10th February

Hi All,

It may not look that devastating from the GFS output in the top graph but the tightly-packed isobars give a clue as to wind strength. Yesterday’s V8 rain radar output from Netweather.tv shows in more detail how a central strip of rain pushed over Lancashire and Yorkshire bringing 75-100 mm of rainfall in one day during the course of yesterday.

I can’t remember winds like it since I was a mere slip of a lad back in 1987 when Michael Fish did his famous hurricane gaff and most of the trees in the south of England got flattened. We got away lightly down in The Midlands, missing the main chunk of rainfall but to those who are now counting the cost of the damage to their golf courses, sports grounds and the like, my sympathies.

It was also reported that a British Airways flight broke the Transatlantic record for the fastest ever subsonic flight. It flew from New York to London in just less than 5 hours courtesy of a 250 mph + tail wind in the shape of the jet stream. Apparently it was cruising in excess of 800 mph !

With such a strong jet stream in place it’ll be no surprise that we have a bumpy ride of low pressures this week as predicated correctly in last Monday’s blog.

General Weather Situation

So Monday starts off still with some tightly-packed isobars in situ but today they are joined by some colder temperatures that are already bringing snow showers to Scotland and down as far south as Yorkshire / Lancashire, maybe The Peak District. The rest of the U.K dawns bright and settled with some strong to gale force winds still evident. Ciara (Key-r-ra) isn’t going quietly. Ireland looks to start dry but not for long as there’s plenty of rain fronts amassing off the western coasts and these will make landfall during Monday morning and push eastwards. With that colder temperature, these showers across Ireland and the west of Scotland will fall as sleet and snow over elevation. By lunchtime that rain is into Wales and The South West and it’ll soon push eastwards to all areas with maybe only the Lincolnshire coast northwards avoiding the rain / sleet and snow until dusk. An unsettled, colder day with plenty of wintry showers across Ireland, Wales and Scotland with falls in The Pennines and Yorkshire Dales. Temperature-wise, that north-west wind will knock things back from the highs of the weekend, with 5-7°C likely across most areas.

Onto Tuesday and that unsettled picture continues with wintry showers along the west coast of Ireland, North Wales, The North West and across the west of Scotland. Away from these showers we will see a bright start to the day with a ground frost possible in sheltered locations under clear skies. During the morning we see that rain, sleet and snow push inland into The Midlands of Ireland but also across The South West, Wales and the north west coast of England and Scotland. Away from western coasts you’ll look to stay dry with bright spells but a very chilly wind. Cold again then in that strong north-westerly wind with temperatures down to 4-6°C

Mid-week beckons and with it a very similar day to Tuesday with a strong north-westerly wind, veering south-westerly as we close out the day. Still with wintry showers affecting the western coast of the U.K from the off but these will become more isolated to the north west as we progress through the morning. So sunny and dry again away from western coasts and maybe feeling a degree or two milder as that wind pulls round to the west. As we approach dusk we see a new low pressure system push rain into the south west of England and Ireland. This rain will push across Ireland on Wednesday night. Temperature-wise more like 6-8°C for Wednesday and still windy with it.

Thursday sees that low pressure system pushing rain, some of it heavy, into Ireland, the south west of England and Wales from first light. This rain will clear Ireland quickly on Thursday morning but affect most of the U.K (aside from the far north of Scotland) through the course of Thursday morning. By lunchtime that weather system will break down into showers across central areas of the U.K, with Ireland and The Pennines north looking drier but still with the threat of rain across The North East and east of Scotland. No point in forecasting the wind direction because depending where you are in proximity to the low pressure you’ll have southerly, northerly, westerly or easterly wind ! Slightly milder on Thursday with 7-9°C likely.

Closing out the week on Friday we have another active low pressure system forecast to bring strong south westerly winds and rain from the off for Ireland. Much milder air as well with temperatures in double figures. As we progress through Friday morning that rain makes landfall across the U.K  and is set to bring heavy rain to the places that don’t need more rainfall. So that means Wales, the north-west of England, south west and central Scotland. That band of rain will clear all but the north of Ireland by Friday afternoon and push eastwards across the U.K till dusk. Again a very breezy day with a strong south westerly wind and milder air stream keeping temperatures around 9-11°C.

The weekend looks like continuing that very unsettled theme with yet another low pressure system pushing in across Ireland in the early part of Saturday. This will cross over into the U.K later on Saturday morning and push north and eastwards bringing rain to all areas accompanied by strong and mild south westerly winds. The eastern side of the U.K may succeed in staying dry till late afternoon. It pains my to write this but it is highly likely that we will see more heavy rain for the north west of England. Sunday looks to be a sunshine and showers day, mild in the strong south westerly winds with more in the way of showers for the 2nd half of the day.

