Monthly Archives: March 2019

March 25th

Hi All,

After a pretty nice week with some warm dry days and mild nights, you can see the countryside changing in front of you as the tram lines in crops deepen, hedgerows push into leaf and blossom and the first of our summer migrants makes landfall. Lots of birds of prey out and about yesterday on the thermals and I’m seeing / hearing a lot more Ravens as well, so they’re making a comeback. I remember clinging to a mountain ridge in Arran (Cir Mhor) during a white out in mid-winter and watching 2 Ravens dancing on the wind in front of me, totally oblivious to my predicament.

I heard a ChiffChaff yesterday (Summer migrant warbler) and on Saturday whilst enduring a very, very  frustrating session of fly fishing, I heard the first chatter of Sandmartins above me. There was a huge buzzer (midge) hatch on the water and you could almost sense their happiness at arriving from their long haul up from Africa (just think about that) and having a full plate of dinner on the table !! :).

It always makes me wonder how on earth a small bird like a Sand Martin or a Swallow manages to navigate the 6,000 odd miles from South Africa across Africa, the Sahara desert and then Europe before hopping across the channel / Irish Sea to arrive at the same location they left some 6 months earlier. In my childhood days, that was an outside loo in Leicestershire for our Swallows and they’re still visiting to this day. (Not the most luxurious of locations I’d admit!). Anyway it’s great to hear their chatter and looking forward to this week, they’ll find plenty of insects on the wing because high pressure will be in charge and that means warm days (particularly the 2nd part of the week) but chilly nights…

General Weather Situation

Quite a straight-forward weather blog this week because we have such a stable weather situation with the only real difference in the weather you experience down to cloud cover from Monday to Thursday. The two Meteoturf images above illustrate the differences between the north and Scotland which will have plenty of cloud cover this week and less sun hours vs. Ireland, Wales and England which will have much clearer skies through the day and night. So you can see for Scotland, the duller outlook for this week means mild night time temperatures but cooler days with the maximum temperature in low double figures accompanied by a north-westerly / westerly wind.

For England, Wales and Ireland we see the typical spring dichotomy of warm days and cool nights, with the coldest nights reserved for the start of the week with a likely ground frost on Tuesday morning before day and night temperatures rise during the 2nd half of the week.

So dependent on your location, you’ll see either warm days and cold nights with the warmth increasing for the 2nd part of the week or more in the way of cloud cover, milder nights and dull, cooler days, but we look dry for the 2nd week in a row (as predicted 2 weeks ago ahahaha)

Winds will be all over the place this week for Ireland and Wales with southerly, veering to northerly and anything in-between. For Scotland you’ll pick up the westerly part of the high and for England it looks like mainly north-westerly winds till later in the week.

So I’ll pick things up from Friday when we see a weak rain front push into north-west Scotland accompanied by thick cloud. This will push into central areas of Scotland through the 2nd part of Friday to bring light rain for the 2nd half of the day here. Further south and west Friday should represent the warmest day of the week with south-westerly winds and plenty of sunshine once that cloud cover has broken up, so mid-teen temperatures likely for Ireland, England and Wales. The weak weather front over Scotland will also push cloud cover south overnight into Saturday across the U.K and Ireland so it is highly likely that Saturday may dawn cloudier for the north of England and Midlands before the sun breaks through across most areas to give a lovely Saturday with mild temperatures into the mid-teens and a nice westerly / southerly wind. Further west and north across Ireland, a cool northerly / north-westerly wind will peg those temperatures back into low double figures, but out of the wind it’ll still feel pleasant.  Later on Saturday we see the wind swing round to the east and that’ll really introduce a much cooler feel to conditions on Sunday with more cloud cover especially for the southern half of the U.K and lower temperature just breaking into double figures.

Weather Outlook

The change in the wind direction at the weekend is the signal that the grip of high pressure will begin to loosen for the start of next week and that could (I say could) herald the arrival of more unsettled conditions during the week. So next week looks like starting off how the weekend finished, on the cool side, but dry and with plenty of sunshine across the south. Cloud will push in from the north through Tuesday and then we will see rain coming in to the north and west for the 2nd part of Tuesday before this pushes further south into all areas from Wednesday. On the cool side as well with a north-westerly air stream that will pull in blustery showers, some of them wintry over elevation I think, for the 2nd half of next week. It has to be said that the frontal system causing this change in the weather doesn’t look really strong so it may change as we go through the week in terms of rainfall and temperature, we will see. By that time we will be needing this rain.

Agronomic Note

Seeing out March…

By next Monday we will be into the 1st day of April (so tempting) so I’ll continue the growth monitoring theme through till the end of next month. The image above is for my local Northampton location but the weather patterns hold pretty true for England, Wales and Ireland again (Scotland’s and the north of England has been wetter and colder). You can see the dry spells which will mark this winter out as below-average rainfall for The Midlands and the consistent growth through the latter part of February and March. Now a daily G.P of 0.3 (equivalent to a GDD of just over 3) isn’t anything to shout about growth-wise, it is steady clip, but nothing drastic, no growth flush and in essence is probably better for the plant itself. At higher temperatures (and particularly with high available N), the plant will prioritise shoot  over root growth, (Growth Partitioning) but at the sort of numbers shown above, this shouldn’t be happening. (unless of course you’ve shoved 40kg of N on :)).

Shallow rooted Poa annua 🙂

It may pay us well to remember that it is root growth that functions as our insurance policy when we get to dry spells of weather like we are seeing currently. Dry spells in the spring usually only desiccate the surface 10-20mm and with good rooting will be no problem to the grass plant, though surface roots may suffer a little.

That said, the daily E.T is starting to ramp up and the projected moisture loss for this week in my location is 10mm, not inconsiderable for the end of March. Even though moisture meters are great for keeping a track on your soil moisture status (and as such usually result in less irrigation being applied), it is likely that desiccation will be occurring above the depth that a normal probe reads (50-60mm) so best to keep an eye on things when you change holes or take a soil profile. It will of course be particularly important for areas that were either over-seeded last autumn or dormant seeded this winter (which in general have done very well because of good early soil temperatures and moisture) where the new seed has a formative root system and is particularly sensitive to desiccation.

