Monthly Archives: January 2020

January 27th – Mini (ish) Blog

Hi All,

Another mini blog this week until I get sorted family-wise. On that front apologies for anyone looking for me on the stand on Thursday at BTME, I had to ship out early on Thursday morning to get to hospital. Not the nicest experience I can tell you but an enlightening one driving through Harrogate at 2.30 a.m. and seeing  who was still out on the town !

BTME Early Bird Run

Image top right, Dan lecturing runners on working mechanism of Instrata Elite 🙂

It wasn’t all bars and beer at Harrogate, thanks to Syngenta’s Early Bird Run on the Wednesday morning at 6.15 a.m. Thanks also to the ever-present, Headland fitness guru, Alex Hawkes, for dragging me out of bed at 5.45 a.m. to run this event and the previous morning….I’m not a morning runner but I’m learning to be one thanks to Alex !!!!

Brilliant idea by the Syngenta team, great for BIGGA to get behind it and thanks to everyone that turned up and supported and / or did the run. Think there was around 120 people and for everyone turning up, £10 was donated by Syngenta to C.A.L.M. You can read more about their cause here

 I can tell you it wasn’t easy getting out of bed that morning but knowing it was another £10 out of Rod, Dan and Glenn’s Syngenta budget spurred me on 🙂

On a serious note personally I know all too well how keeping fit by running, mountain biking and walking is good for my state of mind and how much good it does me in general.

It’s great for managing ‘Dark Dog Days’ as my mate calls them. We all do it differently I know and some of you may not have to, well you are lucky. Keeping fit and getting outdoors is so good for your mental perspective, at least that’s what I tell the Mrs when I’m fly fishing and burning my way through 3.500 calories at the same time !!! (Fly fishing is a very active form of fishing !) 

General Weather Situation

OK, so here’s a summary of the week ahead weather-wise ;

So this week will see a succession of low pressure systems push through the U.K & Ireland. This has already seen rain move through this morning and more rain showers, some of them wintry and heavy over higher ground are set to cross Ireland and the U.K, pushing up from the south west. Scotland will also see a belt of heavy rain / wintry showers move from the south west across central and eastern areas later. Winds will strengthen through the day and stay reasonably mild southerlies / south westerlies. Temperature-wise 7-9°C is likely.

Overnight into Tuesday we will see more rain move across the U.K & Ireland but by Tuesday morning the wind will shift round to a cool north-westerly and that’ll push the rain across The South West and also the north and Scotland. Much windier on Tuesday with a bracing feel to the weather and any rain could fall as sleet or snow north of The Pennines. Drier across central and southern areas but still with rain across the west and north-west of Ireland.

Wednesday sees high pressure across France push the rain more northwards and so we should have a largely dry day for the U.K & Ireland save for a mix of rain and wintry showers across the north-west of Scotland. So a drier day on Wednesday for most and with the continuing strength of the wind, a good drying day to boot ! 

Thursday maintains that wet theme for Scotland I’m afraid in what will be a very wet week up there with totals > 50mm not unlikely for the week. We may see some southerly-orientated rain across the south coast of England and Channel Islands. A change in the wind to south westerly will mean a pick up in temperatures with 8-10°C for Thursday. 

Friday sees those winds strengthen as another low pressure pushes rain across Ireland overnight and into the west of the U.K through Friday. This band of rain is projected to move into the west during Friday morning but fizzle out later in the day. With a strong westerly wind, temperatures will pick up further into double figures with 10-12°C likely at the end of the week. So central and eastern counties look dry again on Friday till later in the day or maybe that rain won’t reach you at all. Scotland and the north-west of England looks to see more of the rain / wintry showers unfortunately to cap off what will have been a pretty wet and cold week up there. 

The outlook for the weekend looks very mild, pretty windy and unsettled with showers pushing across Ireland and into the west of the U.K on both Saturday and Sunday. Some of these showers are likely inland especially on Saturday with Sunday’s rain likely to be confined to more northern areas as the wind begins to reduce a little later on Sunday. We should maintain double figures through the weekend temperature-wise.

