Monthly Archives: September 2018

September 24th

Hi All,

There’s a distinctly autumn feel about the weather this morning as temperatures overnight dipped to low single figures and the trees are on the turn. The nights are also drawing in fast. It’s about this time that light levels start to impact turf growth from now right through to the middle of March with shorter days and a much lower arc of sun in the sky. I took the snap above this morning using the Sunseeker 3D App and you can clearly see the difference between midsummer (red line) and where we are today. (yellow line)

If you look closely you’ll also see a faint green line next to the yellow one and that marks the Spring Equinox, the time when the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator moving from north to south. Yesterday was actually the Fall equinox which is the exact opposite, i.e the time when the sun crosses the celestial equator moving from south to north. So we are at a crossing point and having passed the autumn equinox we are now officially heading towards winter.

Ok onto the weather and last week I indicated that high pressure should be in charge this week, so is it ?

General Weather Situation

So we start Monday with a distinct chill in the air but crucially after the battering some areas received last week, we have a dry outlook and yes that’s because we have high pressure establishing over the U.K and Ireland. So today’s outlook is dry and bright for most areas with the best of the sunshine across the east and south east of the U.K. That said, Ireland and The North East of the U.K should also see some sunshine but cloud will push across later to spoil the party. Now it won’t be particularly warm because we have a moderate to strong north wind in situ so I expect low to mid-teens to be the order of the day depending on cloud cover. Tonight under clearing skies, temperatures will drop quickly once the sun disappears behind the horizon.

Onto Tuesday and a very similar day to Monday for the first half of the day however across The Irish Sea and the west coast of Scotland you’ll notice more cloud. That cloud is the precursor to a band of rain that’s due to move into the north west coast of Ireland and Scotland around lunchtime before pushing eastwards across the latter during the afternoon. It’s a real north -south divide though because south of a diagonal line drawn from The Humber to Mid-Wales, it looks sunny, dry and bright. As we progress into the evening that rain over the north-west of Ireland will sink south and the same for the U.K with rain reaching down into the north-west of England later in the evening. On Tuesday we see a change in wind direction as that north wind swings round to the south west and that ushers in warmer temperatures so a much milder night for us all on Tuesday as that cloud cover keeps temperatures up.

Mid-week beckons and we are into Wednesday already and we see that rain and thick cloud lingering over Ireland, Scotland and the north west of England overnight and into the morning rush hour.  So again another north-south divide with the south and central areas of the U.K enjoying the warmest day of the week after a milder start courtesy of that south west wind which will strengthen significantly on Wednesday. So warm, dry and sunny for the majority of England, Wales and Ireland, but for north-west England and Scotland, that rain and thick cloud lingers through much of the day, if anything intensifying over Scotland to give a wet and dull day. Temperature-wise I think we will see high teens, perhaps touching the magic 20°C down south, but only mid-teens for those areas affected by thicker cloud and rain.

Thursday sees that north-south divide continue with another wet and dull start to the day for Scotland with that rain touching the north of Ireland as well. Thicker cloud remains over The North West but as we head south we have another bright and sunny day ahead of us after a mild night. As we head through the morning that rain and thicker cloud eventually breaks over Scotland and sinks south into northern England so at last a little sunshine. Ireland will see that bank of thick cloud and drizzle over Donegal and Connacht sink south across the whole country during the day bringing drizzly rain in places. Thursday sees another change in the wind direction from south westerly back to northerly, initially for Scotland but as we progress through the day that wind change will head southwards so by tea time the south of England will feel that wind change. So similar weather and temperature to Wednesday for England and Wales, dry and sunny with high teens perhaps breaking into the twenties, with only mid-teens likely for Ireland and Scotland.

Closing out the week on Friday we end as we started with a dry outlook for the U.K and Ireland, albeit with some thicker cloud floating around across the north west of Ireland and Scotland. Now that wind didn’t stop on a northerly trajectory it swung completely round to the east for the start of Friday. An easterly means only one thing in my mind and that’s Haar, that lovely thick and dull cloud bank that pushes in from The North Sea 🙁 So yes you get the picture, a dull and cloudy day for the U.K on Friday with the best chance of any sun across the west and for Ireland a much better day with long spells of sunshine. The north west of Scotland will see that thick cloud as well persist throughout the day. So much cooler on Friday with temperatures ranging from low to mid-teens at best despite sunshine for some. That easterly breeze will keep everything on the cool side.

So how are we looking for the weekend ?

Well the outlook is dry with plenty of sunshine around for the U.K and Ireland. That easterly wind will still be present on Saturday for most areas so don’t expect a heatwave, it’ll be on the cool side with temperatures in the mid-to high teens I think if you see the sunshine which most areas will. Crucially though it will be dry so all in all not a bad Saturday beckons for most. Sunday sees the wind swing round to the north again and that might pull in some more in the way of cloud but temperatures will stay up in the mid to high teens. Cooler for Scotland and Ireland which look to pick up more in the way of cloud cover.

Weather Outlook

Well next week looks remarkably like this week with high pressure in charge again and northerly winds initially. So I’d say dry with plenty of sunshine and mild / warm for periods of the week. So a stable weather picture which looks to hold pretty much to the end of the week though there is a suggestion that low pressure may come to play at the end of it. That said, plenty of time for that scenario to change.