Nutrient input…

There was a question on Twitter (thanks Jon) about potassium inputs and whether there would be a difference in soil levels of K if 50kg of K2O were applied over a season in foliar or granular form and what would this difference be ?

To my way of thinking there are numerous variables associated with this question but some factors will impact on the end result more than others. The ability of the soil to retain nutrients is denoted by the CEC of the rootzone (Cation-exchange capacity). This is a measure of how many negative sites exist in your soil matrix onto which positively charged nutrient ions (cations) can bind (and be more resistant to loss through leaching). So we are talking calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), hydrogen (H), etc ions binding to negatively charged sites (typically represented by clay and organic matter).

Now if you have a low CEC rootzone, say 2.0-4.0 meq ( typically a USGA-spec golf green or a high sand content rootzone sportspitch), this type of rootzone will have a poor capacity to retain cations like potassium. If you input a high level in soluble form (> 20-25kg / K2O / Ha for example), only a small amount will be retained in the rootzone, the rest would either be taken up by the plant or leached, particularly if weather conditions were cool (slow growth=slow uptake) and there was plenty of rainfall. So there is a finite holding capacity to applied nutrient (in this case K) in your rootzone and there is also competition between nutrients for retention on these sites.

For example, if you are managing a calcareous rootzone, the majority of sites will already be occupied by calcium and so a calcareous sand rootzone (like we have on many  golf courses, sports pitches in Ireland) offers precious little retention for applied cations like potassium.

The next variable is the form of applied K

Now liquid applications of potassium are always going to be soluble in nature (kind of goes with the territory) and so these are the most sensitive to leaching, first off the leaf surface and then into the rootzone. The trade-off is that we typically do not need to apply high levels of potassium in foliar form because we know uptake of foliar nutrients is relatively inefficient. So any surplus the plant doesn’t absorb will be washed into the rootzone and then we are back where we started, i.e dependent on the nutrient retention of the rootzone. Granular applications of nutrient can also be in soluble form (potassium sulphate, potassium nitrate, e.t.c) but they can also be in slow release, organic or controlled release form. The latter limit the release of K to the rootzone (and hence the plant) , are less sensitive to leaching and so make sense to use in low CEC – high leaching potential scenarios.

I remember tangling horns with an agronomist from the U.S once who recommended applying straight potassium sulphate granular (0-0-50) at 20gms/m2 on a monthly basis to a relatively new USGA-spec rootzone. So that’s 100kg / K2O/ ha / per application. The rootzone was high sand, low CEC and not surprisingly at the end of the season had no more retained potassium than a ‘control green’ to which only 150kg / K2O / ha / year had been applied. The surplus K that wasn’t retained in the rootzone or taken up by the plant was leached. There was no significant difference in plant tissue K levels.

So the question was….If I applied 50kg / Ha of K granular vs. 50kg / Ha of K foliar only, what would be the difference in ppm in a soil test over a certain duration ?

My answer would be that the granular input would result in a higher soil ppm figure but that figure would be wholely-dependent on the CEC of the rootzone. The foliar input would I think always result in a lower soil ppm figure because you’d be applying smaller amounts and therefore less would reach the soil matrix. What would be the difference in ppm between the two systems ? well tricky to say because to answer that we’d need to understand the CEC and the form of applied K. So I don’t think there’s a ‘clear number’ because of the other variables involved, but one system would input more soil K than the other.

For me applying potassium should be in line with the requirements of the grass plant (typically 2.0-3.0% K in leaf tissue) and whether the plant obtains this from a direct foliar application or from a soil application isn’t the most important thing. In practice most end-users apply potassium in a mixture of granular and liquid forms and I like to use the former during periods of the season when we are more sensitive to leaching losses (cool and wet periods like the winter) and typically to apply in slow release or controlled release form.

Once last thing, a wise old owl back in my formative years commented to me that grass doesn’t grow on a piece of paper. In this day and age where information is everywhere and everything, it’s worth remembering that we are dealing with nature and along with it, a multitude of variables, so I take numbers as a guide not gospel when it comes to this sort of thing.

OK that’s a wrap for another week, have to go and see another man about a dog 🙁

Enjoy the sun and the nice temperatures this week and let’s hope there’s some rain on the forecast when I sit down to type this next week 🙂

All the best.

Mark Hunt

 

 

 

March 18th

Hi All,

After another wild and windy weekend it makes a change this morning to look out and see the trees hardly moving. I don’t know about you but I think it was unprecedented to endure so many consecutive days of high winds. My friend who runs three Trout fishing reservoirs told me he can’t ever remember losing 8 days on the bounce (because they have a 25mph wind threshold safety limit for their boats) to high wind speed during the season and he’s been doing the job for 30+ years. Another feature of our changing weather may be with more energy in the weather systems, I wonder ?

It was a real 4 seasons in one day yesterday. I was fishing in the morning and at some points I had warm sunshine on my back, gale force winds uplifting my mug of earl grey and rain, sleet, snow whisking past my ears. Haven’t seen any Sand Martins yet on the water and I’d have expected to do so around this time as they are the first of our Martins, Swallows and Swifts to arrive. Perhaps with the better forecast for the coming week and beyond we will see them gracing our waters. (they tend to concentrate on reservoirs first to fatten up after the long haul from Africa)

We have also had a run of wet weather with even dry Leicestershire recording > 50mm for March so far. Further west, north and south, you’d have got 3x that rainfall I’d say. So it seems strange then that there are still some concerns about water reserves for the coming summer from the Environmental Agency, or does it ?.

Out of interest I have re-visited my E.T vs. Rainfall chart that I started up last summer to see how much the winter has changed our deficient rainfall situation. I know locally our reservoirs have recovered well over the last 2-3 weeks.

