Monthly Archives: February 2019

February 25th


Hi All,

After a truly stunning weekend when day time temperature records for February tumbled in some areas of the U.K and we reached figures that we would normally see in late May, it felt good to be out in the fresh air 🙂

Out walking yesterday the birds were singing, bumblebees were active and the sun was warm enough for a T-shirt and shorts. Mind you as soon as it went down the temperature plummeted and this morning, -3.1°C and a very hard frost greeted me when I opened the curtains. As predicted last week though, the weather is on the change later this week as we move from a peak to a trough pattern in the jet stream. So enjoy it while you can because wetter, cooler weather is on the way…You can see the change in the weather dynamic between this Monday and next Monday below ;

From my perspective we need the rain, every last drop, so bring it on and much as I love the sunshine and warmth, I don’t want summer to start in February thanks.

General Weather Situation

So onto this week’s weather and let’s put some substance on the forecast.

Well it is an easy forecast for Monday because after a very cold start for most areas with a widespread ground frost we will see temperatures pick up nicely as the sun comes up and provides in most areas, 10 hours of constant sunshine. For Scotland and around the coast of Ireland you may see more in the way of cloud cover and that’ll take the edge off the temperatures both overnight and during the day. So expect 14-16°C during the day and a light to moderate southerly wind.

Tuesday sees a pretty much identical pattern with clear night skies giving a ground frost for many areas before the sun comes up, burns it off and we do it all over again. Expect similar temperatures to Monday and still with that southerly wind.

Wednesday starts with more in the way of cloud cover so maybe not such a widespread frost and it’ll take awhile for that cloud to burn off, maybe till lunchtime in places. Thereafter we snick into the familiar pattern of lovely spring sunshine and pleasant temperatures, maybe a degree or two down on earlier in the week because of that cloud cover. So 14-16°C is likely.

Thursday sees the start of the transition from peak to trough with cloud cover pushing in overnight and the first sign of rain moving into the south-east of Ireland and south-west of England early doors. This rain will push thicker cloud in front of it so there’s unlikely to be a frost. During the morning the rain will push inland across North Wales and the south of England but this trajectory may change as we get closer to the day. So a much duller and slightly cooler day everywhere though the west of Ireland and the U.K should see some sunshine later in the day as that rain pushes eastwards and zips off into The North Sea. Away from the rain bands expect a dull, cool day with a freshening westerly wind that will swing round to north-westerly through the 2nd part of the day introducing a windchill factor and dropping the temperatures markedly. The cloud may just be thick enough over Scotland for some light showers during the 2nd part of the day.

Onto Friday and the transition gathers pace as a new rain front pushes thick cloud in front of it. Now at this stage it looks like the high will hold off this rain from pushing into Ireland during the morning and most of us will just endure a dull, cloudy and cool start to the day. During the afternoon though that high loses its grip and the rain is projected to make landfall into western Ireland and north-west Scotland. By sunset it will be across all but east Leinster and pushing later into The South West and central Scotland and then overnight nudging into Wales and The west early doors Saturday. So Friday is likely to be a dull, and for some, a wet 2nd part of the day with temperatures still sitting mild enough at 10-12°C, but well down on earlier in the week.

So looking ahead to this weekend it’s no surprise that the forecast is likely to be unsettled with thicker cloud and some rain around on Saturday morning pushing eastwards across the southern half of the U.K initially before fizzling out. Saturday afternoon looks better with some brighter spells of weather for Ireland and the west initially before we see the same across central areas. It won’t last though because a heavier band of rain is due to push into western Ireland on Saturday afternoon and move eastwards through the 2nd part of the day affecting the U.K through the 1st part of Sunday. So a sunshine and showers Saturday before heavier rain moves in from the west on Sunday morning. Feeling cooler in the strong to moderate westerly / south-westerly wind with temperatures around 10-12°C over the weekend, maybe a little chillier on Sunday.

Weather Outlook

So no surprise if we start next week cooler, significantly windier and unsettled with the bulk of the rain expected in the southern half of the country as a southerly-orientated low pressure makes an appearance. This is set to bring heavy rain to southern and central areas of the U.K through Monday pm / Tuesday a.m. as it stands now with a cooler and unsettled outlook elsewhere as the wind turns briefly northwards. We then see another low push in on Wed to bring more rain, again more southerly-orientated. Tricky to say after that other than I think it will remain unsettled with a mild (ish) air stream and plenty of rain around. So March looks to start wet and unsettled and if you believe in longer-term, it’ll stay that way for the first half of the month.

Agronomic Notes

So the first thing to chat through today is the current weather scenario.

Out walking yesterday it was beautiful in the afternoon with warm sunshine on your face, but as soon as the sun dipped, so did the temperatures and as I walked down into valley bottoms, the chill was evident. It got me to thinking on a day like that, when is the temperature high enough to support good grass growth and therefore how many hours is the grass plant actually growing for ?

So I took the stats from my Netatmo weather station and averaged the hourly temperatures. (it tends to report every 12 mins or so)

I then calculated the Growth Potential of these hourly stats to see when the plant was actually growing during the day and how high the G.P actually got to on an hourly basis. The results are shown below ;

You can see that the grass plant was growing strongly between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m, so 6 hours total longevity. You can also see that the growth was almost optimum from a temperature perspective during this time period before rapidly dropping away as the sun set around 5.30 p.m. yesterday.

