November 15th, 2021

Hi All,

I know some people wonder about the merits of fishing. I mean how can you just sit there ‘doing nothing’ for hours on end and sometimes you don’t even catch anything yet you still enjoy it ?

How so ?

Well those of us that fish know, you don’t just sit there. I primarily fly fish and so in this picture I’m sitting there thinking through the flies I’m using, what depth the fish are at and what they’re feeding on, are there any fish feeding on or in the surface, is that a fish rising or a Dabbie ? (Dabchick – Little Grebe). You are (I am) in a constant state of observation, calculation and above all anticipation. Boring it never is.

There is of course another side and it’s times when nature just gives you something brilliant to behold. A kind of wow moment. Like on Saturday late afternoon, when the setting sun illuminated all the autumn colours around the reservoir for the briefest of time and you just go wow, look at that, aren’t I lucky to see something like this ? Not to mention the birdlife, the gaggle of Geese, swans and other waterfowl, the Ravens, Kingfishers, flocks of Fieldfares and Pewitts on the wing above your head. The mewing of a young Buzzard as Crows line up for target practice around him or her. It all goes into my little old head and leaves me (usually) coming off the water in a much more relaxed state than I went on (unless I’ve struggled to catch of course and then my grey matter is already thinking through what, where and why, plotting revenge and dodging negative banter from my ‘friends’)….

A sad week for me as well this one because I am saying goodbye to my right hand man, Paul Vipond. Most of you won’t know Paul, but he’s been the driving force behind this blog and many other things I.T. Paul is the person that has been with me since day 1 of putting together this blog, he’s the one that makes sure it gets published, puts the animated GIF together early on a Monday morning so I can incorporate it in the blog and puts up with my occasion displeasure when things don’t go the way they are planned to.

Paul and I have also worked tirelessly on creating a disease model for Microdochium nivale and he’s just such a special person. Never flustered, always patient, dependable, reliable and we have had a good craic as well together. He is also a raving British Touring Car fan, so a petrolhead like me and takes to the track as well, probably to work out his frustration on dealing with I.T-illiterate people like me maybe Paul ? 🙂

So I’d like to say thanks Paul, you’re an absolute brick, you’ve been a brilliant colleague and you will 100% genuinely be missed. I wish you all the best for the future matey.

Another goodbye here as well. In 1996, a then little-known Italian motorcycle racer called Valentino Rossi won his first Grand Prix, he was just 17 and that win marked the first of many, 9 world titles and a career that spanned 25 years. Yesterday was his last race in MotoGP and to his credit he finished 10th, at the age of 42.

When he was racing 125’s on the world stage, I was racing 125’s at club and national level and he was and has always been an icon to me. The man is The G.O.A.T – the greatest of all time. I have been lucky enough to live with this legend in my life, to see him race here and on the continent and the sport won’t be the same without him to me.

Caio Vale !

OK, onto the weather and what is currently a really dry, nice, mild November but things are about to change and change they will. On Saturday I idly flicking through some weather stats (as you do) and I noticed the now familiar headline from one of our Tabloids “Forecasters predict exact date snow will hit UK with freezing temperatures !!!”. I laughed to myself, must be a slow news day (again) but then flicked the GFS up for the end of November. Aaaaah, hmmm, much frowning followed. They may be right on this one.

Of course when they say U.K, they actually meant Scotland and the north for the snow, but the date they gave was the 26th of November.

I was chatting this through with my significant other and she remarked that I had said the end of November looks a bit messy a week ago or so…..Maybe I should get a job with The Daily Mirror ?

GFS output 25-11-21 projected

Looking at the GFS output above, sure enough, next week we are predicted to see a major transition into winter with some biting cold temperatures, easterlies and possibly snow / wintry showers further south as a wintry BOB drags cold weather in from the continent. Given that November so far has been very mild, this will be a shock to the system !

GFS output 15-11-21

General Weather Situation

So this week starts off quietly with a ridge of high pressure continuing to dominate proceedings, with light winds and mild day and night temperatures. So a pretty dry picture everywhere except for a narrow, diagonal (/) band of rain moving slowly southwards across the U.K. Currently it straddles from North Wales to The North East. Through the day it is projected to very slowly drift south into West Wales  and maybe the tip of Cornwall before fizzling out. Elsewhere a nice quiet start, light north westerly / westerly winds and temperatures around 11-12°C across the board.

Onto Tuesday and another repeat really for England and Wales in terms of dry, reasonably mild, after a single figure start but slightly stronger winds and plenty of cloud. For Scotland, a band of rain will push into the north and west through Tuesday morning and move south and east into The Borders and Central Scotland later in the morning. The east though should stay drier. Ireland will also see a similar pattern of weather with rain, some of it heavy, moving into the north and north west and drifting south into central and eastern areas later in the day, fizzling out as it does so. The rain over Scotland will drift south into The Lakes and north west England later on Tuesday. Mild and dry for England and Wales with some sunshine amongst the cloud and a strengthening westerly wind.