In last week’s blog I had a hunch that the ever-present Atlantic high pressure system (see above) would play a role in our upcoming weather and that’s what we are due to see over the coming week, a nice uplift in day and night temperatures, a drop in wind speed and a little sunshine here and there thrown in. Can’t complain..

General Weather Situation

So starting off on Monday we have a mixed picture to greet us with a front of rain pushing across south-east across Ireland. Further north we see this rain front pushing showers and heavier spells of rain into north-west and south-west Scotland. The north-west of England is also in the firing line currently with plenty of showers pushing in off the Mersey estuary and into the north of England. As we go through the day some of these showers will push inland across Wales and into western counties of the U.K. So a cloudy and unsettled day for many with the best of any brightness over the north-east of Scotland and east coast of England. Winds will be light to moderate and temperatures will be a little up on yesterday just breaking into double figures for England, Wales and Ireland and a degree or two down for Scotland.

Onto Tuesday and overnight that rain front fizzles out to isolated showers along the north-west coast of England, but we also will see a new front of thicker cloud and drizzle / light rain push into the west of Ireland in time of the morning rush hour. This will push east across The Irish Sea into the west of Scotland, England and Wales from lunchtime onwards, clearing Ireland as it does so. So for central and eastern areas, a dry day, on the dull side, but feeling milder with a light to moderate westerly wind. This should see temperatures climb into the low teens across southern counties of England, Ireland and Wales, with Scotland seeing some showers and thicker clouds move in from the west during the 2nd part of the day and that’ll peg back temperatures to low double digits. Here we can expect the wind to be a little stronger so a moderate to strong westerly wind in situ across Scotland.

Onto Wednesday and a largely dry day beckons save for some showers pushing into the north-west of Scotland from the off and hanging around for most of the day. Dull again, a feature of this week the lack of sun, for Ireland, England and Wales, but there’s always a chance of some hazy sunshine breaking through and lifting temperatures up towards the mid-teens as warm air from that Atlantic high begins to make its presence felt. As we progress through Wednesday, we should see more in the way of sunshine for eastern and southern areas as the cloud breaks. Still a bit wet and windy unfortunately across the north-west of Scotland, but elsewhere dry, with an improving forecast. Winds will be light to moderate westerlies (stronger across Scotland) and I’d expect 12-14°C for most areas, again Scotland sitting 2-3°C behind because of the nearness of low pressure.

Thursday sees a weather front cross Ireland overnight and this will introduce thick cloud and light rain to western coasts from the off on Thursday morning. Noticeable duller everywhere with maybe the only chance of seeing the sun across the Moray Firth and eastwards towards Fraserburgh, my old hunting grounds 🙂 So overcast and showery across the western coasts of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland on Thursday morning. More rain will push in through the late morning to affect all western and south-western areas with heavier rain across western and central Scotland for the 2nd part of the day. A noticeably dull day but not cold with low teens expected across Ireland, England and Wales, with Scotland cooler under that thicker cloud and heavier rain. Towards the end of the day we see the cloud thin and sunshine break through over Connacht. Continuing mild then with low teen temperatures likely for most areas with Scotland a little down on this. A strong to moderate south-westerly wind as well on Thursday associated with that weak rain front.

Closing out the week on Friday and we see a much better day with sunshine from the off for Scotland and the north-west of Ireland. Elsewhere we will start dull and drizzly. As we progress through the day, the thick cloud cover will break and further south will see long spells of winter sunshine. There will be some rain and wintry showers pushing into the north-west of Scotland, but away from this looks like being a much sunnier and settled day. So showers across north-western coast of Scotland and dry, sunny settled elsewhere. Temperature-wise, expect similar to Thur, that’s 12-14°C, with the cooler temperatures under that isolated cloud cover.

One caveat on Friday’s weather that needs mentioning. Some sites are showing a band of rain moving over Ireland and down across the U.K, whereas others are showing nothing at all. Very strange so I’ve dispatched a few emails to query.

So looking ahead to the weekend and we see a rain front push in overnight from The Atlantic and this rain will push across Ireland into Scotland and the north-west of England in the small hours of Saturday morning. So Saturday looks like starting very wet for Ireland, Scotland and the north / north-west of England with the rain across the western side of the country. Some of this rain may extend south into The Midlands and across North Wales. Later on Saturday afternoon this rain begins to clear Ireland from the north-west leaving isolated showers across Wales and the north-west of England by dusk. Sunday sees the wind turn northerly which will mean a cool (ish) start to the day but at this stage it looks like it’ll be a sunny and dry one just about everywhere as high pressure calls the shots. So not a bad day at all with plenty of spring sunshine. If there is a chance of cloud and some rain, it’ll be for north-west Scotland and here you may see some wintry showers in the mix on Sunday morning.

Weather Outlook

So after a better week, will high pressure hold out to keep temperatures up and rainfall away ?

Well the start of next week looks like high pressure remains in charge pushing any cooler and wetter weather away and pretty much staying in a dominant position for the whole week. So that means dry, warm and settled weather for the 2nd part of March after a wet and unsettled 1st part of the month. I know long-term outlook aren’t one of my favourites, but I can see this weather running into the start of April.

Agronomic Notes

How are our soils faring from a moisture perspective ?

You may remember last year I plotted out rainfall vs. E.T at our Thame location to see how the moisture deficit played out across what was one of our hottest summers. The last time I did this was the end of October and we were -311mm odd from the first of June, 2018. That means that over the summer we had lost 311mm more moisture by evapotranspiration than had been replaced by natural rainfall. Now of course this model does not take into account the input of moisture by irrigation but a lot of outfield areas have no irrigation fitted anyway or when we get to a high E.T summer (like 2018), many end-users have to make a decision where best to use the water reserves they have. (an outfield is the first to go usually)

So although the Thame location in Oxfordshire that I use isn’t one of the wettest, it reflects perfectly that central belt of the U.K where we tend not to get high levels of annual rainfall. Their annual rainfall in 2018 was 561mm (about 130mm more than I measured here in Leicestershire incidentally) which I think is typical of Central England.