Agronomic Notes

Ok it’ll be another short blog this week because as usual the workload is knocking at the door and I have another busy week ahead 🙁

Major Events and Legislation

I saw a tweet from Syngenta last week (above) as I made my way back from a very successful, but very wet, last day at the S.T.R.I Research Event up at Bingley (You can find the tweet here incidentally if you want to respond). It got me thinking.  So I posed the question above because I know (I think:)) Dan and Glenn well enough that they won’t be contacting the legal department in Basel just yet. It was and is a serious question.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with the work behind the scenes at some of the most significant tournaments we have seen held in golf over the last 15 years in the U.K, so I know the amount of time, manpower and preparation that goes in by the greenkeeping / management team, not to mention the investment financially. This discussion isn’t by the way just confined to golf, you could equally apply the same question to major events in football, rugby, cricket, horse racing and so on.

As I have discussed at length in this blog, we face 2 great challenges, climate (or climate change if you want to stir up that can of worms) and legislation. The combination is perhaps the most significant one to face turf management in recent years.

Just look at this year for starters, one of the coldest winters followed by one of the wettest, coldest, late springs, followed by one of the hottest, driest summers and who knows what the autumn and first part of the winter will throw at us (though it’s looking ok so far).

Dove-tail that in with a loss of insecticide technology and contact fungicides and life gets trickier. We also have less effective systemic fungicides on the market and I’m pretty sure over the next 18 months we will see some more revocations regardless of Brexit.  France and Holland I think has stated an intention to be pesticide-free on managed-amenity turf from 2020, that’s less than two years away. Now I’m sure there’s some caveats in there with that statement or at least there better be because how would you hold one of the greatest sporting events that is The Ryder Cup if you were truly pesticide-free ?

Consider the time of year, it’s the end of September and as we all know disease management is in the fore-front of our minds. What would be the situation if the cameras turned up to watch this event with the greens badly affected by Microdochium nivale or Dollar Spot or Anthracnose, or all three ?

The eyes of the world would look at it, tut disapprovingly and probably the greenkeeping team would end up taking the blame for not managing the turf properly. Now I am all for managing turf with the least applications of effective pesticides, to me that is a clear goal for our industry but it also equally clear to me that they are absolutely necessary within our current turf management framework. It isn’t just about major events, some of you guys will I know be facing questions about worm casts, pecking damage, Microdochium outbreaks over the coming weeks and your responses could easily fall upon deaf ears.

The problem is everyone assumes that we have a solution for everything nowadays, well in turf management, sometimes we don’t.

So we need less of the politics and more realism if we are to move ahead in a positive manner. “Bon Chance !” to you over The Channel come 2020 and a hearty “Bon Chance !” to all at the greenkeeping team for The Ryder Cup this coming week, it’s a fantastic experience and a great advert for golf. Long may it remain so.

Ok I’ll step down off my little Soapbox and come back to earth to finish the blog off…

Microdochium nivale outlook

Bearing in mind we have a clear north-south divide in weather terms across the U.K and also the same to a lesser extent for Ireland then it is probably no surprise that we see two different scenarios for Microdochium nivale activity. In the north and across Ireland we have more in the way of moisture about and with some milder air coming in mid-week, I think that’s the time when the Microdochium pressure will be the greatest. Again we look for a combination of moisture and therefore humidity with high overnight temperatures. One saving grace as we saw last week was the effect of high wind strength on this scenario and it may come into play again for Ireland, the north and Scotland as they experience higher wind speeds than the south of the U.K. Further south with less risk of moisture we will see lower humidity levels and that will be the driver to less disease. Again the highest risk will be from mid-week however I think the wind strength will keep the humidity lower than required and that should also minimise dew formation. My take is low disease risk this coming week for south and central areas with the highest risk I think on Thursday night.

Shade Management

At the beginning of this blog I talked about the changing arc of the sun and the fact that with shorter days and a lower sun position on the horizon, turf management will become harder. This is particularly true for shade-affected areas as we begin to notice the impact of shorter day length, less direct sunlight and increasing humidity (less drying). If you are managing this type of area, I would suggest raising the cutting height slightly, reducing the impact of linear aeration (verticutting, grooming, etc) and on golf greens, skipping the clean up strip where practical.

Shade-affected turf will always need an extra hand and this point in the year marks the start of that process.

Ok, that’s it for this week, enjoy the sunshine if you get it 🙂

All the best

Mark Hunt



September 17th

Hi All,

The news is full of weather events at the moment, Hurricane Florence, Typhoon Mangkhut and last week, Hurricane Helene. My oldest Stepson is currently teaching in Shenzhen, China and this weekend they got the full force of Mangkhut to such an extent it was pushing water through the window frame into the house !

In our little world sometimes we seem a million miles away from these storms but their influence stretches far and wide and already our weather is being affected by Helene. We are due to get the downgraded Tropical Storm Helene in the early part of this week so expect a very windy start to the week for some areas and a very windy end as well courtesy of another storm system.

Image courtesy of Metman James and NOAA

Now I mentioned that Helene is already affecting our weather and that comment related to temperature and humidity and not wind because what we are already seeing is very warm air pushing up from Helene across the U.K.

Image courtesy of Unisys Weather

You’ll have noticed how warm it was last night maybe ?

Here we didn’t drop below 16.8°C overnight and we saw the humidity rise to 97% as warm, humid air associated with Helene pushed into the southern half of the U.K and Ireland. Later this week we will see another low pressure come into effect bringing very windy and potentially very wet weather for the end of the week / weekend, so the autumn storm season has started in the U.K.