Mid-week and Wednesday and overnight that rain has fizzled out into showers across north western-facing coasts of Scotland with a few moving inland through the day. Elsewhere a dry picture again with more in the way of sunshine as cloud cover breaks across England and Wales particularly. A little chillier on Wednesday with those clearer skies and a more pronounced north westerly wind keeping the temperatures down into just double figures for all of the U.K & Ireland, so 10-11°C likely with plenty of sunshine and a good drying day for all those with worm casts 🙁

Thursday sees some rain overnight move into the west and Central Scotland, some of it will be heavy, so a wet start here. This rain looks to stay in situ across the north and west of Scotland during Thursday, slowly fizzling out as it does so through the afternoon. With winds dropping away on Thursday it’ll be a much milder day with temperatures climbing into the low teens with a milder westerly wind direction to boot. Another dry day with varying amounts of sunshine, mild temperatures and light to moderate winds for England, Wales and Ireland. Even with the rain across the west and Central Scotland, temperatures will still hold into the low teens here.

Closing out what has been a pretty lovely week for November let’s face it, we see another repeat on Friday with the majority of the U.K & Ireland set fair for some good weather, mild temperatures (after a mild night it has to be said) and varying amounts of sunshine, but likely to be more than there was on Thursday. Still with the threat of rain for the north west and far north of Scotland, but otherwise a pretty decent day for November with 11-13°C likely. Another good drying day with a moderate westerly wind dying down over the course of the day.

So how does the weekend look ?

Well disease pressure may be a bit lively I’d say as the lighter winds and mild temperatures encourage dew development overnight into Friday / Saturday. Another dry, pleasant weekend, enjoy it as it may be the last for awhile yet if the projection of winter arriving at the end of November holds true. Rain will still affect the north of Scotland on Saturday and this will sink south into central areas once again with a risk of showers across the west of Scotland on Sunday as well. Away from this isolated rain event we have a lovely dry, mild first half of the weekend for England, Wales and Ireland. As we move into Sunday, the wind swings round to the north and strengthens so despite more in the way of brightness, it’ll feel a good bit cooler and that’ll set the stall out as we go into the latter part of the month, cooler and getting colder.

GFS predicted output 22-11-21 projected

Weather Outlook

Well the GFS projected for this time next week shows some interesting features. Firstly, the presence of an Atlantic high pressure system, something we have seen more and more of at this time of year. This one though will butt up against cooler air across the continent and that’ll pack the isobars more tightly and give us a pronounced northerly wind, so the start of next week will feel like winter is really here for sure.

GFS predicted output 24-11-21 projected

By mid-week we see that ridge of colder air coming into the weather picture over Scandinavia and Russia, so next week really breaks down into a week of two halves. The first part cold and dry with a biting northerly wind that’ll swing more to the west by mid-week and lessen in intensity. Much colder though with 6-7°C during the day and low single figures at night with ground frost likely I think with rain / wintry showers arriving to the north and west on Wednesday and then pushing into the south on a cold air front giving snow I think for the north. This cold low pressure will sink south on Thursday and Friday and so that means cold, unsettled with I think wintry showers over elevation. As we get to the end of the week, that low is projected to sit in the Bay of Biscay and its trailing edge will pull wintry showers off The North Sea on a biting easterly wind. By the weekend, that low sinks further south and the wind settles back to a northerly ato give us a cold weekend maybe with some wintry showers on eastern coasts.

If I Mystic Meg it even further I can see more in the way of cold weather as we sign off November, this time pushing down from The Atlantic. Now of course the above comes with the usual caveat and things might change like but I heard the weather chap mention it today on BBC Radio 4 and hell, The Daily Mirror has forecast it so it must be right like 🙂 !

Agronomic Notes

Disease Pressure 

It wouldn’t be a ‘typical’ autumn if we didn’t concern ourselves with everything disease-orientated and November has been an interesting month.

Cast your mind back to the end of October and we pulled in some pretty mild weather at the end of the month which took us into November with some pressure before a cold start to the month settled things down. Since then we have seen continued pressure for most of the last two weeks with some mild overnight temperatures, plenty of dew formation and light winds aiding mycelium development.

I charted out month-to-date disease pressure according to our predictive model for 3 locations so you can see what I mean…..

So you can see plenty of activity peaks and at very similar levels despite the geographical difference between locations. You can also clearly see a dip on the 13th and 14th of November when we had that brief cold blast and night frosts. Then the disease pressure dropped right away to sub-30% levels.