Weather Outlook

At first sight the GFS projected output (above) for next Monday doesn’t look exactly brilliant with a southerly-orientated low pressure set to swing over us through the course of Monday / Tuesday. So expect next week to continue the mild, windy and unsettled theme from the weekend however there may be (just may be) a hint of a change on the way with high pressure projected to start building from mid-week, next week leading to drier, cooler conditions for everyone. So I expect us to go colder from mid-week, next week with a northerly wind, the return of night frosts and much cooler day and night time temperatures. It wouldn’t surprise me if this change heralds in an extended period of colder weather with the risk of some snow showers for the middle of February. That said it’s a long way off from a forecasting perspective but with a high building it means a northerly and easterly aspect to the weather is more likely in my books. February is traditionally the coldest month of the year so we can’t complain as long as spring starts pretty soon afterwards that is !!!! 🙂

Agronomic Notes

Microdochium nivale activity

On Monday morning of last week the disease model I’ve been working on predicted some pretty heavy disease pressure later in the week. I took a look at the weather patterns and predicted temperatures, humidity, etc and I couldn’t really see it myself. The temperatures looked too low for Microdochium activity. 

I was happy to be proved wrong and I guess we have now reached a point where the predictive algorithm is better than its creator (well mine and Paul from I.T’s work to be exact).

So last week we did indeed see quite aggressive activity and when you look at the graph below you can clearly see why…..

It was indeed true the night temperatures were nothing to shout about but for a period of nearly 4 days we saw very little change in temperature between day maximum and night minimum.

In conjunction with this we also saw very heavy dew pressure giving extended periods of plant leaf wetness. Indeed for this whole period the level of leaf wetness didn’t dip below 10 out of total of 15 representing total leaf saturation. 

If you want to get a feel for this, the sensor above was reading 12 (out of 15 minimum) during the period of heavy dew when this photo was taken.

The result was re-activity around existing scars with some activity off green on collars, aprons and tees. If the night temperatures had been higher we would have seen more new activity rather than just re-activity on older scars in the main.

Even more interesting for me than the actual climatic data was the weather generating it.

I can start to see another pattern emerging which could in the future help increase the accuracy of disease modelling. Won’t say anymore than that because one has to protect ones I.P doesn’t one ?? 🙂

A bit of growth going on now that soil oxygen levels have increased….

It might just be me but I sensed this weekend that we saw a nice nudge up in growth last week with the milder day and night temperatures. When you look at the Growth Potential stats for January so far (these are from Northamptonshire), you can see that the grass plant has rarely been dormant this month and the cumulative effect of this growth is starting to become apparent. There’s another factor at play here as well. 

With the consistently saturated conditions of the last 16 weeks, soil oxygen levels have been very low and so even if the grass plant was able to grow because of applied nutrition and conducive air temperature, it  was unable do so. Soil oxygen levels have been growth-limiting on and off (but more on than anything) from the 23rd September, 2019 or whenever it started raining with you. Every time we get significant rain now you can see grass cover dropping away as the ground becomes saturated once again. Thankfully with a dry spell at the beginning of January and last week as well, it has given the soil a chance to dry down somewhat and most importantly the grass plant to breath again. Hence now we will see growth throughout this week in most areas of the U.K and Ireland, though Scotland with its excessive rainfall may take you back to square one again I’m afraid 🙁

OK that’s me for now.

All the best for the coming week.

Mark Hunt





January 20th – Mini Blog

Hi All,

Just a quickie blog today as I have to get my backside up to Harrogate earlier than usual this year for BTME 2020. If you feel your ears popping a bit more than usual in the early part of this week it is because we have very high pressure at the earth’s surface.

It may also affect T.V and Radio signals as well. When I say very high pressure, my Netatmo is currently showing 1052.4 mb, which is the highest I’ve ever seen it register. Apparently the early part of this week will record the highest pressure we have measured since 1902 (which was 1053 mb !). That’s a big meteorological wow !

Somewhat hilariously The Daily Mail were warning that there may be a T.V blackout during ‘Dancing on Ice’, now wouldn’t that have been a god send 🙂 !!

Isn’t it nice to finally have a bit of proper winter weather ?

I was out at Pitsford reservoir, Northants before the sun came up on Saturday morning waiting for the Trout to wake up. Simply beautiful, very parky yes, nose tingling, affirmative, but utterly gorgeous, yes sir indeedy ! Did I catch ? Yep I certainly did 🙂

This weekend areas in the shade stayed frozen all day, there was ice on the puddles and we had two penetrating frosts on the bounce getting down to -4°C.  Nice to see a bit of winter finally, but will it last ?