General Weather Situation

As we start the week we already have a pulse of heavy rain pushing across the west of Ireland affecting Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal on Monday. This band of heavy rain stretches across into north-west Scotland as well and through the morning it’ll move east across Ireland lessening as it does so and into the west coast of the U.K. Away from this active rain band it’ll be a cloudy, humid and dull start to the day with warm overnight temperatures carrying over. As we progress through the afternoon, this rain band will clear all but the far north-west of Ireland and sunshine will break through over central and southern areas of the U.K pushing up the temperature. Scotland will see that rain push into central areas from the west, light at first but becoming heavier into the evening / night. Warm temperatures of up to 24°C across the south and central areas of the U.K, 20°C across Ireland (courtesy of Helene) and cooler across Scotland. The wind will strengthen across all areas as we progress through the afternoon, blowing mainly from the south and becoming very strong over Scotland later. It’ll be another very warm night.

Tuesday sees that a heavy rain front push across the south-west of Ireland overnight but by dawn it’ll have cleared most of the country and is due to affect The South West, Wales and the west coast of England and Scotland. It is projected to be pretty heavy over south-west Scotland. By the morning rush hour it’ll have moved east pushing cloud ahead of it with the rain now into northern England and South Wales. Through the afternoon the rain front sort of fizzles out though may persist across northern England. Ireland after that wet overnight rain will see a new rain front push into Kerry late morning but it’ll clear north and east quickly with warm sunshine following. By late afternoon we have a mix of sunshine and showers (mainly in the west) and again some pretty warm temperatures in the low twenties across the south of England, mid to high teens across Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The wind will be very strong across all areas and from the south-west, a courtesy call from Helene 🙂 The strongest of the winds may not reach Scotland till later on Tuesday night.

With Helene now upon us it’s no surprise we see a heavy rain front start off Wednesday for Ireland pushing across in time for the Sligo morning rush hour and heading across Ireland during the morning. This rain front will also affect the west coast of Scotland with some heavy bursts late morning for The Western Isles. The main rain front from Helene is projected to move across the west of Ireland and into Scotland so that means south of this it’ll be clear, warm and dry with plenty of sunshine for England and Wales. Later in the afternoon we will see thicker cloud and rain push down into North Wales and northern England. This rain front will lessen but push further south bringing a cloudy end to the day down south. The clear feature of Wednesday will be the very strong winds associated with the storm system with the west of Ireland and Scotland in line for the worst I think. Temperature-wise I think similar to Tuesday with mid-teens across the windier and rain-affected areas and high teens to low twenties across the south of England. Another very mild and humid night.

Thursday sees one storm centre pass but another one appear out in The Atlantic. Overnight this will push rain, some of it heavy, across the south of Ireland and into Wales and the north-west of England. By the morning rush hour this rain band will extend across from Ireland through Wales and up to The North East.  North and south of this will see a cloudy and dull start for Scotland and central England. As we progress through till the afternoon the rain will become potentially heavier across Ireland, the very tip of North Wales and northern England and it’ll slowly edge north as it does so. By the evening the rain is projected to be across The South West, Wales, Ireland and Scotland intensifying as we progress through the night.

Weather forecasting caveat – Now I expect the direction of that rain to change over the coming few days so it may move south or north depending on path of the storm centre, be warned your rainfall totals will I’m sure change for Thursday.

The rain will also move eastwards overnight to affect all areas pushed along by some very strong winds to boot. With a low moving across the U.K and another huge depression above Scotland, expect much cooler weather moving down from the north from Thursday, you’ll see why from the Unisys graphic below ;

I just had to double take then because that low will drop temperatures so significantly through Thursday into Friday that across the high ground of Scotland you may just see some wintry showers. What a crazy, crazy (expletive deleted for the sake of decency)  weather week this is to forecast !

So Friday starts off very windy, pretty cool and very wet across Scotland with the rain extending down into northern England. South of this rain front it’ll be bright and sunny across Ireland, Wales and England though it’ll be much cooler as that cold front sinks south. During the morning they’ll be a rain front pushing across The South West / Wales and this may skirt the south coast of England but elsewhere aside from persistent rain across the north-west of England, it looks a better 2nd half of the day with that heavy rain clearing Scotland. It’ll feel a good bit cooler everywhere now with low to mid-teens more the norm and thankfully the night temperatures will follow this trend (more on this later). A pretty windy day again, especially at the start of the day with strong westerlies likely throughout the day.

Nothing is normal this week and that forecast extends into the weekend with more heavy rain for the south west of Ireland on Saturday and this will push across Ireland through the day and into the west of the U.K through the 2nd half of the day. I then expect this rain to push eastwards overnight to all areas for the start of Sunday though again the exact path of that rain may change. After a quieter wind day on Saturday (not for Scotland but for Wales and England) I expect the wind to gain strength through the day and swing round from the west to the north during the day to bring a cooler feel to the weather as we close out Sunday. So windy and unsettled is the forecast for the weekend with the west and north getting it first and on Sunday I think the heaviest rain will be for Scotland and the north currently.

Weather Outlook

After such a turbulent week this week with low pressure systems assaulting the shores of the U.K and Ireland can we expect better for next week ?