Here’s how the moisture deficit looks taking E.T and rainfall from last June right up to yesterday.

So over the winter we have recovered about half of the moisture deficit from last summer, -154mm vs. -311mm.

That’s a lot less than I expected to see in terms of recovery and is primarily because of the mild and dry start to 2019 during which we began to increase our moisture deficit due to the lack of rain !

Now I fully accept that there will be a lot of you reading this with not a care in the world regarding irrigation water availability as you have had more than enough rainfall these last 2-3 weeks, in fact the opposite will apply.

The other side of the coin though for Central England particularly is that we shouldn’t discount the potential of facing water restrictions at some point this year. Remember also that we went into summer 2018 with very high water reserves after the very wet and cold spring. That will not be the case this year unless April and May throw us a curve ball meteorologically.

You can download the above chart here

Improving Growth Forecast…..

I’ve projected the daily maximum and minimum temperatures from today till the end of March for our Thame location and converted it into daily growth potential.

Below is a schematic of growth since January 1st. You can see that we will be pulling in some nice consistent growth for the 2nd half of March, nothing too strong though and certainly if these figures pan out as projected, March 2019 will only come in as a moderately good growth month when we stack it up against previous years. (though considerably better than 2018 of course when we were enduring blizzards at this stage !)

If I look at some locations around the U.K and Ireland, the next 7 days shows reasonably good growth with Scotland behind the curve courtesy of some cooler temperatures and more rainfall.

Total Projected Growth Potential over next 7 days….

  • Central England – 2.6
  • Midlands – 2.1
  • South Wales – 2.4
  • Scotland – 1.5
  • West Ireland – 2.2

We know good daily growth in the spring from a growth potential perspective is around 0.4, so 7 days of good spring growth should give us a figure around 2.8 (7 x 0.4) so we aren’t a million miles away from this when we look at the figures above.

More spray days…but…

You can also see that the spray days are much better as we progress through this week after high winds and rainfall have put a stop to much needed applications up until now.

Grub control – how are you getting on ?

One area I think we are still struggling as an industry is Leatherjacket and Chafer control  despite the emergency approval of Acelepryn last year. This picture shows some still open core holes from January coring this year (taken last weekend) and the culprit is clearly visible. The mild January and February of 2019 has meant that insect pathogens like these are more prolific than ever unfortunately and ahead of the game when it comes to life cycle stage I think.

Not sure where we are on Acelepryn in 2019, perhaps Glenn or Dan can drop me a line and I’ll publish an update in next week’s blog ?

As I understand it timing is critically important with this product as it has to be applied prior to start of the egg hatch and needs time to move through the surface thatch layer. Last year we didn’t get availability until June with the last application finishing on September 30th, 2018. I’m wondering if we missed the boat with Leatherjacket and Chafer control reading the technical advice (below) by not controlling the spring generations ?

Now of course we do have pathogenic nematode control for these pests just to present a balanced blog 🙂

Ok that’s me for this week, have to see a man about a dog 🙂

Enjoy the milder temperatures, All the best.

Mark Hunt

 

 

March 11th

 

Hi All,

Out walking on Saturday against a gale force wind, I could not help thinking the hedgerows and fields still carried a tinge of winter and seem slow to embrace the spring.  Hardly surprising when day time temperatures struggle into the high single figures and a pronounced windchill comes into play. 11 days into March and we are beginning to lose the advantage we gained in our warmest February with inconsistent and slow growth rates a reality on our turf surfaces. (unless you have applied 40% of your entire N for the year that is :))

There are (maybe) fleeting signs of a warmer air stream but these are still over a week away as it stands now. If this does come to pass it still means 60% of the month will have passed by with cooler than normal conditions. February and March – a role reversal and another reason why the calendar is no longer a good guide. That said, one of my over-wintering Hedgepigs decided to come out of hibernation late last week, that’s 2 weeks earlier than expected and boy is he / she a hungry Hedgehog ! Lovely to see though.

Ok onto the weather for the coming week because Tempus fugit my friends…:)

Image courtesy of meteocentre.com

General Weather Situation

As you can see from the GFS output above we are currently stuck in a trough pattern in the jet stream into which successive Atlantic low pressure systems deposit themselves and pull in unsettled, cool and wet weather and strong westerly winds. By and large this is our pattern for the week though it will occasionally tip on its side to pull north-westerlies in and chill down the temperatures a tad so let’s put some detail on it.

Monday dawns bright and cold as I look out of my office window and that’s the way we look to stay for most of the day for the U.K and Ireland with cloud building from the west this afternoon. So a nice dry but cold start to the week after a soggy weekend for many. Late afternoon we see a heavy rain front push into the west of Ireland make haste eastwards into Scotland, the north-west of England, West Wales and The South West later tonight. Here it may initially fall as wintry showers over elevation. By the wee hours of Tuesday it has cleared Ireland and is covering all of the U.K, with some heavy rain and snow (for elevation in Scotland and northern England). A cool day with temperatures ranging from 8-10°C and a strong, westerly wind decreasing as the day goes on a little before strengthening again overnight.

Tuesday sees that rain and wintry shower mix over all of the U.K with maybe only the east of Scotland and north-east of England missing the worst of it. Ireland looks to start cloudy and dry with scattered sunshine but still with a chance of wintry showers over The Wicklow mountains. Through the morning that heavier rain sinks south into The Midlands and central England, Wales, intensifying as it does so, whilst the north-west and west of Scotland still sees a mix of wintry showers and rain. By the afternoon we see a new rain front pushing across western Ireland and the heaviest rain in the U.K south of a line from The Severn to The Wash. North and east of this you’ll see sunshine after the rain, more so in central and eastern counties of the England and Scotland, whilst Ireland will see a west-east divide when it comes to the rain / wintry showers mix. By dusk, one rain front is departing into The Channel, the next is pitching up across the western coastline of the U.K and again falling as wintry showers over elevation and maybe down to lower levels across South Wales into Tuesday night. For Ireland the rain will centralise through Tuesday evening with maybe just the south of Munster / Leinster missing the worst of it. Really windy overnight again with gales and very strong winds first off on Tuesday and these winds will peg the temperatures back to mid-single figures for everyone, allied to a strong windchill.