February as a whole..

Looking at the month in totality (OK we still have a few days to go) I reckon February 2019 will come in as our warmest February in our data set from a G.P / GDD perspective.

It also compares in a very similar fashion to 2017, our last really good spring and just to add to the similarity, March 2017 started off wet and mild as well following below-average rainfall for January and February of that year.

Here’s the last 3 years Growth Potential data for February using Northampton as a location (Thanks Rob, the bets on 2019 vs. 2017 :))

You can really see what a damp squib February 2018 was when you compare the daily and total growth potential for that year with either 2017 or 2019.

Rather than just a set of numbers on a graph, the chart of the G.P for February 2019 (and 2017 for that matter) hammers home to me why early aeration is a given now and getting work done in January and February is a smart play timing-wise. The only problem as one wise sage pointed out to me earlier this morning was sure we are still in February but the golfers think it’s May because of the temperatures 🙂 So along with the temperature, expectations are on the rise as well 🙁

We need the rain…

There’s no doubt we are dry going into this pattern of weather with many soils not wetting up fully following below-average winter rainfall. In a way I hope we follow 2017’s weather pattern all through the year because back then after a very dry April, we had a wetter May, June, August and September and that kept stress to a minimum and the threat of a hosepipe ban a distant memory. A lot of areas that burned up the worst last year were high in surface organic matter and this makes sense as we know organic matter heats up faster than soil but of course those areas will also dry down quicker and become hydrophobic so in my mind there is a good argument for spot-treating with a wetting agent this week before the rain arrives.

I am always grateful for photos sent in by you guys but this one from Mark Todd really hammers home to me why we do what we do sometimes. The area under drought-stress wasn’t vertidrained and one could surmise that root development was poorer in the non-vertidrained area and so was more affected by surface heat and summer stress. The problem is at the moment that we can’t get full depth on a lot of soils because they are dry and compacted. So if the vertidrain can’t get down deep, how can we expect the roots of the grass plant to do it ?

Root development is so often neglected with solutions muted to come out of a bottle or a bag but the fact remains (in my mind anyway) that if you have an excess of O.M in the surface and / or poor soil characteristics deeper down, no muck and magic will benefit you. Sure we have all seen the pictures of roots out the bottom of the hole cup, but I wish they’d take the same picture after last summers excesses of temperature, E.T and a packed fixture list 🙂

Ok short and sweet today, I have another talk to prep and a looming deadline.

Just a quick thanks to the German Greenkeeping Federation, Beate and Michael for looking after me last week when I was over giving a talk. I’d also like to thank the customs official in Birmingham Airport for ‘over-zealously’ (pilots words)  strip searching one of the passengers on my flight (not me thankfully) and making us 30 mins late. You nearly buggered up my whole day but I fully appreciate you were just doing your job. (just in case I’m travelling through Brum airport again in the near future :))

Enjoy the great weather this week and let’s hope the rainfall helps to top up our dwindling levels.

All the best…

Mark Hunt


February 18th

Hi All,

As every week passes in February we can imagine we are edging ever closer to spring and some warmer temperatures. I use the term ‘imagine’ slightly tongue-in-cheek because this weekend saw temperatures up to 14.5°C here and the coming weekend will likely nudge them even higher, so we don’t have to imagine. The record for the warmest February day currently stands at 19.7°C recorded back in 1998, but I can remember back to my formative years, a certain 1976 which started in exactly the same way as 2019 and went on to be our hottest, driest summer for many a year.

Now before I doom 2019 to be our wettest year ever (thank you John) I did have a look at the weather stats for 1998 out of interest. Back then we did indeed start extremely warm and dry, but we actually endured a very wet April and June that year so nothing is certain. That said I feel our climate, temperature and rainfall-wise, is in a different place to what it was just 20 years ago and for sure the demand for water is definitely on the up judging by the number of houses being built everywhere. Perhaps this is part of our infrastructure that the government will ignore at their peril (because they’ve plainly given up with roads and other infrastructure), that of water supply to the population.

The last time we did endure a very dry year with insufficient water levels going into it, the golf industry was treated very much like the runt of the litter when it came to amenity surfaces and their management. Let’s hope the weather swings round and gives us a nice bit of balance between temperature and rainfall and we don’t repeat that experience.

General Weather Situation

Onto Monday’s weather and running late today already 🙁 Some of us are indeed experiencing sunshine and showers weather as we start the week with a raft of showers sitting across Ireland, west and mid-Wales and pushing up in that familiar band from the south coast up into Oxfordshire and west London. That pretty much sets the pattern for today really because we have an Atlantic low trying to feed in those showers but their bias will be mainly north and west. The heaviest rain will be for Ireland and the west of Scotland but with that low close by, expect showers across the west and north of England, Wales as well. Here’s how they’re stacked up currently..The showers across Wales and the south of the U.K are moving north and east.

So not a bad February’s day, dry for most away from those shower bands and mild with it, but maybe a little cooler than the weekend with temperatures between 8-11°C and accompanied by a brisk south-westerly, veering westerly wind.

