3rd February – Mini Blog

Hi All,

I took this pretty fungi pic as I was on a walk round Rutland Water’s Hambleton Peninsula sussing out my forthcoming half marathon route. Sadly it’s a lot more hilly than it has a right to be and will be ‘challenging’ for me old legs no doubt.

Later over a cuppa I was reading an article in New Scientist which stated that the oldest confirmed fossil records of fungi had just been re-written. A find in Belgium now dates them back to between 715 – 810 million years old. So when we look at fighting Microdochium, Anthracnose and / or Dollar Spot, it is worth remembering that our foe has been around for a very long time and is likely to be pretty well adapted to surviving our efforts to eradicate it. 🙁

So that’s January 2020 gone in double quick time and a mild and wet one it was too with very little signs of winter during the month. Looking ahead we look to lose this milder air during the week and pick up some cold northerlies, but not for long it seems. Winter though may still come knocking in mid-February….

General Weather Situation

So looking at the week ahead we start with low pressure to the north and high pressure to the south. During the morning we will see rain push into The South West and then track along the south coast of England but it won’t progress too far inland. At the same time we will also see a band of rain, sleet and hill snow push into the north west of Scotland and later north west England accompanied by strong to gale force north westerly winds.  Away from these twin bands of rain we will see some fine and sunny weather in-between for most of England, Wales and Ireland. Temperatures will sit between 8-10°C and with a moderate to strong wind, it’ll be another good drying day and one we need badly.

Overnight into Tuesday we see the wind swing round to the north west and that’ll push that north-western rain, sleet and snow down the north west coast of the U.K and into North Wales. So Tuesday will start much colder, bright but with some blustery showers of rain, sleet and snow for the north-west of England and North Wales. As we progress through the morning we will also see showers moving down the north east coast of England and into East Anglia. It’ll be pretty windy and feeling a tad raw in that wind. We may see the odd shower inland p.m. on Tuesday but as high pressure pushes in we will dry up nicely again for many areas. A cold night beckons as the wind completes its northerly swing round.

So Wednesday dawns cold, dry and bright and with a ground frost for many. A typical winters day beckons  with long spells of sunshine, a gentler northerly wind and dry for all of us. Temperature-wise it’ll be low single figures 5-7°C and feeling colder in the wind.

Thursday sees that wind swing round again overnight to southerly / south-westerly ushering that high pressure away onto the continent. This will introduce more cloud into the weather equation, especially for Ireland and the western coastline of the U.K. Dry again though for all of us so let us be grateful for small mercies 🙂 Cool again with 6-8°C the likely temperature range, maybe a little milder across the west of Ireland.

As we approach Friday morning we complete the changeover from high pressure to low pressure. So this means the wind will strengthen from the south west and the first rain will make landfall across the west of Ireland early on Friday morning. Away from Ireland, the U.K will dawn sunny and cool with clear skies but there’s rain on the way. The main rain front is projected to reach the west of Ireland on Friday afternoon and push eastwards across the country for the rest of the day. Overnight into Saturday we will see rain cross The Irish Sea and make landfall across north west Scotland and the west coast of the U.K. Similar temperatures to Thursday, maybe a tad milder, so around 7-9°C, with a brisk south westerly wind.

The weekend is a bit of a mix and match with Saturday looking mainly dry after the overnight rain has crossed the U.K. So sunny and dry for most on Saturday and definitely the day to get out and do things because Sunday looks the opposite as I look at the GFS output. As we approach dusk on Saturday we will see rain, some of it heavy move into the west of Ireland and this will push eastwards through Saturday night into Sunday accompanied by strong to gale force, south-westerly winds. Sunday looks to start wet and windy for all of us with the heaviest rain across Ireland and the west. There will be some spells of sunshine further east through the afternoon but always the threat of more rain lingers. Very windy as well with gales for all areas on Sunday. Temperature-wise, still sitting around 8-10°C, so not bad for February.