Well the answer looks like a resounding yes to me at this stage with an Atlantic blocking high pressure system due to establish from Monday onwards, bringing dry and mild, warm conditions with light winds. So a bit of an Indian Summer next week and at this stage it looks to last the whole week and possibly into next weekend 🙂

Agronomic Notes

Ok, it’s going to be a short agronomic blog this week because I am under pressure work and time-wise. Looking at my emails and texts that pressure is coming because of the current weather trait that I referred to earlier, high overnight temperature and high overnight humidity.

I downloaded the data from my Netatmo weather station this morning and here’s how it looks for the last two days…

So for my location here at the centre of the universe that is Market Harborough, you can clearly see the effect of Helene pushing in humid and warm air overnight. Dove-tail that humidity in with an overnight temperature that didn’t drop below 16.8°C and that means in my books high Microdochium nivale pressure.

So I’d expect a lot of you to come into work today and notice copper blotches on the sward suggesting high disease pressure from this pathogen. Now life is anything if not interesting this week because not only does that combination cause high disease pressure, it also causes strong grass growth.

You’ll see this from the Meteoturf output for the same location and note the pattern as we progress from this warmer to cooler air later in the week…

So the suggestion is that grass growth will be optimum at the point where disease activity is also at optimum. How this pans out across your surfaces will depend largely on where you are nutritionally because if nutrient is available then it is quite possible that we will see Microdochium nivale grow out as fast as it occurs through this week before the cooler temperatures of later in the week lower the disease pressure. To further complicate the dynamic, any fungicide applied prior to this event will also have a much shorter longevity because it’ll be removed during this growth flush.

As more than one person commented to me recently, fungicide longevity is probably around the 14-day mark currently with a cumulative Growth Potential of around 10 for that period.

Now it’ll be longer in Ireland, but not by much because the projected G.P for this week for say a Shannon location is 4.4 (compared to 5.3 for Market Harborough). Other values to throw into the mix would be 4.0 for Central Scotland, 5.8 for South Wales and 6.0 for Southern England.

So all in all we have a pretty tricky dynamic this week, high disease pressure for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in particular vs. high growth rates.

So how do we proceed with that type of outlook ?

Well in the past we maybe would have applied Iprodione to knock populations back and clean up the sward particularly in the knowledge that this disease pressure is short-term and will decline by the end of the week and drop away fully next week with the arrival of high pressure.

Trouble is we can’t do that because Iprodione is no longer available is it 🙁

So this is our first taste of life without that active and it’ll be an interesting lesson for all of us and one we should learn from. Now I can’t make a call for all of your locations, with all of your variables sitting here typing this blog but here’s my thinking for what it is worth….

Firstly, use this period of weather to observe how your surfaces react and record this data somewhere because it’ll be useful in the future. I can’t see the point of applying a systemic fungicide right now because the disease pressure is already upon us and more likely with the growth flush, remove some of the A.I by cutting pretty much instantly.  With the wind strength and rainfall for some areas as well it’s going to make getting anything on tricky by the by.

If I could get a spray on, it would just be a hardening one to try and keep the plant healthy through this period and hopefully decrease the activity of the pathogen. I would hope that with the enhanced growth rate any scarring of the sward would be avoided because you’ll grow it out before it becomes an issue.

Now that’s just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions ;P

This week I’ll be up at the S.T.R.I Research Event (details above) along with some other rabble (:P) to chat through our latest research into Microdochium control and it’ll certainly be very relevant looking at the current weather conditions. I’ll look forward to hopefully seeing some of you up there but if not I’d really like to understand how your surfaces come through this week with the challenges I have outlined above.

All the best for the coming week.

Mark Hunt




September 10th


Hi All,

Out walking yesterday I was amazed at how many berries are in the hedgerows. Blackberries, Elderberries, Rose Hips, Hawthorn and Blackthorn alike. You would have thought after the dry summer that the berry crop may have been lean, but not a bit of it. Of course the old wives tale is that a bumper crop of autumn berries points to a hard winter. I’m afraid I can’t agree because in previous years when I’ve noticed it, quite the reverse turned out to be true.

The weather at the moment seems to be at a tipping point, can’t quite leave summer behind, can’t quite commit to autumn, so we currently get glimpses of both. I think it’s one of the hardest points of the year to pick out even a short-term trend and be accurate weather forecasting-wise. Take last weekend, Saturday was due to be a wash out in The Midlands, but the rain veered northwards overnight and so northern England got what we didn’t. Even on the weather forecast the night before they were still saying it would affect The Midlands and it didn’t, so accuracy, especially of rainfall leaves a lot to be desired. This week we were due to have high pressure in charge for most of the country but the low pressure is pushing further south so we will see that dominate most of this week’s weather. I can also see some of the first deep low pressures of autumn on the long-term forecast which will bring strong winds and rain along with them, not yet but they aren’t far away.

General Weather Situation

Monday starts largely dry for the U.K, but not for Ireland with a heavy rain front pushing into the west of Ireland and already making landfall across Connacht and Donegal. This will move west-east through the morning pushing across Ireland into North Wales, north-west England and south-west Scotland later in the day, accompanied by some pretty strong winds to boot especially over Scotland and Northern Ireland. Further south we are due to have a bright start to the day but cloud will soon push in from the west to give a reasonably pleasant, if a little dull, 2nd half of the day. Temperature-wise, a real north-south divide with Scotland only just breaking into the teens whereas down south it may hit 21-22°C. Ireland, Wales and The Midlands will be mid to high teens and it’ll be blustery with strong westerly winds for most.