Those showers should fizzle out during the course of Monday evening and then we will see a largely dull and not too cold night with temperatures down in the mid-low single figures. Starting Tuesday we will still have some thicker cloud base over northern England and western Scotland, thick enough for some mizzly drizzle. During the morning we will see another band of rain from that nearby low pressure push into the west of Ireland and this will push east across country reaching Leinster after lunch and then crossing the Irish Sea into Scotland by dusk. Away from this rain front, Tuesday should offer a mainly dry, but dull day and that cloud cover will peg temperatures down to just under double figures, so feeling cooler and nipper than of late. Overnight that rain will push into the western half of the U.K, at this stage from mid-Wales northwards but there may be a chance it pushes some showers into The Midlands overnight (wishful thinking maybe). The wind will continue to be westerly / south-westerly.

Stop Press !

Just had a quick look at where the rain was falling at 11.30 a.m. You can see how some people can easily report rain and others not 🙂 Talk about a narrow shower band compressed between an Atlantic low and a continental high !

So Wednesday starts very unsettled with plenty of showers spread across Ireland, western and central Scotland, northern England and north Wales. During the morning there’s a chance some of these will push further inland into the Midlands and north-east England, clearing Ireland as they do so. By Wednesday afternoon the rain will be sitting across Wales, north-west England and western Scotland and furthest east will see plenty of thick cloud so another dull day with precious little chance of seeing the sun. Feeling milder than Tuesday though with temperatures up in the low double figures despite the thick cloud cover and still with a south-westerly wind. Wednesday night may be quite mild and with a dropping wind we could see some pretty heavy dews.

Onto Thursday and this is the day when we start to lose the influence of that Atlantic low pressure system as the wind swings round from west to southerly through the course of the day. That change in wind direction will affect both cloud cover and temperature. Putting some detail on it, Thursday looks to start dull with thick cloud (again) and some of that cloud over West Wales and The Lakes may be heavy enough for some light rain. During the morning we see another rain front approach Ireland but instead of pushing into the west as per normal, it will take a hike northwards. This is due to the influence of an emerging high pressure system which will push any rain up and over the U.K and Ireland. As a consequence, we will start to see breaks in the cloud cover going through Thursday, starting with southern England but rapidly spreading northwards to give a sunny afternoon and evening just about everywhere. In the sunshine, temperatures will pick up to the mid-teens, Scotland and Ireland will perhaps be the last areas to benefit from this change with slightly lower temperatures until the end of the week.

Closing out the week, Friday will see a cracking day, pretty much everywhere with long spells of sunshine and rapidly rising temperatures after a single figure start. A moderate southerly wind will be ushering up that warm air from ‘The Med’ and that’ll set the pattern for the end of the week / weekend. At this stage Meteoblue are predicting 16°C for Friday and the likelihood is that it will climb higher over the weekend.

So the outlook for the weekend looks pretty sweet really with long spells of winter (?) sunshine, a warm southerly wind and maybe a bit more in the way of cloud cover creeping over on Sunday across Ireland and the west of the U.K. I could do with this cloud cover moving a bit further west for my fly fishing please 🙂

Weather Outlook

Image courtesy of

Above is the GFS image for the start of next week and you can clearly see the peak pattern in the jet stream which is providing us such early season warmth. Low pressure sits west, north and east of us with the peak pushing any rain up to Iceland and then down into Scandinavia. So looking at the longer-term projections this peak pattern looks to be in place for the start of next week but gradually through the first part of next week, the dominant high pressure will get slowly pushed aside and low pressure will introduce more unsettled weather from mid-week. First off into Ireland and then later in the week across the west and north of the U.K.  So no long-term run of dry weather (though it’ll be two weeks with no rain by then over here in The Midlands) with a more unsettled start likely for the beginning of March with deep low pressure systems pushing in from the west.

Agronomic Notes

Early season growth…

The 26GDD projected for the next 7 days will represent a nice bit of recovery for a lot of different areas.

First off in disease scars carried over from the winter and also for winter tees and winter season pitch outfields alike, both recipients of heavy wear over the winter. With soil temperatures hitting double figures already and probably inching up on that later this week, late autumn and dormant seeding work will begin to bear fruit and put some tillering into those drill lines from last autumn.

All good news in my book. Some areas of the U.K are dry and this week’s run of dry weather culminating with higher than normal temperatures at the weekend will cause some surface layer dry-down but with E.T levels sitting around 1.5mm per day, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern at this stage of the season. If I could see another week of the same after this weekend, I would be more worried but if the gradual breakdown of the weather pattern pans out as projected then we should be fine with rain falling on warm soil.It is a warning maybe to get your irrigation primed up early though if it’s an option just to hand water any hot spots that develop ?

Looking at the month overall, with 35GDD recorded here in The Midlands up until yesterday and another 26-odd for the week ahead, it looks like February 2019 will comfortably come in as the warmest February since we started recording these stats in 2010 and I bet the mildest on record from a Met Office standpoint. (Cue Daily Express headlines)

Using the window…

So if I had the choice between a traditional aeration date already booked in March / April and going this week, would I do so ? Yes, I think I would because the earlier you aerate, the earlier you’ll get recovery and most importantly in these times of revenue streams and early season cash flow, work carried out in February must have a lower impact on the above than the same in March and April.

The above is a picture of a green that was ‘Gradened’ on the 7th January, so 5 weeks ago. You can see it’s well on the way to repairing over and as we know with this machine, a good amount of organic matter in the top 25mm will have been removed. A nice topdressing this week onto a dry leaf and jobs a good ‘un. Some greens on this course had also been hollow cored twice since the same date and they were already 80% recovered.