General Weather Summary for w/c 20/01/20

Well this week will see high pressure stay in charge pretty much for the whole week but again as correctly predicted last week (I know I bang my own drum but somebody has to :)) we will see that high pressure push away in time for the weekend I am afraid. So the first part of the week looks dry, cold with some night frost and early morning fog. Day temperatures up to 6-10°C and night temperatures dipping down to close to freezing dependent on cloud cover in your location. The change comes about during Thursday when we will begin to see more in the way of cloud cover pushing down from the north together with the arrival of rain to the north-west of Scotland. This front of rain and wintry showers will mainly stay confined to that area making little progress south into Friday. On Friday morning we will see the wind direction change from southerly / south-easterly round to south westerly.  Dry through Friday for most areas though just duller and cloudier with no night frost. During the day we will see rain fronts amass over north-west Ireland pushing rain into Connacht, Northern Ireland and The Western Isles. Dry, cool with some sunshine and clouds on Friday for the most part. Through the course of Saturday we see more rain for the north-west of Ireland / west of Ireland and some of this will push inland on Saturday. That high pressure stubbornly refuses to relinquish its grip so away from the north-west of Ireland, Scotland and England, we look to stay dry, but noticeably milder and windier on Saturday. Sunday will see more rain across Ireland, Scotland and West Wales pushing into South Wales later in the day. Some of those showers may push inland later in the day.

Weather Outlook

So this time next week expect us to be back in a westerly air flow with strong to gale force winds and blustery showers.  Those showers are set to turn increasingly wintry across Scotland with blizzard conditions likely over higher ground. At this stage that cold air looks to extend down to The Pennines and no further south but we will see. Windy, dull and milder in the south with rain pushing through on Monday on a strong wind. Showers continuing through Tuesday into Wednesday before heavier rain arrives across Ireland and The South West through Thursday into Friday. It then looks like we have a transitory high pressure so that’ll dry things up a bit and push the rain further north before settling back into the same very wind, wet and mild (ish) weather pattern going into early February.

Agronomic Notes

Microdochium nivale disease pressure

The transition from high pressure to low pressure later in the week may bring with it some unwelcome Microdochium disease pressure across Ireland and the west of the U.K initially as that milder air pushes in and later into central and eastern areas. So before we see the wind ramp up and change direction at the end of the week we may see a peak of activity. At this stage I guess you may see activity around existing scars rather than new infection sites.

Leaf Dry Down

This winter one of the stand outs learns in my view has been the lower Microdochium nivale disease pressure during periods of low pressure i.e unsettled, wet, mild and windy vs. high pressure patterns characterised by low winds, mild night temperatures (sometimes) and heavy dews.

Now there are any number of reasons why this could be the case, but for sure one of the issues facing Microdochium nivale from a fungal development perspective is the rapidly alternating wet and dry conditions on the leaf surface.

Last week we had some wet and windy weather so I’ve downloaded the leaf moisture data and charted it against rainfall for the week. The results are below ;

The orange trace is the leaf moisture level as measured by a sensor vs. the blue columns which are rainfall. What you can see is that even during periods of rainfall, the leaf dried very quickly from its maximum leaf wetness level of 15 down to zero. 

In some cases it took less than an hour for the leaf to go from 100% maximum moisture level during a rain event to 25% moisture level because of the high wind speed associated with last week’s low pressure system.

Disease Triangle

Now imagine you are a fungus trying to develop across a leaf blade. You want stable conditions, in particular plant leaf moisture. In the above scenario we have wet, mild and windy conditions but what we don’t have is a consistently wetted up plant leaf.

Looking at the disease triangle above we can see that the one factor that doesn’t seem to be present during wet, mild and windy weather is a favourable environment for fungal mycelium development. We have moisture, we have temperature but it isn’t present in a consistent fashion.

Key to all of this is the strength of the wind because if it drops we will see dew development on the plant leaf at night and then Microdochium nivale can develop. So one of the most dangerous periods for us weather-wise is when we have low pressure system passing through and high pressure taking over or vice-versa. It also means sheltered areas with poor air flow are most at risk because they have lower wind levels, less leaf dry-down and heavier dew events.

That’s why taking scrub and volunteer trees out near greens to maximise light and air flow is a very necessary operation in this day and age, much as it irritates Joe Public and enviromentalists alike. So the option is leave them there and spray more pesticides to control disease…is that best practice I wonder ?

OK, time to pack my bags and ship out, looks like a very nice week for it, the Weathercheck link is available here

All the best.

Mark Hunt








January 13th

Hi All,

Well here we are nearly at the middle of January already, Tempus fugit indeed !