Tuesday sees that rain front still causing issues sitting across south Munster now and extending into Wales and the north-west England first thing. Some of the rain associated with that front across the latter areas will be heavy for sure. They’ll also still be some showers across north-west Scotland to start the day. Through the morning that rain across Ireland will clear and across Wales and northern England it will push inland introducing thick cloud and some drizzle / light showers at it does so. Scotland and Ireland will enjoy a better day after the windy and wet start to the week whereas down south will see much less of the sun and temperatures will drop back a little where that cloud becomes a feature. Mid to high teens for most areas perhaps touching twenty in the far south where you keep the sunshine longest. The wind will still be moderate to blustery and later in the day will swing round to the north-west.

Wednesday sees a north-south divide but this time the boot is on the other foot as it is Wales and England set to receive heavy cloud and some rain with a line drawn across from The Humber to North Wales the point between good and bad weather. At this stage it looks like The Midlands and north of England will be in line for the rain. Scotland and Ireland look to have another reasonably pleasant day with mid-teen temperatures and a change of seeing the sun. Through the afternoon that rain across The Midlands will fizzle out to leave just cloud cover for the 2nd half of the day across England with maybe some rain lingering across the south-east through the afternoon and evening. With clearing from the west and lightening winds, temperatures will drop through the night into single figures so a cold start to Thursday beckons.

So a bright, cold start to Thursday across southern England but across The Irish Sea, clouds and rain are already amassing off the coast of Connacht and Donegal. Through the morning this rain front will move into north-west Scotland and Ireland and move slowly south and east through the afternoon. South and east of this will be dry and probably one of the sunniest days of the week with more in the way of cloud for the north and west. By dusk that rain is still stuck over the top half of Ireland but has now moved into south-west Scotland. So mid-teens if you are under that cloud and rain and mid to high teens further south, aided by the light northerly winds in place over England and Wales.

Friday sees the week close out with a pretty unsettled picture across the U.K and Ireland with rain fronts projected to affect Ireland, Wales and the north of England through the 1st half of Friday. As we go through the day these fronts sink south into The Midlands and The South West but I expect them to lighten as they do so. So a very mixed up day on Friday, unsettled, cloudy and dull with a strengthening south-west wind. For sure where the rain is projected now and where it actually falls will change during the course of the week. Scotland looks to miss the worst of the rainfall on Friday at this stage. Similar temperatures to Thursday, that’s mid to high teens with a moderate to blustery south-west wind.

The weekend forecast looks really tricky to forecast with the south of the country looking to cling onto that high pressure so warm and dry I think for the south of the country. As we move further north we come under the influence of low pressure so that means more cloud and closer-packed isobars, which means windy. Through the course of Saturday, some pretty heavy rain associated with that low pressure is set to move into north-west Ireland and Scotland and I think this will push across Ireland, Scotland and into the west of England through the latter part of Saturday / early part of Sunday. So Sunday looks wet for Scotland, Ireland and Wales and possibly dry initially over England but not for long as the winds strengthen and rain pushes in to all areas for the 2nd half of the day.

Weather Outlook

So next week looks at this stage to come under the influence of a very deep, North Atlantic low that I reckon will pick up a Met Office name, such is its strength. (Iona is the next name in line in terms of storm naming). So low pressure I think in charge and it will bring some really, really strong winds for mid-week, next week as it stands now. They’ll be rainfall associated with this low pressure system, initially at the start of the week over the north-west of Scotland but I expect a band of rain to sink south across all areas on Tuesday followed by a dry day on Wednesday and then more rain and unsettled conditions, with those very strong winds for Thursday and Friday.

Agronomic Notes

We are still very dry down south…..

Now I know in the north of England, Scotland and Ireland you’ve had a good amount of rainfall of late and so the title line will probably mean little to you now as the drought and heat is long forgotten (certainly by the punter anyway). The reality though is that in central and southern areas we are still desperately dry and with every windy and reasonably hot day, we are actually continuing to rack up a soil moisture deficit that started over 3 months ago.

For this reason I will continue the comparison based at our Thame location with 2017, because I think it is still relevant.

So up until yesterday’s date we have actually lost twice the amount of moisture from the soil as we had last year over the same period, 299mm vs. 149.4mm. Just looking at the graphs shows the intensity of this years drought and despite some rain during August at this location, it has been dry since August 29th and so the dry-down of the soil continues. Albeit of course at a slower rate because with cooler nights and shorter days, the daily loss of moisture by evapotranspiration is less than it was at the height of summer.

Take yesterday for example, the minimum temperature at this location was 14°C, the maximum 22°C and there was a 10mph average wind speed. The loss of moisture by E.T was measured by the on-site weather station at 2.8mm, that’s half of what it was during August at the height of the heatwave, but it all adds up.

Incidentally you can download both charts in a pdf here

So if you’ve oversown areas that aren’t irrigated (and lets face it that’s a lot of the overseeding that’s going on at present) it is going to be tricky if the seed has germinated and is in need of moisture. The saving graces are the lower daily E.T levels, the unsettled outlook and therefore the increasing chance of seeing some rain down south at some time soon 🙂 Patience is a virtue you know.