I know I harp on about this a lot but one of our key objectives must be to adapt to a changing climate from an industry perspective. My feeling is that having seen early aeration carried out over the last 10 years or so, across a whole myriad of different starts to the year from a weather perspective, I haven’t seen one negative, only positives.

You could also add to this that later aeration in the traditional spring slot probably coincides with more potential issues related to Leatherjackets, Chafers and Bibionids.

Insect activity

Speaking of which out walking at the weekend I noted an increase in the number of Corvids (Crow species) feeding in the fields, no doubt on grubs. I’ve also noted an increase on Twitter over the last week in the number of courses reporting Badger grazing on Chafers / Leatherjackets / Bibionids so there’s a negative flipside to a milder start to the year.

On the course I visited we noted one tee showing a loss of density / cover and the culprit in this case was Bibionid larvae. These guys tend to live right in the surface of the thatch and can be found in clusters.  You can just see the caramel-coloured larvae at the point of my knife. Now you could argue that by aerating or presenting aeration holes early in the year, the chances of this becoming an issue are higher. I’d argue the opposite because the traditional months of March and April offer a higher likelihood for this to be an issue. Leaving this topic on a positive, the section taken above showed some really good rooting so hopefully that will help sustain a grass population into the spring despite the negative attention of Bibionids. The lack of an insecticide that we can use all-year-round remains a weakness in our industry and one we don’t actually share with amenity turf in continental Europe.

I’m off to Germany later this week to do a workshop at the German Greenkeepers Conference and whilst I note that they have very little available from an effective control of Microdochium perspective, they do have access to a really good insecticide. Mutual recognition anyone …….yeah right ?

For your information here’s a list of what is currently available across The North Sea from a pesticide basis. Credit to them as an industry for their pro-activity and efforts in achieving this against a backdrop in the rise of the German Green Party, I know the process isn’t an easy one.

Like us, their industry sector is adapting and hopefully we can all learn together from our experiences…

Disease activity this week…..

It’s a tricky dynamic this week in terms of disease development but on balance I don’t think the coming week will represent sustained high disease pressure. First off we have the same weather pattern as last week in that high day-time temperatures won’t necessarily correspond to high night-time temperatures with Tuesday night into Wednesday and Wednesday night into Thursday probably representing the mildest nights, heaviest dew and highest disease potential. We will also have a reasonable strength wind for most of the week which will keep the leaf dry for longer.

I would probably pick Wednesday night into Thursday as the highest disease pressure period after that it will drop away. I’d also hope that with more grass growth this week we will see any new infection being grown out as quick as it forms as long as you are on top of your nutrition. So yes, some activity around existing scars and possible new infection. Let me know if you wouldn’t mind what you see.

Fine Turf Grass Species….?

One of the cornerstones of an effective IPM program going forward is definitely trying to work towards a mix of grass species on greens and thereby increasing the resilience of the sward to Microdochium and other diseases. Now I’ve always been pro bentgrass from this perspective and in particular creeping bentgrass because I believe it has better breeding from a disease resistance perspective in terms of both Microdochium and Anthracnose.

So I was particularly interested in a debate on Twitter about overseeding ryegrass into a fine turf environment and its ability to withstand very close mowing as well as offer better disease resistance. I’ve often heard this spoken about and have seen a number of courses who have done this for many a year now, especially those that take heavy play and / or have small greens with limited pin positions. My feeling is that it does perform well and contributes less to thatch production than Poa annua whilst offering lower disease susceptibility to Microdochium and Anthracnose. Now I’m guessing this is too big a leap for our industry at the moment and we shouldn’t just work in a reactive fashion but don’t discount it as one for the heretics.

Reading New Scientist it is quite amazing what scientists are achieving now with genetic engineering and in particular gene editing using CRISP. Recently there was an article where scientists had boosted the efficiency of photosynthesis in a plant species by 50% in terms of conversion of sunlight into biomass production. (You can read about it here)

I note also how research is being focussed on improving disease resistance in other plant species like Bananas (here). Who knows if one day the grass species we overseed with won’t be genetically modified so it is already resistant to Microdochium / Anthracnose and therefore doesn’t need pesticide applications ?

Of course that wouldn’t be allowed within the E.U currently but I won’t go down that road today 🙂

I’ll leave you with that thought, enjoy your week.

Mark Hunt









February 11th

Hi All,

With a mild, positively spring-like week coming up with double figure temperatures, one could almost think that we are on the upwards path out of winter 🙂

This week sees the re-emergence of the Atlantic high pressure that popped up during December and January and true to form it’ll funnel up warm air from southern Europe. The tricky part is whether it will also push on more disease pressure as it did in the months before. Still looking on the bright side (as one has to me thinks) this weather pattern will see us into the third week of February and every week that passes without a return to the tabloid’s favourite, ‘Beast from the East’, is another week when the chances of it re-appearing diminish 🙂

General Weather Situation

So Monday doesn’t start off half bad really with a dry picture over most of the U.K and Ireland. There’s a few showers showing on the radar across the north-east of Scotland, The far south-west of England and Ireland, and a few pushing in off the Mersey estuary. Apart from that we are set fair for a dry but cool day due to a strong northerly / north-westerly wind which will nip down the temperatures a tad, but at least it’ll keep the humidity low. Plenty of sunshine around across The Midlands and south of England early doors. Temperature-wise expect 7°C across Scotland and a double figure 10°C across Ireland, Wales and England. Once the sun is down, temperatures will drop off markedly, a feature of this week so expect low single digits and the chance of a ground frost in places.