Wednesday sees that wind turn north-westerly and that’ll push a raft of rain, hail and wintry showers down from the north-west of the U.K across The Midlands and into Central England and across the north-west of Ireland. They’ll still also be a threat of a Christmas Pudding scenario on the Sugarloaf to boot. Through the morning these showers will become more confined to the north and north-western regions with sunshine breaking through. Still the risk of blustery showers, a four seasons in one day scenario if you’re out and about. Really, really windy again from the off on Wednesday with gales and strong gusts of wind making life tricky. The wind will gradually weaken as we go through the 2nd half of the day. Temperature-wise, a bit milder on Wednesday with temperatures up into double figures in that gusty wind so there is a slight up side 🙂

Overnight into Thursday and the seemingly relentless raft of wind and rain kicks in again with a heavy rain front pushing into the north and west of Ireland in the early hours and soon pushing across The Irish Sea into Scotland, the north-west of England, Wales and The South West. By dawn it’ll have spread down to most areas of the U.K and Ireland so a wet start to Thursday mornings rush hour. So again a pretty wet day on Thursday with heavy rain across Ireland, the west and north-west and some central areas. Later in the afternoon they’ll be some breaks in the rain across the east of England and this will be followed by brighter weather pushing into the west at dusk. Again a very windy day with gales and strong gusts of wind from the north west from the off. The only plus side will be that the temperatures will stay up in double figures through the day and actually through the night.

Closing out a wet and blooming windy week, Friday sees a re-run of Thursday with rain crossing Ireland in the early hours before pushing into the west of England, Wales and Scotland in time for the morning rush hour.  This rain will quickly clear Ireland and the west as it goes, maybe lingering over elevation in the north and west but some longer spells of sunshine in-between blustery showers are likely going through the day. We should end up with a nice and sunny picture across most of the U.K and Ireland, maybe still with some wintry showers across the north and west though. Temperatures stay up in the low double figures in that sunshine and strong north westerly / westerly wind, though maybe a little quieter than earlier in the week.

No surprise then that the outlook for the weekend continues unsettled with a trough system and low pressure dominating the weather dynamic. The plus point will be a dropping wind strength through the weekend though I’d suggest a sunshine and blustery wintry showers scenario is likely for Saturday and Sunday. No point me putting anymore detail on the rain than that because you’ll see closer to the weekend where and when it’ll fall. The wind is also likely to swing northwards through the 2nd part of Saturday and that’ll make things cooler with a risk of frost of Sunday morning perhaps. Of the two days, Saturday looks the most unsettled so a nice early start for a walk on Sunday in a crisp frost on non-thawed fields could be just what the mind and soul requires 🙂

Weather Outlook

Image courtesy of meteocentre.com

So here’s how we look to start next week and if you look at the GFS gif at the start of the blog there is a subtle difference with the demarcation line of cold air lifting higher. That’ll hopefully allow milder air from the Atlantic high pressure to introduce a milder air stream into our weather mix from the start of next week.  So next week looks like starting unsettled with a milder, westerly wind and rain across the U.K and Ireland through Monday and Tuesday. As that high starts to exert its influence, the unsettled weather will lift up so we will see less rain in the south and across central areas and it become more bias to the north and west through the week. I think towards the end of next week we will see the winds drop and maybe more in the way of sunshine but with a risk of night frost. This will continue through the weekend before a new low pressure system whips in from The Atlantic.

Agronomic Notes

So after a great February, things have kind of ground to a bit of a halt wise when it comes to growth unless of course you’ve shoved 40kg / ha of N on in one go 🙂

Looking at last week and then the prognosis for this week on Meteoturf, we aren’t exactly tearing the trees down growth-wise…

So a rip-roaring 6 cumulative GDD (0.8 cumulative G.P) in this week’s forecast isn’t that great and to put it in perspective, when we have a really good March from a growing perspective I’d expect to see something like 28 cumulative GDD (2.8 cumulative G.P).

This time last year we were staring down the barrel of a late Sudden Stratospheric Warming event and a very cold, wet spring but actually the prognosis for the same week in 2018 from a cumulative GDD perspective was around 8.5, here in Market Harborough, so we are similar or even a tad colder than the same week in 2018 unfortunately.

Looking at our Thame location, we can see that the cumulative GDD to date is now well behind 2017, but still ahead of 2018, courtesy of a much warmer February.

2019 GDD are projected till 18/03/19

So what does this mean in the real world ?

Well it means growth will be on the slow side this week, nothing dramatic I am afraid if you are looking for recovery from aeration and / or disease scars. The loss of wind later in the week and the return of cold nights will grind us to a zero scenario from a GDD / G.P perspective.

That said I’m hopeful if the weather plays out properly thereafter that we should see a pick up in that milder westerly air stream. Kind of a funny one really because if you looked at March in isolation you’d say it was bloody cold and the spring is late but because we had such a warm end to February, the mindset is still somewhere in-between I think.

Nutrition-wise it means sticking to a granular scenario for the time-being if you want / need a turf response (not that you’d be able to spray too much currently judging by the wind strength looking out of my office window !)

Low temperature-available nitrogen is the name of the game so that means ammonium sulphate, potassium nitrate and / or ammonium nitrate-biased formulations and of course at a time of year when you may or may not want to knock back moss, having some iron input as well will do no harm.

Bit of disease activity doing the rounds last week..

There were a couple of occasions last week when the wind dropped and the temperature / humidity dynamic increased enough for it to push on activity on existing scars.

