P recorded – Location – The Oxfordshire, Thame – 2017

January                              1.89

February                            5.33

March                               10.79

April                                   9.34

So we can see January and February combined generated 67% of the growth of March and 77% of the growth of April. If I also tell you that the last two weeks of February produced the same amount of growth (from a G.P perspective) as the last two weeks of April, you can hopefully see the value of using early season windows.

So taking advantage of the growth on offer in January and February should perhaps be one of our adapatative strategies to our changing climate from a plant nutrition perspective. It’s not necessarily a case of extra nutrition either because if the greens come into the spring with better grass cover, there’s less of a need to apply as much nutrition come March or (God help us) April…

Type of nutrition – Granular or Liquid ?

I tend to think that granular nutrition is more effective for this period of the year than liquid because we tend to have higher rainfall levels early on in the year so applying a liquid may be problematic (getting to and onto the greens with a heavy sprayer for example) vs. a pedestrian spreader and your lightest crew member (ahahaha). Granular nutrition (of the right type) is also usually more leach resistant ~(than a liquid) and so provides more of a longer-term benefit to the grass plant with one early in the year application often carrying through to March no problem.


You can also kill two birds with one stone at this time of year by using a granular formulation high in iron and in so doing knocking back the ever-present moss populations visible in many swards. I was out walking yesterday across the fields of Leicestershire and I couldn’t help but note how much moss was visible on pasture land, even though some of it was recently drained. Without a doubt the low light and higher rainfall conditions of November through to the end of February firmly tip the growth balance in favour of this species.

Disease Activity

I got quite a few reports of Microdochium nivale on the move last week despite the fact that the air temperatures were nothing to shout about really. If you look at my Netatmo weather station stats at the very beginning of this section of the blog, you can see that the humidity sat at 100% for pretty much all of last week due to the absence of any drying wind and that I think was one of the main drivers. Hopefully with the colder conditions of this week it shouldn’t develop much though it’s worth keeping an eye on it when we have these short, mild spells…

Ok that’s it for this week.

All the best

Mark Hunt


January 10th

Hi All,

A belated Happy New Year to you all and my apologies for the delayed start to the year with this blog, unavoidable I’m afraid.

After a pretty interesting Christmas period we now start the reasonably short plod to spring with the evenings beginning to stretch out just a little every day (or is it my imagination I wonder..) and gathering real pace as we close out January.

Here in The Midlands of England, we got clattered with some pretty heavy snow and ice storms between Christmas and The New Year and whilst they made getting about tricky, the winter scenes were beautiful. Sadly the snow didn’t come in time to save my Paddy Power bets (missed by less than half a day in some locations but c’est le vie 🙁 ) for a White Christmas so I am now down on my luck with the score standing at Paddy Power 5 MH 2. Proof indeed that gambling doesn’t pay….:)

General Weather Situation

By the time you read this it’ll be Wednesday so I’ll start my forecast there and thus lessen my workload.

So Wednesday sees a band of rain that crossed Ireland late on Tuesday move eastwards across the western coastline of the U.K and inland, weakening as it does so.  By dawn this rain will be in a vertical band straddling an area from London right up the central spine of the U.K and may be falling as wintry showers across central and eastern areas of Scotland. As we progress through the morning this band of rain will slowly move north and eastwards towards the east coast of the U.K. For Ireland, they’ll be some breaks in the cloud for Connacht possibly, but that’s about it in terms of seeing the sun with some rain pushing into Kerry and Cork from the off, slowly moving northwards. The wind will shift around to the west for the U.K and away from the east and that’ll lift temperatures at night and during the day, nothing great like, but maybe we will hit a heady 8°C across the south of England. Now I know that doesn’t sound great shakes but because we’ve been cold for a good while now, any slight lift in the air temperature is I think more noticeable. Through Wednesday afternoon we may see a rain front push into The South West of England but it should be pretty short-lived before it moves out into The Bristol Channel. By dusk we should have a pretty much dry picture everywhere, cloudy though, as has been the norm now for awhile.