I can’t help thinking though of how Mother Nature always manages to even things up across a calendar year and so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if at some point the jet stream dips and low after low assaults the U.K and Ireland giving us a wet and mild end to the year, ala autumn / winter 2015 (Spookily this was the last time we got a mega berry crop) . Time will tell but the law of sod is a powerful one in my experience.

Disease Risk going forward ?

Thoughts are obviously turning to the autumn and Microdochium nivale pressure so how does it look for the next 10 days odd ?

Well what we are looking for is that combination of high night time temperatures and high humidity, this brings on disease at a pace and dovetailed in with reducing growth rates (due to shorter days and cooler nights) , scarring down to the crown and beyond.

Looking at separate locations in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales (you’ve got to be unbiased you know when you write a blog 🙂 ), I can see that this week will bring that combination particularly on Monday night and across the forthcoming weekend, focussing particularly on mild night temperatures and high humidity, so best to keep your eyes peeled and your IPM programs up to date.

The image above is not just posted to remind everybody what Microdochium looks like, there is a greater relevance. It shows this disease in Poa annua but not in the neighbouring Bentgrass.

As we look forward into a future with less fungicide active ingredients and I believe a greater potential for localised climate extremes to create higher disease pressure, sward conversion is something we should give some serious consideration to. It’s not just with Microdochium either, Anthracnose (Colletotrichum cereale) has a high potential to take out Poa over Bentgrass (well it does here, not necessarily in the U.S though), so having a Poa / Bent sward or Bent / Poa (if you’re lucky) is I think an important part of a future IPM program for inland golf courses.

Now this isn’t by any means a new thought process, nor am I claiming it to be so, I just think after this summer, last autumn and so on, having a more resilient sward going forward is desirable. In certain situations we aren’t talking bentgrass obviously, but it’s the concept to me that is key. That of having a mix of species within your sward that provides resilience and most importantly, sustained grass cover in the face of our dominant pathogens.


Had to admit to a wry smile last week when I read the latest research concerning the health ‘benefits’ of Probiotic Yoghurts and the fact that research has shown them to be well er, limited. Most of the ‘healthy bacteria’ introduced by the so-called health food either passed straight through the system or was out-competed by the existing bacteria of the host.

Now it doesn’t mean that taking them is a waste of time though because recent research in New Scientist has also highlighted the very real benefit in humans of the Placebo effect. (you can read a summary of the article here

In a nutshell by virtue of the mind thinking you are doing good for yourself and thereby existing in a positive state, real heath benefits can follow that are unconnected to the actual product. A kind of positive mind, positive body sort of thing.

Why is this relevant to a turf discussion ?

Well let’s just say I think there are some strong parallels with the above situation in turfgrass and maybe they do more good for the user than the grass itself.

On that controversial note I’ll wish you all the best for the coming week 🙂

Mark Hunt



September 3rd

Hi All,

After a glorious autumnal weekend (well for some in central and eastern areas anyway) with temperatures hitting 26.5°C here, it was simply beautiful weather, everyone seemed to be out enjoying it. That said, we are definitely tipping a hat towards autumn because the night temperatures dipped down into single figures on some nights with heavy dew and mist first thing.

Lots of talk about an extended heatwave through September, obviously people have read the usual rubbish in the media. People’s attitude to the weather constantly amazes me, one chap asked me this weekend as I was setting up my fly rod, “What do you think the weather will be like on the 21st of September Mark ?”, “Haven’t a clue” I replied “and nor has anyone else for that matter”. So anyone thinking we will have an extended heat wave should look towards this coming weekend when low pressure may be in charge bringing cooler temperatures and rainfall.

If I took a punt at September as it looks at the moment I think we will have a similar pattern to August with alternating periods of high and low pressure and no one weather system dominating, it is a punt though…

General Weather Situation

So Monday starts off with a west-east divide as we have a vertical band of rain positioned across the west side of the U.K and extending from mid-Wales all the way up to the east coast of Scotland which is currently receiving some heavy rain as I type this at 8.38 a.m. We also have some sharp showers over The Midlands following the Fosse Way kind of like. Ireland looks to start off dry and cloudy but crucially nice and dry. As we progress through the day we will see that line of showers sink slowly south and east but it’s unlikely to progress far into central areas. That said we may see more of the sharp showers through the day across Leicestershire and Warwickshire. Scotland is another case of west-east divide but this time western areas look to stay largely dry whereas the rain over the east will linger through the day and be slow to clear. Through the afternoon we will see that Scottish easterly rain formation drift south into The North East so a dull and wet end to your day here. So central and southern areas along with Ireland look to get the best of the weather and late summer sunshine. Temperature-wise, I expect the south to hit low to mid-twenties again in that sunshine but a more normal high teens for Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the latter two with more cloud cover pinning temperatures back. Winds will be very light and from the north-east strengthening as we close out the day.

Tuesday looks to be a pretty dull day everywhere across the U.K, with the exception of the south coast which should see the majority of the sun. Ireland likewise, sunny and pleasant across the west, more cloud across the east. There may still be a vestige of that rain across The North East through Tuesday morning but eventually it’ll fizzle out leaving thicker cloud behind. Not a bad day really with pleasant temperatures ranging from high teens across Ireland and Scotland, a degree or two higher for Wales and again low twenties for the south of England if you see the sun. Winds will be moderate and northerly.