Over the course of last week we saw yet another southerly-orientated low pressure pull in some pretty hefty rainfall totals over Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland topping up an already high water table and saturated soils. Walking yesterday it was evident that any dry-down at the start of January had been negated by the heavy rain at the back end of last week. To me this seems the wettest winter we have endured and indeed it has been quite different from other wet autumn / winter in terms of the pattern of weather. Firstly, it started very early (third week of September), secondly there have been very few dry-down days since then and lastly, the low pressure systems have been southerly-orientated and slow-moving, leading to heavy daily rainfall totals. You will I think be pleased to hear that the high pressure signal mentioned last week for the end of this week is still looking odds on, so a dry respite is on the way. How long it ends up lasting is anyone’s guess 🙂

Some form of colder weather must be on its way though because all of my late-brood Hedgehogs have simultaneously hibernated (the parents did so back in the third week of November). This wasn’t before I managed to get one visitor to my garden (Parky) to the local wildlife hospital because at 235 gms he wouldn’t have been able to survive till spring. Stella is in there as well as she needs treatment for lungworm and a damaged leg. Hopefully both will survive and will be fit & healthy come March for me to re-house in my garden. Chatting to the staff there I learnt a lot more about Hedgehogs including how to get them to uncurl 🙂

So let’s see if this week’s forecast turns up some nicer weather for us all and if the Hedgepiglets were right ?

General Weather Situation

So Monday starts off as predicted last week with very strong winds and rain, some of it heavy. In the image above you can see the low pressure off the west coast of Ireland and the tightly-packed isobars that will bring us an unsettled start to the week. So from early doors on Monday we see rain, some of it heavy pushing into Ireland and also some scattered showers moving across England and Wales from The South West. Through the course of the day that rain will cross Ireland and make landfall across the west by lunchtime. It will then take most of the afternoon to reach central parts and overnight will cross all of the U.K. The accompanying winds will be very strong with gale force gusts likely. With a south west wind it will also be very mild across the south with temperatures expected to hit double figures. So wet and windy for the west, dull, drier and quieter for central regions till the wind and rain arrive. 

Tuesday sees that rain clearing away into The North Sea and a dry start for all areas, but not for long. Some showers will kick off from dawn for westerly coasts but during the late morning, a new southerly-orientated low pressure system will push into the south west of Ireland and England bringing further rain from lunchtime as it tracks north easterly. Ireland will also see that rain across the south and west move north eastwards through the morning and not to be outdone, Scotland will pick up rain across the north west. Some of that northern moisture will fall as wintry showers across elevation. That rain for Wales, England and central / western Scotland is in for the day but Ireland should see it clear away as dusk approaches. A real north-south divide temperature-wise with Scotland in the mid-single figures whereas down south we look to push well into the low teens. Very windy again from the south west.

Wednesday sees that rain still placed in a band across East Anglia and The South East, otherwise you’ll start dry save for some showers along the western-facing coasts of Ireland and the north west of Scotland. Through the morning that rain across the south east will depart but we will still see some showers for The South West, Wales, The North West and north-west Scotland where again they’ll be wintry. Through the afternoon that mix of rain, sleet and snow across Scotland will push eastwards into central areas. Windy still from the west / south-west and cooler as well with more in the way of sunshine away from western coasts on Wednesday limiting temperatures to high single figures. A good drying day though for most areas.

Thursday sees yet another southerly-based low push into the south and west of Ireland from the off. Now with tightly-packed southerly isobars this low will track more north than north east so during Thursday morning it’ll cover Ireland and push into the west of Scotland. Some of the rain associated with it will be heavy across Ireland. England and Wales will start off dry, particularly across the east and central areas. Around lunchtime that rain will push into The South West and South Wales and through the course of the afternoon, push eastwards into central areas clearing Ireland as it does so. So where you start dry, you’ll end up wet and vice-versa for Thursday. Again very windy from the south / south west with the strongest winds across Ireland and the west of the U.K. Temperatures will range from 8-10°C.

Finishing off what has been an unsettled week, Friday sees a day of sunshine and showers with most of the showers early doors across the west and north of England and the west coast of Ireland, Wales and England. As we move through the day those showers become less widespread and the wind drops down announcing the arrival of high pressure from the south west. So a drier 2nd half of the day for many, still with some showers across central areas and western coasts with some of them wintry across north-west Scotland. Cooler for Friday despite a westerly wind with temperatures down to 6-8°C.