Overnight into Thursday we keep a large part of that cloud cover, possibly clearing though across the west of Ireland leading to a sunny, but cold start to the day. It should be a frost-free one for most because of the inherent cloud cover but it’ll be close if you go into Thursday clear overnight. It will feel cooler on Thursday due to another flip in the wind direction, this time to northerly but it will bring the bonus of pushing that cloud cover away, clearing from the north first. By lunchtime there’s a good chance the top half of the  U.K and most of Ireland will be feeling those nice sunny rays (but without much in the way of heat mind) before central and southern England clears during the afternoon. Clear skies mean a colder night on Thursday and likely I think to see a touch of frost in places.

Closing out a short week meteorologically and Friday sees that cloud building again overnight for most areas of the U.K and Ireland, with perhaps The North East and eastern Scotland seeing a sunny start. That cloud will thicken over Ireland ahead of a pretty consolidated rain front which will move into the west around lunchtime bringing heavy rain to south west Ireland. For the U.K we look to be dry and dull I’m afraid with maybe some breaks in the cloud across the north west initially. During late Friday afternoon that band of heavy rain moves east across country reaching The South West of England and West Wales just after midnight. Wind-wise we start off with a north westerly, cool wind on Friday but switch round during the middle of the day to a south easterly. A cool day for the U.K with temperatures barely hitting mid-single figures (if that), milder over Ireland under that rain and strong, southerly airstream.

That rain front is slow to move and by Saturday morning it won’t have cleared Ireland completely sitting over the eastern side of the country and stretching across The Irish Sea into Wales and The South West where it’ll be butting up against a cold front and so may easily fall as sleet and snow, especially over elevation. It’s a bit of a guessing game quite how far inland it’ll reach across England but with a cold, south easterly wind there’s a change of some wintry showers inland across North Wales, Scotland, the north west / east of England and possibly extending into the West Midlands. A raw sort of day with a prevailing south easterly wind pushing cloud in from The North Sea, so dull with it as well. For Sunday we that rain front push west again across into eastern Ireland, Wales and The South West before fizzling out during Sunday morning. Dull as dull can be I’m afraid on Sunday with some wintry showers persisting across central Scotland. Later on Sunday afternoon we see another band of heavy rain push into the west of Ireland and move eastwards bringing rain to the western side of the U.K overnight into Monday. Temperature-wise nothing to shout about on Sunday with 3-5°C across England and slightly higher across Ireland where the wind will take on a south / south westerly direction.

Weather Outlook

So after a pretty drab and unsettled week how are we looking next week ?

Well the projections is for another deep, low pressure system to push in from the North Atlantic and that’ll bring strong, south westerly winds to all areas overnight into Monday quickly turning north westerly. This is a pretty deep low and if the projections are right it’ll sink south through the course of next week forming a pronounced trough in the jet stream (see below image from Unisys for the end of next week)

You’ll note that the low pressure has pushed the winds round to the north west so that’ll be another feature of next week, cool, strong winds pushing rain and possibly wintry showers in from the north west through the week starting with a dollop of rain for us all on Monday. I think the depth of the low will mean it is categorised as a storm system and if so this one with be called Fionn (F-yunn) and yes the ‘f’ will be particularly appropriate :). Later on in the week it may be that we see more in the way of sunshine between those blustery wintry showers but that’s about all the positive spin I can put on it at present.

Agromonic Notes

Since it’s my first blog of 2018 it seems pertinent to look back at 2017 and see how the year shaped up for us all.

First off we have the GDD stats from our normal Thame, Oxfordshire location….

So we can see that December 2017 went down in the weather logs as a cool month, cooler than 2016 and pretty typical as December’s go over the last 8 years of recording. The two anomalies being the extremely cold December of 2010 and the very mild, wet December of 2015.

From a cumulative GDD perspective, 2017 checked out as the warmest year we have recorded since we started in 2010 coming in nearly 13% warmer than 2016 and close to 6% warmer than the previous record holder, 2014.