Looking at my Netatmo readings, the worst nights were the 6th and 9th of March for my location.

You can see the scenario below ;

So reasonably mild overnight temperatures and a wet grass leaf for long enough for mycelium activity. In my experience this was principally confined to existing disease scars where a high population of mycelium / spores are already present.

So looking at some scarring on greens, this sort of dynamic is going on…(2016/17 scenario shown below)

When we do eventually get that uplift sometime in March / April we will see a final resurgence of disease before (hopefully) the growth rate of the grass out-strips the pathogen and healing takes place. It’s a potent reminder though that if you are / were unlucky enough to get caught with heavy disease scarring in mid-October, it is realistic to still be looking at scarring 6 months later, particularly of course if your greens are Poa dominated (like most).

What are the learns of 2018 / 19 from a disease perspective ?

Well there are many in my mind and some of those learns generate questions that currently I am unable to answer…Using my disease prediction model (under development), you can see how the disease severity panned out over the autumn / winter for a golf club in Kent…

So the first real peak of activity was at the end of August but at that time grass growth was strong so this may only have shown as some copper blotches which soon grew out.

The next significant peak which caused scarring for many was mid-October (3rd year on a bounce that it has occurred at that time) and then we saw the highest disease pressure in December courtesy of that Atlantic high pressure system pushing up mild, humid air. The highest disease spike of the whole season occurred on Christmas Eve as we experienced mild day and night temperatures, 100% humidity, no wind and 24-hour plant leaf wetness due to the air temperature and dew point being equal all through the day and night. Thereafter the spikes have been of lower magnitude and really correlate with activity around existing scars only.

So you can see why some people got to Christmas week, maybe breathing a premature sigh of relief at reasonably clean greens, but with the wet and windy weather run up didn’t manage to get a preventative down. And then got nailed.

Even amongst those end-users that did get a preventative down, some still saw aggressive activity maybe because uptake was slow or just that the balance tipped so comprehensively towards pathogen development ?

We know there’s always the dynamic between the rate of pathogen population growth vs. the rate of control of the fungicide. Sometimes the climatic conditions tip very much in favour of the pathogen and even with high A.I-loaded products (like Instrata for example), we still see disease development.

Leap frog ahead to autumn 2020 when we no longer have these products available and have maybe 4-5 systemics labelled for use on Microdochium, (some of which are stronger than others) life will get even more entertaining from a disease control perspective.

So it is obvious then that we have to work harder at controlling the other factors that influence disease other than fungicide applications. But what are they ?

Grass Species…

Well first and foremost is grass species in my mind, that is working to introduce a mix of grass species to your surface and not having all your eggs in one basket. We have seen some interesting debate on Twitter recently about the use of ryegrass cultivars (tolerant to close mowing) on fine turf. Now for many that would leave a bad taste in the mouth and if Jim Arthur was still alive, a vitriolic response I’m sure. Just to be clear here, I had the dubious honour of debating with Jim many years ago during a talk I was giving at Sparsholt College (thanks for that one Jeff :). We had an animated and interesting debate, after which we sat down and had lunch together, I liked him. I may not have agreed with everything he said or wrote, but I did respect him.

I was chatting to a good customer / friend recently who has been over-sowing rye on his heavily-played greens for many years than he cares to remember. He cuts them low, he has lower than average disease pressure and it doesn’t build fibre. For him, his club and his punters, it works.

OK for some a step too far and I understand that totally, but above all things in the next few interesting years, we must keep an open mind.

Whatever grass species floats your boat we have the interesting issue of establishment and the oft-quoted comment “I see lovely lines and then nothing…”

Here quite clearly the enemy is surface organic matter (S.O.M) and rather than talk %, I’ll talk thatch structure. If your S.O.M is compact in nature, that is to say if you try to push a knife in sideways, it is heavily resistant to this process, then you are up against it. If you see mainly lateral rooting in the turf sample (sideways rooting) then the nature of the S.O.M is such that existing grass cannot physically develop a root downwards, so what chance would we give newly-introduced grass seedling ?

The answer is obviously to incorporate enough topdressing through the S.O.M so it is not compact and the plant can root easily down through the surface into the rootzone below. You can of course achieve the same result by hollow coring, i.e removing a plug of S.O.M and filling it with sand and then seed. The new seedling sits just under the cutting height (so has more chance of survival) and no impediment to new root growth.

So maybe rather than just thinking about overseeding, look at what you are overseeding into and do the preparation beforehand in order to gain a good result ?

I’ll cover some of the other factors in my preceding blogs but I note that the 1 p.m. deadline is fast approaching and my Inbox is filling up (again).

All the best this windy week, take care when driving or when you are out and about on your facility for falling branches and trees.

Mark Hunt

 

March 4th

 

Hi All,

As the wind still howls outside, Storm Freya is exiting stage right into The North Sea to ply her trade elsewhere and the country recovers from a battering of wind, rain and further north, snow. Now quite a case of ‘Beware the Ides of March’, but the month has certainly started off with a bang compared to the mild and balmy days of late February. As you’ll see later in the blog, February 2019 came in as the warmest we have measured from a GDD / G.P perspective in some locations (but not all). According to the Met Office, it featured the highest, average daily maximum temperatures (10°C) and the warmest February day on record, 20.1°C in England and 20.6°C in Wales, since records began in 1910.

March promises to be a different kettle of fish me thinks with a very windy and unsettled start to the month, courtesy of low pressure systems rolling in from The Atlantic and I can see this continuing for the next 7-10 days as it stands now.

General Weather Situation

As one low pressure exits, another one lines up and so we see showers already on Monday morning crossing Ireland, The South West and South Wales heading on a north-easterly trajectory. The wind though westerly has its origins in Northern Scandinavia so is much cooler than of late meaning some of these showers will be wintry in nature across the mountains of Wales. So for Monday we see showers and heavier outbreaks of rain pushing across Ireland into Wales and The South West on Monday morning before heading inland through the latter part of the morning, afternoon. A day of sunshine and showers for many. Ireland will clear from the west as these showers move eastwards and at present the main area affected will be south of The Humber. Scotland will also see a day of sunshine and showers with the main wintry shower activity on the north-west coast with some pushing more inland during the morning. The wind will remain strong to moderate and westerly but as mentioned above, it’ll feel noticeably cooler with temperatures ranging from 6-9°C.

