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