Now 13% warmer from a GDD perspective may not sound earth-shattering but if that relates directly to grass growth, that’s a lot more grass growth generated than any previous year and as we know from last autumn and disease management, it isn’t just grass that responds to warmer air temperatures…

Total GDD – U.K & Ireland 2017


So there we have it, 6 different geographical locations across the U.K and a close on 35% difference between a Scottish location and one just south of London. Fife would be a reasonably mild Scottish location in my books and further north and east in Scotland, I’d expect the differential to be closer to 50%. Many years ago when I was a mere slip of a lad I worked in agriculture and called on farmers in the Midlands of England right up to north of The Black Isle in Scotland. During my time many English farmers sold up a small farm in England and brought a large farm in Scotland. I remember talking to them about their sillage yields and how much lower they were in Scotland compared to Central England. If I’d known about GDD then I could have shown them why….

For Ireland we see the difference between the mildest location (Valentia) and the coolest, Claremorris (in beautiful Co. Mayo though before the slagging starts) is around 25% from a GDD perspective, quite significant when you take into account that the distance between the two is only 138 miles as The Crow flies….There’s a similar difference of 20% in total GDD between Claremorris in the west and Killiney in the east.

A diary of a year in GDD….UK – Location Thame

To do this meaningfully I decided to split the year up into the seasons we manage from a grass perspective so that’s January – May  / June – August /  September – December and I’ve picked a location from the U.K and one from Ireland as well.

So first up we can see that spring actually started with a very mild 2nd half of February that really kicked off on the 20th of the month with 15°C air temperature. That’s only 5 weeks away if it repeated again in 2018 (the power of positive thinking 🙂 ). When you look at the comparison with 2016, you can see how poor a spring it was back then with barely more GDD in April 2016 than we recorded in February 2017.

March continued motoring forward in 2017 , hitting mid-teens through most of the month and peaking with 20°C on the 30th, you can only dream about those sort of temps at the moment. On paper April looked to continue the warm trend but GDD doesn’t tell the whole story because April 2017 was a really dry month and at this location we only recorded 6mm of rain all month. When you take into account that the total moisture loss by E.T was 69.8mm, then the moisture deficit was 63.8mm. That means a drying surface and drought stress way back in April. Throw in 5 frosts right up until the end of the month and we can see that April 2017 continued the pattern of this month being one of the hardest months of the year to achieve consistent growth. Food for thought if you are planning aeration this spring. Seedheads were earlier in 2017 and at one stage looked set for a flush in early April but the dry weather held that back, once the rain arrived tin late April, they were off.

May 2016 I remember as being a grass factory of a month with growth going from zero to flat out in three days (and seedheads likewise) and this pattern was repeated again in May 2017 and then some, with another 22% more GDD and air temperatures > 25°C in the last week of the month triggering early Anthracnose spore germination.

Onto summer and a scorcher of a June with some really high temperatures in the third week of the month with 4 consecutive days of air temperature > 30°C. I remember at the time that the local temperatures in London were much higher and that the baseline temperature at Wimbledon exceeded 40°C during this period, not fun for ryegrass that.

The high temperatures continued into July with air temperature > 30°C recorded at the end of the first week and temperatures continuing in the high twenties through the first half of the month. It was dry too with barely a mm of rainfall over the same period, in short, a stressy period of weather. All change in the second part of July with a fortnight of continuous rain rounding a month roughly similar to 2016, GDD-wise.

August we can see shows a significant reduction in GDD in 2017 vs. 2016 with a 14% decrease year-on-year. Anyone that took a summer holiday in the U.K in August 2017 will probably remember it wasn’t a warm month and in fact we recorded 9 nights when the temperature dropped into single figures culminating with a near grass frost on the last day of the month. Plenty of rain as well in August pushed humidities up to the max and made an early start to the Microdochium nivale season, not to mention Anthracnose and Dollar Spot 🙁

The story of the autumn at this location was definitely October 2017 with nearly double the GDD of October 2016 (which was uncommonly cool actually). The high daily GDD caused not only high growth rates / clipping yield but also severely aggressive Microdochium nivale activity. With constant cutting and new growth emerging on an accelerated basis, the longevity of fungicide applications was significantly reduced with systemic applications lasting 7-10 days less than the year before, typically 14-17 days was your lot.  November 2017 continued a high GDD compared to the previous year with significant, short-lived peaks of mild day and night temperature. This tended to encourage re-activity around existing scars rather than new infection. December 2017 rounded off the year cooler than the previous year with the first proper December snowfall since 2010. Again numbers can be deceptive because even though the month was cool, we still had two periods of Microdochium nivale activity, the last of which ran right up to Christmas Day and did result in new infection on some sites, mainly because of periods of snow cover I think. So 2017 finished off 13% higher from a GDD perspective than 2016 for this location.