Tuesday sees some rain push into the south-west of Ireland and move north and east into the south-west and west of Scotland through the course of the morning bringing wind and rain here. During the afternoon this will spread south into north-west and northern England reaching north Wales by the evening. Further south and east of this rain you can expect another nice, dry day and with the wind swinging round to the south-west, it’ll feel a little milder as well. So a dry, dull day for most away from the rain showers with possibly only East Anglia seeing the sun for any length of time. A strong to moderate south-westerly wind will persist through the day. Mild though for mid-February with 9-10°C for Scotland, but pushing up to 11-12°C for Ireland, Wales and England. I’ll take that for mid-Feb any day of the week.

Onto mid-week and my how time flies when you’re writing a blog against a publishing deadline of 1 p.m 🙂 Wednesday sees that high pressure begin to exert itself pushing any rain further north across Scotland during the morning, but even this is set to fizzle out through the afternoon. A milder night on Tuesday means a milder start to the day and although we have cloud to kick off, this will thin through the morning to bring long spells of hazy sunshine to England and Wales, with cloud over remaining over Ireland and Scotland. A strong to moderate south-westerly wind will remain in situ and you’ll feel the temperature drop away as soon as the sun sets. Similar temperatures to Tuesday for all areas.

Thursday sees that high pressure in a dominant position so a dull start but soon the sun will push through and it’ll be a lovely day with plenty of sunshine once the cloud breaks. That sunshine will extend across northern England into Scotland so a dry and warm day for most areas with a warm southerly wind pushing temperatures again up into double figures for Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. More in the way of cloud cover for Ireland and that southerly wind will increase to strong to gale force in places here. A cracking day for mid-February really and again we will see temperatures drop away as the sun sets and with clear skies they’ll tumble to low single digits, cold enough for a grass frost in places.

Rounding out what can only be termed a half-decent week, Friday sees England and Wales continue the dry and sunny theme, but across The Irish Sea we see a rain front push into the south and west of Ireland and move eastwards from early doors, clearing from the west as it does so. This rain front will push into the west of Scotland by mid-morning and move eastwards into Central Scotland by late morning. Further south over England and Wales, we will see cloud cover build from the west ahead of that rain front which will sink south into north-west England and Wales on Friday evening. Cooler across Ireland and Scotland with that thicker cloud and rain, with temperatures around 9-10°C, but further south it’ll feel very nice thank you with 12°C likely across Wales and England. Remaining dry here as well but clouding over from the west later.

So after a nice week for most, we will see this settled, dry and mild theme extend into the weekend ?

Yes and no…

The outlook at the moment is for the high pressure to  move slowly eastwards in response to a building Atlantic low pressure which will introduce more unsettled and windy weather into Ireland and Scotland through Saturday on the back of a freshening south-westerly wind. England and Wales I think will stay largely dry on Saturday despite more cloud cover so the mild, dry theme will maintain its momentum through Saturday here. Come Sunday I think another unsettled day for Ireland and Scotland and that rain could easily push in to Wales and the west through the course of the day though models don’t agree on this at present. I think we will see heavy rain for Ireland on Sunday and this rain front will push into Wales, Scotland and the west coast through the 2nd half of Sunday, that’s my take.

Weather Outlook

Looking back at last week’s prognosis for this week I’m pretty happy with the consistency of Meteocentre’s GFS output so here we go for next week’s outlook..

The rain front that pushed across Ireland, Scotland and Wales on Sunday looks to continue eastwards overnight into Monday. So I think a wet and unsettled start to the week beckons for the U.K and Ireland as low pressure is in charge. So a wet Monday extending into Tuesday with windy and unsettled conditions for many. As one low pressure moves away, another is projected to push in and bring more heavy rain for all areas mid-week, next week. The prognosis is for the unsettled conditions to remain throughout next week with a mild (ish) south-westerly air flow and plenty of rain. After that there is a great deal of uncertainty so we will see.

Does that mean that winter is over and done with ?

Well it would be one of the earliest starts to spring if that were the case but I’m still cautious on this one. For the moment it’s a case of ‘Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero’ which roughly translates to  ‘seize the day and put very little trust in tomorrow !’

Agronomic Notes

Microdochium Pressure – Not again ?

So I guess the first thing that came into my mind at the weekend (apart from how the fek do I fit an upgraded horn to my BMW R9T in the titchy little gap BMW have left me ?) when I saw the developing high pressure and mild temperatures this week was, oh no, here we go again from a Microdochium perspective.

On examination of the temperature and humidity data projected for this week I don’t think it’ll be as bad as the last time an Atlantic high pressure paid us a visit, i.e December 26th – Jan 1st.

You know how I love my graphs, well I charted out both periods of weather, the Christmas to New Year period and the projected data for this week to see how they looked and to help me get my head around both scenarios.

Here’s the first period…

What we had between Christmas and New Year was very consistent temperature with minimal drop off between night and day, sometimes less than 2°C. The humidity as well pretty much stayed over 87% at this location and peaked consistently close to 95% during the night. So we had an extended period of plant leaf wetness and temperatures high enough to facilitate strong Microdochium nivale growth both on existing scars and on new infection sites. Although the temperatures weren’t super mild, they were mild enough to promote fungal growth of this pathogen and the extended periods of plant leaf wetness did the rest.

