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