So how do we look for the weekend ?

Well with high pressure pushing in we should see a dry weekend for everyone, colder as well with the risk of night frosts, just what we need to break up the soil and dry areas down. Winds will be light and from the north west reflecting the colder feel to the weather.

Weather Outlook

Above is the GFS projection for next Monday, 20th of January and as you can see we have high pressure in situ. I can’t remember the last time I wrote that in this blog but it is good news. How long will it last ? Well maybe a week, maybe a tad longer for the south but through next week we look to have a cold, settled and dry spell with night frosts.  This will gradually break down from the north towards the end of next week with some windier and more unsettled weather for Scotland towards the end of next week.

Want to know when it is going to get colder ?

Simple, Ask a Hedgepiglet…..

Agronomic Notes

OK, we will start off this week’s notes with a look back at December 2019 and also 2019 as a year….

GDD – UK Location – Thame, Oxfordshire

So December 2019 went out as a pretty cool one with a total GDD of 31, ranking it very similar to 2018 and previous years. As confidently predicted , 2019 wasn’t going to set the GDD world alight from a yearly total perspective, coming in below 2000 total GDD for the year and a good way off the peak years of 2017 and 2018.

As I’ve commented on before, I don’t believe the U.K & Ireland’s climate is following the climate trend we hear about so often on the news in terms of rising temperature year-on-year. This is because of our island location and the fact that the jet stream dictates our weather. Now of course there’s an argument to say the peak and trough patterns forming in the jet stream are the result of climate change with theories pointing towards less temperature differential between the equator and The North Pole. This means less energy driving the jet stream at certain points of the year and therefore more potential for the formation of Rossby Waves. (peak and trough patterns)

Certainly our weather nowadays seems to come in set ‘blocks’, the 10-week summer of 2018, when we had continuously high E.T, air temperature and no rain. The 12-week (and counting) block of autumn / winter 2019, with near continuous rain and very few drying days.

GDD & Rainfall – U.K Locations – December 2019

Looking across the GDD, my Netatmo data comes in lowest GDD for the month again, by virtue of my shaded back garden location I think rather than my unwillingness to put the central heating on 🙂 The biggest variability for December across the locations is not in growth but in rainfall with Fife coming in as one of driest and the warmest from a GDD perspective. This is because Scotland picked up some milder air at the end of the year and for many days was significantly warmer than down south. Wettest again was down in The South West with 219mm of rain falling in December, that is over 4 times the driest location and shows that the predominant rainfall patterns were south and west-orientated rather than the traditional north and west. You have my heartfelt sympathy lads and lasses down that neck of the woods….

GDD & Rainfall – Irish Locations – December 2019

Ireland follows a similar pattern but here there is much greater variability between locations Killiney coming in as the coolest location (16.1) by way of its higher elevation. Only a few miles up the coast as the Seagull flies and we have Donabate at 51.7. Just shows you can’t presume from a general location how your growth pattern has / will been / be. Valentia stands head and shoulders above the rest as the mildest and wettest, but you can also see the southerly and westerly orientation of the rainfall with Cork, Claremorris and Valentia, the wettest Irish locations.


I thought it might be a good idea to look at the total rainfall for 2019 for the sites that submit their weather data to me (thanks as always one and all) and also look at how much of that rain fell from September to the end of December. The results are pretty interesting……

Total rainfall for 2019 and autumn contribution – U.K Locations (all readings in mm)

It’s amazing to see the consistency in terms of the % of the yearly total rainfall that fell in effectively a 13-week period from the 3rd week of September to year end. For the U.K locations that we monitored, between 47 – 58% of the total rainfall of 2019 fell in effectively the last 25% of the year. So you want to know why everywhere is so wet ? well there’s your reason…. You can download the above graph here

Total rainfall for 2019 and autumn contribution – Irish Locations (all readings in mm)

For the Irish locations, the % of yearly total is lower on the whole varying from 35 – 53%, with the average down in the low 40’s. Nevertheless it is still reflective of a wetter-than-usual autumn / winter period….. You can download the above graph here

Another significant feature of autumn / winter 2019 was / is the lack of dry-down days that gave the soil a chance to return to some form of healthy oxygen status rather than the low oxygen / saturated soil status it has been for weeks now. I’ll do some digging into this particular feature later this month but time is marching on…

Microdochium nivale activity update

Last week I mentioned the activity peak between Christmas and New Year and this was repeated again last week as we picked up some very mild, southerly air and high humidity.