So let us look at the prognosis for the coming week using hourly data. I make the point about hourly data because we know we only need a small period of time for Microdochium nivale to grow and so averaging out temperature and humidity data can often ‘hide’ these periods. It’s a bit like looking at a monthly rainfall total and saying we only had 50mm, it was a dry month, but if that 50mm fell in just two days, you might not agree.

Now looking at the graph above for the same parameters I hope you can see that the pattern is quite different ?

I’ve standardised the scales so the data is comparable and you can see that the drop off between day and night temperature is more marked for this coming week compared to the period above. So where the temperature differential between day and night was only 2°C for the period between Christmas and New Year, it’s more like 9 – 10°C this week. The only day where you see less of a drop off is overnight Tuesday into Wednesday so this period may be more conducive to Microdochium.

You can also see the lowest temperature point during the night is much lower as well with temperatures around 2°C, so that will mean a slower growth rate for the Microdochium fungus.

The other very important feature of this coming week is the wind and the fact that during the day it’ll be a drying wind and not only will that lower the humidity, it will obviously dry the plant leaf off quickly once the sun is up. So this means we won’t have the extended period of plant leaf wetness that we had over Christmas / New Year, another key difference.

Again the drop off between humidity at night and during the day should be much higher this week. Between Christmas and New Year the humidity hardly changed from night to day varying by only 2-3%, whereas the prognosis for this week is a 15-20% drop in humidity during the day, another important difference.

So for this location I would expect to see some activity around existing scars mid-week but no new infection. Now the above is the case scenario for one location, it may be different elsewhere but I think the comparison is pretty similar in other locations.

A nice weather window….

Central U.K Location

West of Ireland Location

Central Scotland Location

South Wales Location

So there you have 4 different locations from 4 different countries and Meteoturf highlights a nice steady growth window this week extending I think into next week as well though the weather will be different.  The South Wales location above shows the dynamic really clearly with significant drops between day and night temperature through this week as high pressure is in charge and then a change to less variability between day and night as milder, south-westerly air pushes in to give unsettled conditions at the weekend.

So with dry conditions this week (once we dry out from Sunday’s rainfall that is) it’s a good time to get out and get any areas that you feel would benefit from an early push fertilised prior to more unsettled conditions next week.

With wet weather leading up to this week, moss and the like is fully-wetted up so iron treatments approved for mosskilling will work well, especially as we have more unsettled weather following on from this.

A lot of sites have carried out drought-damaged areas from last summer so here’s an opportunity to overseed and fertilise to gain some recovery whilst both moisture and temperature are available.

Too early ?

Well looking at the calendar you might be forgiven for thinking so but I just think we take the opportunity, we are only two and a half weeks away from March, so getting seed in the ground prior to the arrival of warmer air can only be a good thing. Yes, there’s always a chance that the weather will take a turn for the worse and winter will come back for one last hurrah, but the longer we progress through February without this occurring, the less likely that any return to winter will be prolonged. Now of course I have said that we will trip into a SSW and BFTE 🙂

If site conditions allow it, aeration will also be beneficial because with low rates of top growth, the plant can put its efforts into root growth and that’s the insurance policy for the spring and summer. The better roots we have, the more stable a grass plant is, the more resilient to summer stress. It all starts here.

Tempus fugit ! my friends, tempus fugit ! (Time flies)

Sorry about the use of latin (and bad punctuation) but I happen to like it on occasion, though neither were taught at Welland Park Comprehensive and yes I know it shows 🙂

All the best

Mark Hunt



February 4th


Hi All,

After some parts of the country received heavy snow last week, we start this week with some heavy rain to promote a rapid thaw and no doubt flooding as well for many areas. Currently (7 a.m.) as the radar picture shows, the north-east of Scotland and south-east of England is in the firing line. Aside from the likelihood of flooding, even the areas that didn’t get the snow cover (like here) will have issues with rain falling onto frozen ground. Out walking early yesterday with a starting temperature of around -6°C, the ground was rock hard (that was the intention, to be able to walk across cultivated ground without taking half of the field away on your boots:)), but the air temperature rose rapidly as the wind direction swung round to SW and the top layer soon thawed making it tricky walking. 3 1/2 hours layer when we’d finished, it was +7°C, a 13°C swing in 4 hours !. The same will be true today, rapid surface thawing over a frozen sub-layer, for me is the worst conditions on a golf course / sports pitch.

After a largely inaccurate weather outlook forecast for this week courtesy of my inability to interpret new output (Yes Mr Draper I do actually use data as opposed to a finger in the air 🙂 ) I have found some better output which matches more closely the original Unisys data, so hopefully accuracy (or inaccuracy depending on your viewpoint !) returns.

General Weather Situation

So as commented earlier we start the week unsettled, milder and windier after an Atlantic low pressure pushes over the U.K and Ireland on Monday. After that though the radar looks clear and that tallies with a forecast that suggests skies will clear and the sun will come out. The further west you are the milder it will get, with temperatures forecast to climb into double figures by lunchtime. A strong, south westerly wind as well so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see some blustery showers later but around dusk the wind changes to a north-westerly as high pressure briefly nudges in from the continent to give a cool night with a risk of ground frost.

