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