On most sites it seems to have shown as new activity around the edge of an existing fungal patch rather than new activity across the sward from a greens perspective. The type of activity shown below would be typical on a Poa annua-dominated green. Thanks……ah ah 

Speaking of our old friend Poa annua, it has been a pretty good autumn / winter for this grass plant species although it hasn’t had the temperature to grow as much as we would normally see in a wet winter because as my GDD stats show we have been wet but not mild. With low light and high rainfall I would also expect to see moss species on the up as well with the balance tipping towards them and away from grass.

Let us hope that as last year we transition into spring quickly and growth picks up well allowing the balance to swing back in favour of grass growth.

Rarely does a Meteoturf module tell a better story of this week with mild day and night temperatures accompanied by rainfall through the week resulting in a nice bit of growth and then a sharp drop-off in both as colder high pressure arrives. This one is for the Bracknell area of the U.K. As we progress through this week I expect low Microdochium nivale activity because of the strong wind and rain and for this trend to continue through next week as the colder air arrives.

BTME 2020

I hope to catch up with many of you at Harrogate next week but at the same time try to avoid my half-marathon training regime going down the pan at too fast a rate 🙂

A delicate balance if ever there was one 🙂

You can find the Headland Weathercheck link for Harrogate here…I reckon it’ll be fine, dry and cold.

OK, that’s me for another week…

All the best.

Mark Hunt

January 6th

Hi All and Happy New Year !

This post marks my 9th year (to the day) of this blog as I published the first one on 06/01/11.

That particular January we had snow cover, my Paddy Power bets had come in and we had plenty of Microdochium pressure.

If you think back then to the type of products we had at our disposal, not just fungicides, and now look at where we are, times have changed radically in the interim and to a point, we have adapted. As I look ahead, our ability to react and change will continue to be tested whether maintaining a golf course or responsible for running one as there appears very little let up from the weather pressure we have experienced of late.

Climate change is very much in the news now with the bush fires in Australia, melting ice caps and the ever increasingly negative predictions from climate scientists on where we are going as a world. Looking at our winter in a microcosm, we have had very few frosts, an inordinate amount of rain and honestly so far winter is just an extension of autumn. Now we know traditionally winter doesn’t start till after Christmas but I just can’t see the cold on the worldwide map. I have a customer in Russia where it’s normally -10 to -20 °C at this time of year and there it is still above freezing during the day with very little snow. It’s early days yet maybe to start talking about a year without a winter but traditionally our cold comes from the north and east. Well if Russia is barely freezing, it isn’t coming from there. Can’t see it coming from the north either. Recently you may have seen Norway enjoyed its warmest January day when the village of Sunndalsora recorded 19 °C on the 2nd of January, some 25 °C higher than their ‘normal’ average temperature for January. I’ll predict now that periods of March and April will be colder than this January.

That is the clear feature of our changing climate, warmer air is extending further north and a change in the behaviour of the jet stream is behind it I believe.

Thankfully for most, the Christmas period was dry, as was the start of 2020, but we have some new rain on the radar this week so the respite though very welcome will only brief.

For GDPR reasons, the Hedgehog in this picture isn’t actually Stella 🙂

Christmas for me was highlighted by the arrival of a Hedgehoglet the day before Christmas Eve. A friend of a friend knew I have a sweet spot for these animals and duly pitched up with a very wet and cold example that was found in the gutter. Some heat, Puppy milk and now a residence in the garage seem to have done the trick and he or she is pilling on weight. My local Wildlife hospital has 300 Hedgehoglets that they are looking after over the winter and can take no more. All of these were left without parents when they duly hibernated in late November and without Mothers milk and tender care have become stressed and pretty helpless.

That said I still have 2 such young Hedgehogs visiting my garden, they are very small (350gm) and if the weather looks to be turning ugly will soon join my present incumbent, Stella, in the garage to see out February. “Stella” by the way doesn’t mean that my resident is a female, I named her after the favourite tipple of the lady that called me 😉 (thanks Jude)

On a serious note, come spring there will be a need to rehouse these little animals in the wild, so if you can run to the cost of a Hedgehog house, have a quiet corner of the garden free and crucially don’t have a dog that would try to harm them, they make a good addition. They’re excellent at keeping down slugs and snails as well and kids seem fascinated by them.