Wednesday looks a messy day forecast-wise with rain and thicker cloud pushing into the north-west of Ireland (Donegal, Connacht) through the morning. There’s also likely to be the same combination of thick cloud and potential rainfall associated with it for Ease Anglia and The South East. So at present the driest, sunniest weather looks like being across The South West, the north of England, Midlands and South Wales. Through the afternoon we see the rain front over Ireland push slowly eastwards and this same rain front will also introduce thicker cloud and rain into the north-west of Scotland. As we head towards dusk we see most of the rain slowly fizzle out across Ireland but it’s likely to stay wet and dull for the north-west of Scotland and the south-east of England. With a stronger north-east wind in situ it’s likely to feel cooler across all areas with high teens probably the best we can hope for.

Image courtesy of Meteoblue

Thursday sees a change in temperature to much cooler conditions as a trough of cool air feeds down across the U.K and Ireland (see image right) This cold front will introduce some rain into Scotland, The North East and north of England overnight into Thursday but by the morning rush hour this may only be affecting the latter. Thick cloud will push southwards through the morning especially along The North Sea coastline and that’ll knock the temperatures down a tad more. Ireland will also see thicker cloud pushing south after a dry start so cooler and fresher everywhere. As we go through the afternoon, that rain across The North East will sink south into northern England leaving clearer and fresher conditions behind it. So much cooler on Thursday with temperatures in the mid-teens across Ireland and Scotland and a couple of degrees higher elsewhere.

Projected weather for Saturday…courtesy of Meteoblue

Closing out the week on Friday we see a low pressure system drop into that trough pattern and that’ll dictate the weather through the end of the week and the start of the weekend, so much for the heat wave right 🙂 So a dry start for most on Friday but by dawn that low pressure will begin to introduce rain to The North East initially and then later in the morning, Scotland, The North West and Mid-Wales. You can see the isobars are packed tightly across the north and north-west so a windy day here I’m afraid.  As we go through the afternoon, this rain will push into the north of Ireland, north of England and North Wales before pushing south and inland overnight into Saturday. A cool day on Friday with that cold low pressure dominating the weather so remember those layers with low teens for Scotland, Ireland and Wales and only mid-teens for England. As that low sinks south the wind will change from north-west to south-west.

No big surprise then that the forecast for the first part of the weekend looks decidedly average with that low pressure projected to sink south over the U.K overnight Friday into Saturday. This will bring significant rain into northern, western and central areas overnight and through Saturday though Scotland could end up missing it as the low will be further south. Ireland likewise though South Munster and possible East Leinster may catch some rain with the chance of further rain later in the day extending out into Kerry.  So Saturday looks to be a bit of a wash out away for the afore-mentioned areas with a strong westerly wind accompanying that rain. That said, it’s 5 days away at present so the timings of the rainfall could change. Sunday is likely to be drier for most areas as that low pushes south and east though there’s still rain likely to be associated with it across East Anglia first thing on Sunday. So a dull but pretty dry outlook for Sunday after the wet end of the week and with lighter winds, it’ll feel a bit better. Don’t expect much more than mid to high teens over the weekend with the south picking up some warmer, more settled conditions through the latter part of Sunday.

Weather Outlook

So after an unsettled end to this week and first half of the weekend, how does next week look ? Well not bad actually as we have high pressure pushing in from The Atlantic so a warmer and drier start to the week for central and southern areas though there may still be some rain across these areas on Monday. Cooler and more unsettled for the north of the country and north-west of Ireland as a rain front is projected to cross the north of Ireland and Scotland through Tuesday. I expect the heat to build in most areas through Tuesday and Wednesday before it begins to cool a little on Thursday as low pressure begins to push the high away into continental Europe. For the east side of the U.K you may pick up cooler conditions associated with this high because of northerly winds and more cloud cover. Beyond that is tricky, some projections suggest the high will persist into the weekend, others that low pressure will dominate.

Agronomic Notes

OK since this is the first blog of September, we can look back at August from a GDD and rainfall perspective across Ireland and the U.K and see how we fared ?

August, from a GDD perspective, was one of the highest August totals we have measured and this explains why so many people have mentioned the flush of growth they experienced once rainfall was forthcoming after the heat of July. August 2018 was (for this location) a ‘typical’ August of fine weather with some rainfall through the month and this contrasts strongly with a ‘trough pattern’ August that brings us much cooler weather and consequently lower GDD.

With the heat of July and August, 2018 is now right up there with 2017 as the highest GDD year we have measured. When you look back and take into account how far back we were in April and even May, it illustrates just how hot the summer has been. We have 4 months of the year remaining and as commented upon earlier this summer, it won’t surprise me if 2018 runs out as the highest GDD year we have measured. That would make it two record years in a wow, an ominous sign of things to come ? let’s hope not.

GDD & Rainfall – UK Locations

Looking at the rainfall totals first we can see that The South West picked up the highest level of rainfall from the stats provided and this would have been very well-received no doubt. Mid-country and the east of England were the driest with 32 – 38mm of rain from The Midland locations up to York with Fife picking up 62mm over the course of the month. GDD-wise, quite a variation with Fife recording 16% less GDD than York and 25% less GDD than Northampton.