Tuesday sees a repeat of a bright start for some and rain for others as this time the emphasis of the rain is for the northern half of Ireland, the north-west of England and south-west of Scotland. Again with the cooler temperatures we can expect a repeat of wintry conditions across The Pennines and the mountains of Scotland. Further south of this will see a bright start for England and Wales after a cold night, but cloud will build from late morning heralding the arrival of heavy rain into The South West on Tuesday afternoon. Unlike Monday’s rain, this affair will push across country into southern England and The Midlands quickly through the late afternoon till we see rain covering all of Ireland, England and Wales by Tuesday evening. Scotland though should stay dry until the early hours and as that moist air meets colder air, expect it to turn to snow on the leading edge. The wind will be ever-so-slightly south-westerly on Tuesday so it’ll feel milder with temperatures pushing up into the low double figures, expect 10-13°C.

Onto Wednesday and a messy picture as dawn breaks with the bulk of the rain and wintry showers expected to be sitting over Northern Ireland, south-west and Central Scotland. Further south we see thicker cloud and some showery outbreaks across England and Wales from the off. Ireland will also see thicker cloud and some rain and wintry showers towards the north but as we progress through the day, sunny intervals will break out and the cloud will clear from the south-west. For the U.K, expect the pattern of earlier in the day to prevail, plenty of rain across the north-west, south-west and Central Scotland with wintry showers at elevation. Further south we will see a mix of fleeting sunshine and heavier bursts of rain across Wales and England with the north of England set to pick up some heavier rain. Across The Pennines, The Peak district and higher elevations in Wales, that rain may fall as snow / wintry showers. A very strong south-westerly wind will be the feature of Wednesday but it’ll keep the temperatures up into the low teens for Wales and England, whereas Ireland and Scotland will stay down in the high single figures.

Thursday sees the overnight unsettled conditions clear Ireland and so you’ll enjoy a brighter, dry start to the day. Not so for the U.K, where a mix of rain and wintry showers will dominate the morning rush hour with heavy rain and wintry showers spread all over England, Wales and Scotland. Through the morning the wind will swing round to the north-west so that’ll peg back the temperatures and push that mix of rain and wintry showers down south clearing Scotland and the north of England through the 2nd part of the day. So a good day for Ireland, half and half for Scotland and the north of England and for Wales, Central and southern England, a day of thick cloud and outbreaks of rain. Feeling cooler in that fresh north-westerly wind with temperatures lucky to break double figures anywhere.

End of the working week (hurrah to that) and a much better weather picture as most places will greet dawn with sunshine and dry conditions. I say most places because the north-west of Scotland looks to be the exception with some wintry showers likely from the off. Through the morning, we will see some cloud build across Ireland and the west of the U.K, but we should still stay dry 🙂 By Friday afternoon though, rain will push into Kerry, The South West and Wales and move across Ireland, England and Wales through the late afternoon / early evening. By Friday night, expect to see a band of rain and wintry showers extending across Ireland and the western half of England, Wales and Scotland. This rain band will clear Ireland in the small hours but it’ll continue to move eastwards covering all of the U.K by the early hours of Saturday. Remaining cool despite the westerly wind with temperatures in the 8-10°C range.

No surprise then that the outlook for next weekend is err… unsettled.

Saturday will see a bright start for Ireland and cloud cover that soon breaks over England and Wales. There will be an entrenched band of rain and wintry showers across the north west of England and west of Scotland through most of Saturday, fizzling out from the south in the 2nd half of the day. A better 2nd half of the day for England and Wales as that cloud breaks and we see long spells of sunshine. We will still have that very strong, blustery westerly wind though and that’ll peg the temperatures down to high single / low double figures and make fly fishing a bit of a bitch for me 🙁 Still a risk of showers on Saturday, pushed in on that strong westerly wind but less than Friday. Early on Saturday evening sees a new front of heavy rain push into western Ireland and push eastwards quickly on Saturday night / Sunday morning so a mixed day of sunshine and showers beckons for Sunday I think. With low pressure centred over the U.K on Sunday, expect a repeat of this Sunday past, i.e strong westerly winds and plenty of rain. At this stage, the southern half of the U.K looks to be in the firing line but that might change. So a very windy and unsettled end to the weekend for a 2nd week in a row.

Weather Outlook

Well remaining unsettled is the theme for the 2nd week of March but with high pressure sitting out in The Atlantic it’ll put a different skew on the weather and may well change the outlook if it dominates over the lows. So at this stage, Monday looks to start wet, unsettled and with a north-westerly wind pushing rain down through the U.K and Ireland. On Tuesday the wind switches to a more westerly aspect, so milder, but much wetter with a low pressure due to pass over us through the course of the day. Wednesday sees that wind switch back north-westerly, cooler again and a day of sunshine and showers. Thursday sees that pattern continue with a north-westerly wind and sunshine and showers and remaining cool. We may just see the influence of high pressure towards the end of next week across the south of England before we see more unsettled and windy weather pushing in from the west. So unsettled, remaining windy and on the cool side folks is my synopsis for next week.

Agronomic Notes

As usual for the first blog of the month, we will take a look back at the preceding month and what a month it was..

February GDD Summary – Thame Location

So for our Oxfordshire location, February 2019 didn’t come in as the highest GDD, lagging behind 2017 courtesy of a colder start to the month this year. Nevertheless, it still represented one of our warmest February’s and rather different to 2018 which came in with a total GDD of 5.5. Needless to say we are well ahead of 2018 from a temperature – growth perspective and more importantly I think you can see that in terms of general grass growth and the countryside in general. Figures are fine but if they don’t tally with what we see on the ground they are worthless.