Onto the weather, this week’s blog won’t contain a summary of December 2019, simply because if I don’t apply myself to writing some literature content sometime soon, I will incur the wrath of my erstwhile colleague, Mr Russell, so that’ll be next week.

General Weather Situation

With a 10-day window of dry conditions here , you could almost hear the countryside starting to breath again as ditches and rivers returned to normal winter levels. The same goes for our soil as well that has sat saturated for long periods of autumn / winter 2019 / 20. Although we have rain this week, some of it heavy, I don’t see a return to the weather pattern of September – December, 2019. The image above shows the temporary peak of high pressure that has brought us some dry weather of late and although this will be shunted eastwards this week with the arrival of low pressure, I can already see new ones on the weather horizon.

So Monday looks to start off dry everywhere across the U.K, but we have a threatening low pressure system pushing in from the west and this is already across Ireland bringing wind and rain to most areas. Through the morning this rain will clear from the west of Ireland and push into western coasts and England, Wales and Scotland, moving quickly eastwards. By mid-afternoon the rain has cleared the east of Ireland and it’s eastern front will be into central areas and the west Midlands. This rain will stretch the entire length of the U.K so from The Isle of Wight right up to northern Scotland. It’s a quick-moving front though and by evening it should have cleared all but the north west of Scotland and even here it won’t last long into the night. A dull, mild, January day with temperatures in the high single figures and accompanied by a strong south westerly wind.

Overnight into Tuesday and we see another rain front pushing in however this one is more north westerly-orientated with rain from the off for north-west Ireland and Scotland. That rain will intensify through Tuesday morning over north-west Scotland with some heavy day totals likely. South and east of this we will enjoy a dry start to the day. Ireland will see some further rain through the course of Tuesday morning but it’ll always be heavier across the north and west. This rain will push showers into The North West and North Wales coastal areas with some of those showers drifting south across Mid and South Wales through the afternoon. Dry then for most central and eastern areas and it’ll feel very mild with temperatures into double figures and actually increasing through Tuesday night, aided by a fresh south westerly / westerly wind.

Onto Wednesday and a dry start for nearly all of the U.K & Ireland but it won’t last for long as wintry showers will push into north-west Scotland and later in the morning we will see a rain front push into The South West and Wales bringing heavy rain across Wales. This rain will push eastwards through the course of the 2nd half of Wednesday bringing rain to mainly central and southern areas. The north of England, most of Scotland and Ireland should have a relatively dry day and remaining mild with temperatures ranging from 9-11°C . The strong westerly wind will peter out through the evening and swing more northwards dropping the temperature as it does so.

Wednesday night into Thursday sees the arrival of the first of a succession of southerly-orienated, cold, low pressure systems and these will bring rain and wintry showers overnight into Thursday for the southern half of the U.K and Ireland. Scotland should miss most of this except for some continuing wintry showers across the north west. Now currently the rain is predicted for the lower half of Ireland and the U.K, extending down from the north of England. It’s likely with the cooler wind that we may also see some wintry showers across The Peak District. Tricky to say where the heaviest rain will fall but The South West could be in line for a heavy hit and also across the northern Midlands I am afraid. Through Thursday afternoon, this low pressure pushes south and east and clears Ireland and most of the U.K by the evening, except The South West. A cold, wet and pretty grim day with light winds not helping temperatures pick up much higher than 6-8 °C .

Closing out the week on Friday and we look to have a dry picture across the U.K & Ireland and with the wind swinging round to the south west, we should pick up some milder air as well. By lunchtime we will see a band of rain push into the west of Ireland and north-west Scotland and this will move south and east across Ireland through the 2nd half of the day. By Friday evening that rain will intensify over north west Scotland and push slowly south and east into northern England with some heavy rain for The North West again I am afraid. Away from these rain fronts it looks to be a dry, fairly mild day for England and Wales with temperatures initially down in mid-single figures but pushing up through the 2nd half of the day as the south westerly wind freshens.

The outlook for the weekend is very wet and windy through Saturday for Ireland, North Wales, the north of England and Scotland. That rain may push south into South Wales through Saturday but it’s a real north-west / south-east split with the latter enjoying a very windy but dry day. Showers will spill south and eastwards over the rest of the U.K through Saturday evening, clearing Ireland as they do so. Sunday looks to be a much better day with some rain around across the north west of England and Scotland, but dry for most with lightening winds and some chance of sunshine. Temperatures for the weekend should be 7-10 °C .