Weather Outlook

If you look at the GFS output above for next Monday you can see some very tightly-packed isobars and some pretty cold weather for the north of England and Scotland. This is the result of a very deep Atlantic low pressure system that is heading our way, so the first half of next week looks very windy and pretty wet to boot with a pronounced wintry feel to the Scottish weather. That low pressure is projected to be with us for mid-week so that is potentially when we will see the highest winds and highest rainfall event. So a wet and windy outlook for next week with that unsettled feel to the weather continuing from mid-week though we should see less in the way of rain and perhaps pick up some milder air for a time as well at the end of next week.

Low pressure seems to be dominating the weather picture unfortunately with any high pressure systems pretty short-lived. The only benefit is with the strength of the associated wind, any rainfall tends to move through quickly. Batten down the hatches I think is the correct terminology.

Agronomic Notes

I haven’t got the time today to do a full monthly round up of January but I will do next week.

For now we can have a look at our usual stats for The Oxfordshire to give us a feel for how the month went..

Well as you can see from the stats above, January 2020 was the mildest January we have recorded since we started in 2010 with a total GDD figure of 45.

In itself that’s better total GDD than we get in some years during March !

Above is the daily Growth Potential from the same site and you can see we enjoyed a nice period of steady growth from the start of the month and at the end. We also ‘enjoyed’ a further chunk of rainfall especially at the beginning of the month. Now we know this site is one of the driest we monitor so the 72.4 mm that fell isn’t anywhere close to some of our wettest. Down the south west of England that figure was more like 140 mm for the month of January and it was cooler too (thanks Pete)

A great weather window for aeration on the face of it but of course the 16 weeks of rainfall with few drying days on the run up to January 2020 has made many areas far too wet for machinery and with a wet rootzone, you’re likely to do more harm than good. That said towards the end of January, some courses did dry out enough to do some early season hollow tining / vertidraining, etc,so all was not lost.

It remains a tricky balancing act in terms of making the decision on early season aeration and it’s one only you the end-user can call. Ground conditions on your course / pitch area, soil moisture levels and above all, the requirement to do the work should all go into the decision-making process.  With the wrong ground conditions you’ll almost certainly do more harm than good, but often the stars align at this time of year and you get a chance to ‘nip in a quickie’, be that solid tine, hollow core or vertidrain.

Looking at the weather outlook I’d say this week probably presents the last opportunity to do that work for the foreseeable because when the weather closes down on Sunday we look to be in another recurring pattern of low pressure, strong winds and rainfall…

Microdochium nivale pressure

Last week was a weird one because on the face of it we could have expected to see some significant disease pressure and whilst there was some around, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Given that air temperatures were in the double figures overnight one could have expected to see some aggressive activity. However, the wind was quite strong providing a good drying effect and the air wasn’t that humid so although we saw some dew later in the week, we didn’t see long periods of plant leaf wetness.

If you look at the graph above, the columns in red are leaf wetness and you can see that there were relatively short-lived periods, even when there was rainfall. This was because we had some evapotranspiration going on which dried the leaf down quickly. So with that milder air we got some nice dry down on the leaf and that prevented Microdochium nivale activity. I did see some on sheltered sites on higher-height-of-cut turf but less than I originally expected. Microdochium nivale needs consistent plant leaf wetness and I’m sure other diseases like Dollar Spot are the same. If the weather and / or your maintenance practices breaks that cycle then it fails to develop to its optimum.

Looking ahead I think we will see a small amount of activity on sheltered sites towards the end of the week but it will be short-lived because wind speed will negate dew development. So maybe just a brief period of re-activity on existing scars rather than anything worse.

Looking back over the winter, we have had an interesting one with more activity after November than before in many locations.

I’ve mapped out our cumulative disease pressure score over consecutive 48-hour periods since the start of October and as you can see we had 5 intervals of high disease pressure with the highest occurring around the 25th of November.  Just like over Christmas 2018, we again saw significant pressure from Christmas – New Year and again, just like 2018, a tricky spell leading up to that period in terms of limited spray windows. When I say spray windows in this instance I’m referring of course to the twin challenges of 1) Getting your sprayer out onto the golf course and 2) Having the conditions to actually spray !….

OK that’s me for this week…

All the best.

Mark Hunt