Weather Outlook

With that strong jet stream in place across The Atlantic it should come as no surprise that we look set for a continued run of unsettled weather however with high pressure to the south of us this will push the rain and winds more northwards so I’m thinking next week looks reasonable for southern and central areas of the U.K and Ireland with the rain more north-west orientated across Scotland. That seems to be the pattern for the first part of the week but as we approach Thursday we see low pressure push in from The Atlantic to bring another bout of very strong winds and rain for the end of the week. This is likely to last through the weekend as well. Any glimpses of a change ? Well maybe, just maybe towards the end of Feb we see a warmer high pressure pattern forming but this is such a long way away I wouldn’t get too excited as we sit here now.

Agronomic Notes

GDD & Rainfall Summary – January 2020 – U.K Locations

So above is a summary of U.K locations for GDD and rainfall during January 2020. I’m happy to include a new ‘data donor’ from the clifftops of Jersey (thanks Matt). I’m guessing they’ll be leading the way GDD-wise throughout the year but we will see.

As commented upon last week, January 2020, was a mild month with many locations picking up some decent growth during the month. Again we see the same pattern for the U.K and you will see with Ireland (below) in that the south west locations pick up the worst of the rainfall with Avon and Devon the highest totals.

A mild one for Scotland in January with very similar GDD to locations down south.

Ireland has more variability I’d say with the west / south west and south east picking up the lions share of the rainfall. Similar GDD range to the U.K though with Valentia as usual leading the way. Unusually the east coast locations of Bray and Donabate picked up some pretty mild air for January. All in all not a bad month for getting some recovery and in some locations, a bit of dry down. All change now though 🙁

Insect activity – Bibionids

The lack of a frost through the autumn and the very wet weather has seen significant insect activity during the latter part of 2019 and early part of 2020.

These fellers in particular are turning up a lot this winter, they aren’t Leatherjackets, they are Bibionids. Better known as Fever Fly or St Mark’s Fly, they live in clusters close to the turf surface, surviving in the organic matter layer in fairways and semi-rough. They hatch out in the spring and the black adult flies often be seen dangling their legs below them, hovering above the surface of the turf. When they start landing in March or April they are laying their eggs. Now normally I see the odd bit of turf bleaching with Bibionids, in isolated areas, with the main damage done by pecking from Corvid (Crow) bird species.

This year I am seeing areas decimated by Bibionids with very little grass cover remaining…see image below….

Looking at control options, there is a pyrethroid insecticide called Sven which has a label for managed-amenity turf for sale up until July 2020, but in the restrictions there is a 5 day no re-entry note on sports fields (see below). I presume the same would apply for golf courses ?

Without a doubt I expect to see further issues with Bibionids, Leatherjackets and Chafers this spring because of the lack of frosts and mild (ish) winter temperatures 🙁

Aeration windows

It has been a tricky winter to fit in aeration whether that be vertidraining, slitting or tining. Not only has saturated ground conditions made it difficult to get machinery out there but undoubtedly it has been questionable how much benefit you get from trying to aerate a wet soil.

If we look back at the past 4 months I’d say September was the last date you could vertidrain and achieve benefits and / or maybe in January if you are in a lower rainfall location.

This picture is from a previously shallow-rooted green with a high population of Poa annua var. reptans. This is the tightly-packed Poa that provides an excellent putting surface but does accumulate fibre quickly and is more prone to Microdochium nivale. The last tining process carried out on this green was vertidraining in September, before the rains arrived.

You can see the excellent benefit gained from this aeration process in terms of enhanced rooting.

The green had also been gradened recently (end of January) to remove excess fibre in the turf surface. It is interesting but on this 18-hole golf course, there are only 4-5 greens with this type of grass species distribution and hence surface fibre accumulation. With Poa annua var. reptans, most of the organic matter accumulation is in the top 20-25mm, so for me lateral aeration such as verticutting, scarifying, deep scarification (Graden) are very good tools to target this accumulation depth. Better than hollow coring or solid tining / dilution ?

Well in certain situations, yes maybe….

It is ‘horses for courses’ when it comes to aeration and there are many factors that have a bearing on what type of aeration to use when. You can argue the rights and wrongs to the cows come home (bit of a farmyard theme developing here :)) but on this course, reducing surface organic matter has definitely reduced Microdochium nivale activity / severity. It is always the high Poa annua var reptans greens that function as indicators for the other Poa / bent greens on the facility.

So could you get by with just using lateral aeration to target the surface and vertidraining to decompact the profile ?

It is an interesting question.

Ultimately it depends on your situation, the level of organic matter accumulation you have and where it exists in the profile. If it’s deeper than 25mm, it is unlikely that lateral aeration would be efficient at reducing it and here hollow coring may be more appropriate. You may also have a ‘clientele’  who are adverse to the effects of lateral aeration, i.e. they don’t like lines.

Horses for courses eh ?

All the best..

Mark Hunt