Weather Outlook

So the start of next week looks to be very windy with some really tight-packed isobars and low pressure systems funneling in. That means a pretty wet start to the first two days of next week with plenty of rain for all areas pushed along by a very strong, gale force, south westerly wind. By mid-week we see a peak start to build in the jet stream and although this doesn’t remove the risk of further rain through Thursday / Friday, it looks like it may build into a nice high pressure system by next weekend. So a pretty dismal start to the week but maybe a better finish. I should also add that the longer-term projections (yes I know they may change) is for a warm high pressure to build through the third week of January. So still no signs of cold this winter.

Agronomic Notes

2020 GDD Spreadsheet ……

OK, first up and a bit later than intended, please find below the link for the 2020 GDD spreadsheet. Hopefully you found the 2019 one useful and in particular the chart section documenting dry days (or rather the lack of them) that makes a powerful argument for drainage !

I think the 3 charts above are a pretty good graphical summary of our year documenting the warm, progressive start to 2019, the wet summer and of course the extremely wet autumn / winter period. Just look at the wet day stats for October to year end, 69 out of a total of 92 days.

These stats are for York (thanks Adrian!) but I’m sure if I got a GDD spreadsheet for The North West it would make even worse reading for the back end.

Here’s the link…..

Microdochium nivale activity

Just like in 2018, we picked up a fair degree of Microdochium nivale activity over the Christmas period with the combination of mild nights, a lack of wind, heavy dew and high humidity.

It wasn’t as extended a period of disease pressure as Christmas 2018, but it was still enough to see re-activity on existing scars (see above) and also new activity on non-treated areas of approach, fairways and tee complexes.

Again in common with 2018, there were very few opportunities to get a fungicide, hardener, dew control down on the run up to Christmas with saturated soils, wet and windy weather curtailing spray days or even being able to get a machine to the greens to apply.

Hopefully you can see from the graph above the very rapid rise in air temperature recorded on the 26th December. This was the catalyst to disease activity aided by heavy dew and consequently, a wet plant leaf.

From the feedback I’ve had already, it’s a mixed picture out there…

Some who got on a good quality, hardening spray and / or a dew control seemed to have come through relatively unscathed. Those who were at the tail end of a fungicide application and weren’t able to apply hardeners, dew control and / or a fungicide were less fortunate.

Again it was the development of a high pressure weather system over the Christmas period that caused the issue.

Grub activity…..

I guess it is something we are going to have to get used to but I am already getting reports of Leatherjacket activity and damage. The run of wet and mild weather has suited prolonged insect activity, particularly on untreated areas. it’ll be interesting as we go into the spring to understand if the use of Acelepryn has been beneficial on Leatherjackets and Chafers. Fingers crossed on that one because without it we are dependent on the up until now, ‘hit and miss’ and expensive option of pathogenic nematodes. I would also expect to see activity from Biobionid larval species with the run of weather we have been having.

Getting a head start on the spring ……

I always smile when I see the picture above, it is quite simply a cracker (cheers Mark) although I feel for the chap using the Procore 🙁

With the way the winters have been of late, we often see less than ideal conditions for grass growth extending through March and April. It is either a lack of temperature, rainfall or both that makes getting consistent growth and recovery during those months a tricky proposition. It is also often the case that we pick up a run of dry, cold weather in the spring that more or less nulifies opportunities for growth / recovery on fine turf. Of course there is always the option of lighting up your turf with a heavy dose of granular, quick start N should the spring prove hard work but to me there’s a smarter play than applying 40% of your yearly N total in one hit 🙂 

Applying a low nitrogen granular fertiliser in January will give you a very nice result if and when we pick up some mild weather windows during January and February without the need to run to the sprayer to try and apply a liquid. The resultant sward benefit will bring you into March and April in a much better state of affairs and with good sward density and less need to push your greens hard in the spring from an ‘N’ perspective. 

The same goes for aeration, slipping in a crafty hollow core now or perhaps later in the month will lower your surface organic matter, encourage new root development and take the pressure off for the same during March and April. I have talked about it before but members perceptions are much lower now than they are in those months, so tolerance to aeration is higher. OK, surfaces currently are still drying out and I appreciate for some areas of the country, just getting machinery out onto the course is a challenge but maybe, just maybe we will have a nice window later this month for a sneaky one 🙂

OK, that’s it for the first blog of 2020, next week I should have a bit more time for the December 2019 stats and a reflective look back at the year. 

All the best for the coming year.

Mark Hunt