The images above of active disease are on already-present scars that developed earlier in the year in August rather than new infection. Now I accept this won’t be the case for everyone and it’ll be I think entirely dependent on air flow and shade because these factors influence dew formation. So I think November’s disease activity level will be closely-correlated with dew development across your site location. The more dew formation (or the more greens prone to more dew formation), the more / higher the level of activity. So despite the fact we have a lot of continual pressure, what we can see is that it rarely exceeded 70% of maximum and that’s why I think in most cases we are seeing re-activity around existing scars as opposed to new activity. Obviously this is just 3 locations, there will be exceptions either way but a location with a good IPM program in place that includes dew control, non-pesticidal and pesticidal applications should I hope be on top of this type of disease development. I’d also make the point that rather than just applying on a set time basis, applications are and will continue to be more effective applied prior to an identified peak in pressure, be that due to mild overnight temperatures, heavy dew or a combination of the two.

Throwing away ‘calendar thinking’

Typically we make most applications to our surfaces in terms of days, weeks, months with only few products applied on a non-calendar basis. PGR’s are perhaps the exception with a number of different systems of application dependent on GDD days and your usage of base temperature = 0 or 6. Personally in the future I think we will morph towards Growth Potential as an even more reliable method of applying products because of its ‘top out’ functionality in terms of optimum air temperature for growth as opposed to GDD which doesn’t have this feature. Now of course how applications  ‘work’ isn’t just restricted to a growth model per see, they can also be affected by degradation by U.V light, leaching from organic matter by heavy rainfall and / or surface run-off and a number of other variables, but let’s face it we have to start somewhere.

There are three reasons to move away from calendar thinking when it comes to disease management ;

The first and most important is that it doesn’t work anymore…..

The second is that the longevity of applications we make is highly dependent on how fast the grass is or isn’t growing (think dew control for example or a protectant fungicide that stays on the leaf surface and is either removed by cutting, degraded by U.V light potentially or replaced by new growth that doesn’t have this application on its surface, delete where applicable)

The third is that as we move into the future, we will get used to adopting disease models in order to apply pesticidal and non-pesticidal applications. I mean what’s the point of applying a fungicide if the disease pressure for your site is manageable without it ?

We can’t really work on a fungicide program basis anymore (especially in the U.K as opposed to Ireland where they have more options) because quite simply we don’t have the rotational options that are either a) effective or b) available legally 🙂 So you effectively rotate your fungicidal choice in the interest of ticking the ‘I’ve rotated my fungicides’ box from an effective one to a less effective one in the hope of making the former more effective over the longer term. Surely a better way is only to apply the effective fungicide when you really need to ?

So what drives that decision ?

Well the first would be if your disease model is telling you that you have an intense period of disease pressure coming which from experience you know that without applying a pesticide, the other components of your IPM program are unlikely to hold back.

Now of course this science is in its fledgling state but rest assured it’ll come and it is the future. The other factor driving decision-making on application frequency is growth. So how quickly has your previous application ‘grown out’ so-to-speak. Well lots of opposing theories here but for the last number of years I’ve worked on a cumulative Growth Potential total of 10.0 for a systemic fungicide and an effective non-pesticidal application (that I might have developed bless my cotton socks :)).

I came to this number by scientific observation, making applications, noting G.P or more precisely cumulative G.P and of course efficacy. Now of course nature doesn’t work by precise numbers. I’ve been burnt at a cumulative G.P of 9.75 since my previous application and let’s not talk about less effective fungicides because although the longevity rule still holds, if they don’t work very well after 2.5 cumulative G.P, they aren’t likely to up to 10 are they ?

Let’s look at our cumulative G.P working on the basis that I started my IPM program against Microdochium nivale at the beginning of September and I made applications of pesticidal / non-pesticidal products based solely on Growth Potential rather than the calendar. How does it look for our default Thame, Oxfordshire location…..For the benefit of this exercise I have also used some projected temperatures so you can see the effect next week’s potential cold weather will / may have….

So let’s say I am ‘Calendar Man  (or women for that matter of course) 1’ and I am applying my products on a monthly basis from the beginning of September.

Well my 1st application potentially lasted 11 days so for the next 20 I am totally exposed…not great eh ?

‘Calendar Man 2’ applies products on a fortnightly basis and is pretty close to covering all the options. OK, the beginning of September is a bit marginal but for it to be a problem we would have had to have high disease pressure on the days when the previous application had run out. Calendar man 2 is ok until November when we start to see much greater longevity from applications as cooler and then colder weather kicks in and effectively we don’t need to apply on an as frequent basis, saving time and money. I’d also argue that some products like dew control for example and / or protectant fungicides really come into their own as daily G.P levels drop and their longevity is naturally extended. Conversely and especially in the case of dew control, an earlier in the autumn application can make the difference between scarring and non-scarring even if it ‘only’ lasts for 7 days and that period happens to coincide with extended dew formation and high plant leaf wetness.

So where are we going currently ?

Well applying to a G.P model is I think the future and on top of that, having access to effective disease modelling,  5-7-10 days, maybe ahead of the game will help to make those all important fungicide applications more effective. I’ve seen this working in practice and it is effective.

Bye bye Calendar Man…..

All the best.

Mark Hunt