Onto Tuesday and after a quiet night, we see the next Atlantic low pressure lining up to grace us with its presence. Into Kerry early doors, it’ll push across Ireland in time for the morning queue on the M50 and then the heaviest rain will push into The South West and South Wales mid-morning (just what you guys need…not). By lunchtime that rain will be across the south of England and most of Wales. Further north we will see rain pushing into the north-west and west of Scotland as well, pushed on by a strengthening wind in the afternoon that swings round to the south-west. By late afternoon, the forecast projects the rain will be across Ireland, heaviest in the west and most of the U.K, with the exception of the far north of Scotland. One of those days when it’ll get milder as we progress so after a cool start it’ll be into double figures again for Ireland and the west. Cooler across Central England, the north and Scotland and like Monday, it’ll be cool enough for some of that rain to fall as wintry showers across elevation. So 6-11°C looks like the temperature range, always milder to the west and windy from the south-west.

Mid-week beckons and with it Wednesday which looks a better day for most of the U.K and Ireland, with only the last of that rain clearing the south-east early doors. Scotland will see some rain, wintry showers across the north and west and this will try to push inland but largely stay isolated to the west coast. Ireland starts sunny but through the morning expect some showers to push into the west and Midlands before moving east to affect Leinster. Aside from the wintry showers across north-west Scotland, the remainder of the U.K looks to be dry all day on Wednesday so a nice one after the onslaught of snow and rain. Late in the day, possibly after dusk we may see some rain push into south Ireland and England. A moderate south-westerly wind in situ keeping things mild with temperatures ranging from 9-11°C.

Thursday sees the next Atlantic low line up on the shores of Ireland and expect showers across the west mainly throughout the day. Further inland it should stay dry and sunny across the east of Ireland. For the U.K, a messy picture really with rain moving into Wales, the north-west and west of Scotland, mid-morning. Almost in tandem we see rain push more inland across Ireland and the same for the U.K, reaching the West Midlands but maybe not much further east. So the majority of rain will be westerly on Thursday with some showers pushing inland p.m. Still that mild south-westerly wind, moderate to strong, with temperatures similar to Wednesday at 9-11°C.

Closing out the week Friday sees a continuation of that unsettled picture with rain from the off across the north-west and north / mid-Wales. Some of that rain may try to push inland across northern England giving some wintry showers across The Pennines during late morning. By the afternoon the dry, mild start that Ireland has enjoyed is brought to an end by a rain front pushing into Kerry. This will move north and east through the late afternoon, early evening and amounts will be heavy. By evening it’ll be into The South West and then overnight into Saturday it will cross the U.K pushing up from the south-west of England into Wales and then northern England by Saturday early doors. We will be bailing our boats out for sure. Continuing mild with similar temperatures to Thursday and a strengthening south west wind getting up to gale force overnight into Saturday.

So no surprise with late Friday’s forecast that the outlook for the weekend is unsettled with Saturday looking very wet for Wales, the west of England, possibly south-east Munster and northern England later. It really depends on the trajectory the rain ends up taking but since this is a NE tracking low pressure, it’s normally the west and north that’s in the firing line. Scotland will I think miss most of the rain on Saturday but it will dull and cloudy instead with some wintry showers over elevation. After clearing the rain front on Saturday morning, it’ll be a sunshine and showers day for Ireland I think but cooler than of late as the wind swings more north-westerly. Sunday looks to continue that unsettled pattern with the low sitting off the north-west of Scotland pushing in rain across Ireland and most of the U.K through the course of the day. I think Scotland will miss the worst of this although you’ll still see some showers pushing through. So a sunshine and showers day with some heavier rain for some on Sunday and a south-west wind for most of the weekend, strongest on Saturday where it will be gale force in places.

As mentioned at the start of this blog I have some new output to work with which puts me more in my comfort zone when looking beyond 7 days. For this I am indebted to, Canada for permission to use their output in this blog. Merci beaucoup mes amis.

Weather Outlook

So looking at the graphic above for the start of next week you can see low pressure is sat very firmly over the U.K and that means unsettled with westerly winds for the southern half of the U.K and easterlies for the north. So a wet start to next week I think with plenty of rain spread over the U.K and Ireland, some of it heavy. Tuesday looks a drier day for Ireland and the west but still a chance of rain and showers for the east of the U.K. Wednesday sees some heavy rain push into the west of Ireland and move eastwards but high pressure is projected to build over the continent and that will begin to nudge that rain away through mid-week and introduce more settled conditions across the south and central U.K. By Thursday we have high pressure in charge so that means drier, calmer, more settled conditions extending into Ireland and Scotland. Since we will be sitting on the leading edge of the high pressure I think southerly winds and mild (ish) will be the norm for the close of next week.

So there you have it, starting unsettled and finishing settled, let’s see how accurate that is this time next week.

Agronomic Notes

GDD Comparison – Thame Location

So we start off with having a look back at January 2019, already a month down in what will be our 10th year of running comparative GDD. Looking at the above we have a pretty low score for January, not the lowest, that honour goes to the early SSW-influenced, January 2010, but Jan 2019 will go down as a cool month on the whole, similar to 2017 really. High pressure dominated the month so as you’ll see from the GDD stats for both the U.K and Ireland, it was cool and noticeably dry.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – U.K Locations

Bit of a southerly bias to the data but there you go..

The graph above tells a story though with pretty universally low GDD for the 9 locations I collated.