GDD & Rainfall – Irish Locations

Over the Irish Sea for a comparison of how their locations fared during August…

From a rainfall perspective we see another case of west-east divide with the west side of the country receiving the majority of rainfall not surprisingly. The exception being Limerick which seems to have done a good job of dodging most of what The Atlantic sends their way..GDD-wise we see the usual variation with the wetter locations pulling in the lowest GDD figures with Claremorris  recording 16% less GDD than across the country in Dublin. There’s less difference between north and south locations across Ireland in August compared to west-east. Limerick comes through with the highest GDD and that makes it two significant high scores as I understand it during August with their Hurling team taking their first All-Ireland win since 1973 ! 🙂 (Cue lot’s of requests to unsubscribe from the blog from every other county in Ireland 🙂 )

Is the drought forgotten then ?

It is always interesting to note the comments of golfers and players alike and how quickly they forget the weather we have just endured. It’s almost like everyone expects grass to flick a switch from totally dormant to green and growing. When I came into Heathrow airport on my return from Alaska it was interesting to note how dry some of the cricket outfields, winter season pitches and golf course fairways looked from the plane across the west side of London.

For this reason, I thought I’d continue the E.T / Rainfall / Moisture Deficit / Surplus work from our Thame location to see the pattern through August…

Comparing 2018 with 2017 continues to show the contrasting difference between the two summers in terms of rainfall, loss of moisture by E.T and the resulting moisture surplus / deficit in the soil. You can also see the fluctuations of low and high pressure through this August with decreases in the soil moisture deficit when we have rainfall and increases when we have hotter, drier weather.

All things considered though the soil moisture deficit grew in August 2018 from -225mm at the start of August to -275mm at the end of August, so the drought isn’t over despite the fact that we have had some rainfall during the last month. I expect this situation to continue through September with alternating periods of rainfall and settled, dry and warm conditions.

Of course the E.T loss will be reducing on a daily basis because the hours of daylight are less and night temperatures are lower, the former is becoming really noticeable now as the evenings draw in. So in a sentence, we are not completely out of the woods yet.

What does this mean for growth, recovery and disease pressure ?

Well despite people’s relatively short memory as to why outfield areas look patchy, it’s likely that we should be able to continue to recover turfgrass swards through September with I know plenty of you out there renovating and overseeding. For most you’ll have areas that are recovering quickly, some recovering slowly and some where only aeration / renovation and overseeding will provide grass cover. For this reason surfaces will appear inconsistent, in fact less uniform than they were when they were droughted out unfortunately. This inconsistency will continue through September and gradually fade as we move into the autumn. A faster turnaround is only gained with renovation / aeration and overseeding and in that respect the potential run of warm, dry and settled weather followed by rainfall and then a repeat of the same should be fine.

Disease-wise, we have a number of diseases doing the rounds, Microdochium nivale from the wet and humid weather in mid-August, Anthracnose (Colletotrichum cereale) that has been an issue since June / July and if anything is increasing in severity as we move into September and finally Dollar Spot (Clarireedia sp.).

The more observant of you will notice that I have not used the name, Sclerotinia homeocarpa for Dollar Spot and this is because the causal fungus has been re-classified according to research into the genetical diversity of the pathogen. If you’re really sad you can read about it here (must be careful as I know this is a pet subject for Kate E :)) but essentially they have now split the pathogen into four different species and a new family, Clarireedia (probably pronounced in some airy fairy scientific way intended to make the less educated people like me stick out like a sore thumb). The species differ in their geographical distribution and sometimes with respect to the host grass species they attack.

Dollar Spot for me has always been a weird disease because in some instances it attacks grass species on greens, tees and fairways and in others only outfield turf. It’s likely then that the difference between the genetical make up of the disease will dictate how it behaves and where it occurs on your turf facility (if it does at all). From my experience, in the U.K and Ireland it attacks mainly outfield turf and the same in Scandinavia but in Germany, Switzerland and the more southern countries of Europe, it attacks greens as well as outfield. STERF have done some good work on this pathogen although their paper references the old latin name (so last year you know). The best way to combat the disease once you have apparent symptoms is to grow it out so nutrition is key as is reducing plant leaf wetness (dew control) and dropping PGR’s so the plant can grow away from the effects of the disease. An up-to-date article on combating Dollar Spot from the U.S can be found here

Etiolated Growth

Etiolated Growth has been around for years now but feedback in 2018 is that it’s been the worst ever with actual turf loss noted in some areas of extreme etiolation. It’s a tough one this because in the U.S they have isolated a number of bacterial (not fungal) species said to be the causal agent and have demonstrated the fact by inoculating healthy turf with the bacteria and re-creating the symptoms. The problem in the U.K is that so far we haven’t been able to isolate the same bacterial species, so the causal agent is as yet unidentified. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise really because even if we had, the solution would mean applying an antibiotic like Streptomycin to your turf and that isn’t realistic or advisable in my books. I was asked why it might have been more of a problem this year and a number of potential reasons spring to mind.

Firstly, as it principally affects Poa annua species and this year Poa has been under a lot of stress, I think it has been more vulnerable to pathogens in general (Anthracnose, Microdochium and Etiolated Growth). It may also be that the climate has played an additional role because warmer temperatures would theoretically increase fungal and bacterial populations. Solutions, well I suppose reducing plant stress would be the obvious one but this summer that wasn’t exactly easy. I’d be interested in feedback on this phenomenon and if you feel it has been more or less prevalent in 2018, wherever you hail from.

Ok that’s it for this week, time for a cuppa….

All the best.

Mark Hunt