A full schematic of the autumn last year showing the periods of recorded Microdochium nivale activity is shown below for the same location…

A diary of a year in GDD….Ireland – Location – Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford

The picture in Co. Wexford was slightly different with a milder and wetter January than its English counterpart and strikingly similar to the previous January from a GDD perspective. February 2017 showed itself to be much milder than the previous year with mild air temperatures feeding through from The Atlantic in the 3rd week of the month to get growth off to an early start. March 2017 showed a similar pattern to the U.K location, with a much milder month and a 3x higher GDD than the previous year. Rather than high day time air temperatures, the month was characterised by many days of low to mid-teens maximum temperature and consistent rainfall, in other words, a pretty good growing month.

April 2017 in Wexford was a mild but dry month with 17mm of rain across the whole month and a GDD figure 2x the previous year. Most of the high GDD days were in the first two weeks of the month however when it was dry and towards the end of the month growth dropped off a cliff as we picked up some night frosts. (in common with the U.K location). So for Ireland as well as England, April proved a tricky month to produce consistent growth / recovery.

May 2017 turned that around with good day and night temperatures but growth didn’t really get going until the rain arrived mid-month. The 25th of May was the first day that the air temperature exceeded 20°C, nearly 7 weeks later than the Thame location in the U.K.

Once again GDD doesn’t tell the whole story of a similar level of growth in June 2017 compared to 2016. June 2017 was an extremely wet month for Ireland and at this location, 125mm of rain was recorded for the month with 30mm falling on just one day (5th June). The 2nd and 3rd weeks of June showed good air temperatures and with a saturated soil, growth bordered on being out of control for a while.  July 2017 continued a positive Irish weather story for the summer with a warmer July than the previous year with plenty of consistently warm days and half the rainfall of the previous month. Like the U.K, if July was above-average, August was anything but, with no days when the air temperature exceeded 20°C and 4 single-digit nights. Throw in 75mm across the month and you have a recipe for soggy sand castles and scenes of Craggy Ireland 🙂 In common with the U.K location it also meant an early start to the Microdochium season.

A very different story in Ireland during the autumn with a practically identical October 2017 vs. the previous year from a GDD-perspective, however September showed the same pattern as the U.K with a cooler, more humid month and like there, this continued Microdochium nivale activity that had started in August. We also saw more Dollar Spot in Ireland during August and September (in particular), a disease that was practically unheard of there 10 years ago. Prolonged leaf wetness and high humidity are the key drivers for this disease.  October 2017 didn’t log the same record high GDD as the U.K location coming in 30% lower but a period mid-month when night temperatures ran in the consistent low to mid-teens resulted in extremely aggressive Microdochim nivale activity that was hard to control. November continued the pattern displayed in the U.K as a warmer month than the previous year from a GDD perspective with 3 distinct, short-lived disease peaks caused by high day and night time temperatures and high humidity. Again we tended to see re-infection around existing scars rather than new infection sites. Finally December 2017 came in cooler than the previous year but again in common with the U.K location, it also saw peaks of disease activity, the longest running through to Christmas Day, a wholely unwelcome Christmas pressie. Comparing total GDD 2017 vs. 2016 showed that this location came in 4.5% higher, so a similar pattern to the U.K, but not as high a difference.

This is I think to be expected because Ireland picks up more Atlantic weather systems than a Central England location and doesn’t tend to pick up the full benefit of continental high pressure systems in the summer nor the full extent of the cold from Scandinavia and Russia during the winter.

So there we have it, a look at two locations through 2017 from a GDD perspective, I hope you found it interesting and maybe it struck some chords with your own experiences ?

All the best for 2018

Mark Hunt