Nantwich, Cheshire gets the prize for the mildest, I’d love to say that it’s due to the presence of my old mucker, Mr Butler’s endearing warm nature, but I won’t :).

Surprisingly, the furthest south-westerly location, Okehampton is the coldest, being on the edge of Dartmoor I think means normally a very wet but obviously pretty cold location as well. Dry though for January with many locations reporting their driest month for 14 years.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – Irish Locations

Ah dear old Valentia, this location never fails to deliver the mildest and the wettest location in our Irish dataset. Away from this we see pretty similar GDD across Ireland with all the locations showing around double the GDD of the U.K. This is to be expected as the centre of the cold weather was over the continent and so the further east you are, the cooler it gets. The converse applies. Rainfall patterns were pretty consistent, much lower than the deluge of December 2018, but Cork and Claremorris still came in towards the top of the pile. If you look at Cork, Wexford, Dublin, going up the south-east coast of Ireland, you can see the rainfall pattern drop away, with Dublin picking up just 30% of the rainfall that Cork received in January 2019.

Disease activity, snowfall and rapid thawing….All in a days work…

It is worth reflecting on some other features of January away from weather and GDD stats. I refer of course to the continued disease pressure courtesy of that Atlantic high (long since shoved off down south) that brought us such aggressive activity between Christmas and The New Year and then returned the favour towards the end of January with more mild, humid air.

This mild, humid air followed a very rapid thaw on golf courses and pitches, many of which in the south of England were under snow 2 days previously. The combination of rapid temperature rise and flat-lined 100% humidity caused both new Microdochium nivale activity and re-activity around the periphery of old scars.

So it’s not surprising that many clubs saw disease activity and further scarring during the month. What I do find surprising and a bit of a riddle is the nature of the disease activity across a site. Here’s a couple of pictures from one location.

OK, at first sight, so what, we have all seen Microdochium nivale on greens ?

The strange thing for me is that this green is the only one of 19 affected on the site. It has good airflow, no immediately obvious microclimate and actually of 4 greens tested for surface organic matter in the top 0-25mm / 25-50mm, it was the lowest of the set. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still higher than you’d like to see (hence the sand-filled Graden work performed on the 7th January), but I can’t put surplus surface organic matter forward as the cause for this disease outbreak. In fact if I collated feedback from many customers this winter, the opposite is true. That is to say, the highest organic matter greens, the ones sitting soft and wet are largely clean and the lower O.M ones, the worst-affected across many sites.

Now this is the polar opposite to what we’d expect to see surely ?

It got me thinking that we are spending a lot of time and money focussing on disease management, both with fungicide and non-fungicide options, cultural work and the like, but are we really dealing with the cause or just running around fire-fighting the symptoms ?

I tell you what really got me wondering if we are on the right track and bear with me on this one, it was an article in New Scientist on Alzheimers, a form of Dementia, one of the only 2 publications incidentally that my brain can absorb from a reading perspective every week. (the other one being Motorcycle News :))

Currently with this condition there is no effective medical treatment, the big Pharma have poured millions into trying to solve it to no avail. The phenomenon they have concentrated on is the eradication of the Amyloid and Tau proteins that accumulate in the brains of sufferers of this disease. And so far they have failed, with the only treatment available being cognitive behaviour therapy and environmental management. (light, etc)

So I was dumbfounded to read in New Scientist that some researchers believe they have identified the causal agent and it is so left field it is hard to believe. It turns out that one of the key bacteria that can cause gum disease – Porphyromonas gingivalis –  may also be the primary agent behind Alzheimers. It may be (there’s always a caveat with research) that the proteins mentioned above are not the cause of the disease, rather they are a symptom and a reaction to the above bacterial organism.  Eradicate the bacteria and we may be able to prevent the disease. You can read about it here

OK, so what is that to do with Microdochium nivale ?

Well I think we are focusing too much on management of the symptoms and not the cause. Yes, we know the pathogenic fungi responsible for the disease but why are we seeing this disconnect between different cultural scenarios and disease activity ? If we can crack that one it may help us manage the disease longer-term, long after I have hung up my boots and committed this blog to history. I don’t have the answer but I think we are looking in the wrong place, in the wrong way, possibly.

Disease Pressure

Just before I leave this subject, it looks like overnight Wednesday we may have some temporary disease pressure as the wind drops back and humidity and temperature stay high. It shouldn’t last too long and may just be restricted to some localised activity around existing scars but be on your guard all the same.

Surface instability and root shearing

The weather dynamic I described earlier will unfortunately lead to a tricky day or two for our industry because we are undergoing a scenario of rapid surface thawing due to rainfall sitting over a frozen rootzone. When I took some O.M samples last Wednesday morning some greens were already frozen down 3cm and with the very hard frosts at the end of last week / weekend, I would expect this to have gone deeper. With mild rain falling on frozen ground and sitting on the surface, the upper layer will thaw quickly but if subjected to force (foot and buggy traffic) will shear very easily and become ‘plastic’ in nature. Once the thaw extends deeper into the rootzone, stability will increase. It’s a bit like laying washed turf and sod cut 50mm thick, the former is very unstable until it has rooted, the latter is stable straight away. Not only can this process cause lateral root shear but it is also very dangerous from a Health & Safety standpoint and remember anybody falling over will have a pretty hard landing.

Enjoy your wet and mild week and let us see what the weather will hold in store this time next week.

All the best.

Mark Hunt