The reason why the GDD (and G.P for that matter) doesn’t reflect the Met Office’s warmest maximum daily temperature average is because it takes into account minimum temperatures as well and although we had some high teen days during late February, we also had some pretty hard frosts on the same day and that’s what has pegged back the GDD / G.P data at this location.

From a cumulative perspective, the cold January has held back 2019 so far (but then we are only in month 3 :)) so nothing stand-out at the moment.

Looking at the last 2 years from a daily Growth Potential perspective, you can see the differences in growth patterns, with 2018 reflecting a mild January and a cold February and 2019, vice-versa.

How far ahead of last year are we ?

Well at this location, we reached a total GDD figure of 52.5 at the end of February 2019 and we didn’t reach that figure in 2018 till the 16th of March, so about 16 days ahead of last year.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – U.K Locations

Thanks as usual to everyone for sending their monthly stats in on both sides of The Irish Sea, it is always appreciated.

So you can see some quite wide variability in the GDD stats with our location at Thame coming out the lowest of the bunch and Milton Keynes, the highest. I’ve looked into the stats and the difference was due to higher night-time temperatures at the latter location (probably due to cloud cover) and severe frosts at the former. A dry month for everyone with the south-west locations picking up the best of the rainfall and The Midlands and Fife coming out the lowest of the rainfall totals (yet again). Can’t complain though because with early warmth and dry surfaces, you chaps have been able to crack on with winter and spring projects. Many of you I see have also taken the opportunity to aerate early and overseed areas thin from last summer. All we need now is consistent growth and above all, consistent rainfall.

GDD & Rainfall Comparison – Irish Locations

Well the Irish locations mirror very similar GDD and rainfall figures to the U.K ones, so it is clear that Ireland also enjoyed a good start to 2019 with excellent temperatures. Wetter across the south and west for sure with Dublin coming in as the driest location receiving similar rainfall to here in Leicestershire. Although the figures are similar, the temperature pattern was different across Ireland compared to England with not so high day time temperatures but higher night-time ones, so the amount of GDD / G.P was very similar. In practice the growth would have been more consistent in Ireland than the U.K because of the absence of frosts in many locations.

To validate this point I thought I’d do the same daily G.P comparison for an Irish location and so I picked Claremorris in beautiful (when it isn’t raining) Co. Mayo.

You can clearly see the differences between the two years and if you look at the 2019 graph, the level of growth is actually higher than the U.K location towards the end of February, courtesy of milder night temperatures.

If we carry out the same GDD comparison, the difference between 2019 and 2018 for this location is significantly different than the Thame location above. At the end of Feb 2019, Claremorris hit 95.2 – y.t.d cumulative GDD (bear in mind the Thame location only hit 52.5 on the same date) and it didn’t hit the same figure in 2018 till the 20th of April, so here they’re a good 7 weeks ahead of 2018 and that’s amazing. Work away.

Aeration timing and focus…

One of my old chesnuts is of course early aeration and this year presents a fantastic argument for undertaking organic matter removal / vertidraining, e.t.c and getting recovery before the spring season starts in earnest from a golf perspective.  If ever there was a year to show the calendar should be confined to the rubbish bin from a golf course / sports pitch maintenance perspective, it’s this one. Look at the comparison below of 2 Meteoturf outputs, one taken on the 18th of February, 2019, the other for today.

The projection is for 26 GDD w/c 18/02/19 vs. 8 GDD w/c 04/03/19, that ‘s some difference !

So the earlier date provided more consistent growth from a temperature perspective.

You could of course say that we were dry over the earlier period and the days were a bit shorter, but I think you’d be splitting hairs a tad 🙂

Surface Organic Matter Levels

As poor Wendy in our office would testify to, we have been undertaking a lot of surface organic matter testing and it is opening my eyes a tad on a number of areas.

Firstly we can talk about guideline levels, i.e where should you be aiming for ?

Well so far our testing has shown this is very site-specific and that it really relates to the history of the site you are testing. For example if you have a new USGA-spec golf green (I say new, in the last 10 years or so), it’s logical that the majority of the organic matter accumulation will be in the top 25mm unless aeration and topdressing has been sadly lacking. In this scenario I think a level of 3.0% is a worthwhile target however that said I would look at a green on the course that represents a firm surface, takes a ball well and displays good pace and use this as my target O.M level. After all a number of a piece of paper is but that.

We also have to accept variability in this process because O.M levels are not consistent as we look across a green surface. Wear pathways on and off greens to the usual pin position areas will typically display less surface O.M than areas away from foot traffic where the pin is rarely placed. If you’re sampling across a greens surface you will probably have a mixture of O.M levels in the sample because of this very feature unless of course your greens are totally flat.

If you are sampling greens in shade I would expect lower surface O.M levels because of lower light levels and less fibre-contributing growth. I make this distinction because some of you who measure clipping yield report higher clipping levels on shaded greens and this must be due to more shoot etiolation in low light conditions (i.e more shoot growth above the cutting height). Does this type of growth contribute to higher O.M levels in shade ? I don’t think so.

I tend to find lower O.M levels in shade to a point where reduction of O.M any further should be questioned. After all there is a base level to O.M measurement below which sward integrity starts to suffer. Pitch marks bruise more easily and are slow to heal, surface thinning is often evident and moss / algae encroachment, more common.

What is this base figure ?

Well I think it varies depending on the age, grass type and rootzone composition of the green you are managing.

 

The guideline that applies to your site must surely be orientated around your grass species mix, rootzone and local climatic conditions (shade, greens design, etc) and over time with more sampling, a pattern should become evident of what is the right level of surface organic matter on your site.

No hard and fast data from my end at the moment, but I will pass on our findings at some point this year probably in a seminar format.

OK,  a quick proof read and off we go as publishing should be at 1p.m !!!1

All the best

Mark Hunt