October 11th – 2021

Hi All,

What a lovely run of beautiful autumnal days recently. When the worlds in turmoil economically, politically and from a continuing public health perspective, having a nice day to go out (at this time of year) and walk, run, cycle, fish, (delete where applicable) just helps keep one’s feet on the ground and one’s mind…….balanced.

Economically, I’ve never known a situation like it in terms of fertiliser raw materials, energy and freight, nothing is immune. We are beginning to see the prioritisation of raw materials per country. Recently, China banned the export of phosphorus onto the world market, in an stroke that removes 3.2 million tonnes from the supply chain. That phosphorus is used as a component in many products, not just fertilisers. For instance, there is now a global shortage of glyphosate, so some farmers this autumn will not be able to spray off stubble and volunteer plants prior to drilling. Some won’t be able to afford the cost of fertiliser. This will mean either a delay in spraying (till more cheaper product comes available) or possibly a delay in planting till the spring. This will impact food prices which are already soaring after a 3 to 4x increase in world freight. The globalisation model is creaking badly it seems.

The graph below shows what is happening to fertiliser raw materials. It’s only current till the end of September.

If I ran a new graph this week vs. last week say, all the scales on price would be wrong such is the rate of change…

CAN = Calcium ammonium nitrate / DAP = Diammonium phosphate / MOP = Murate of potash (potassium chloride) 

In our industry it will mean significant increase in prices, whether because of the rising cost of transport, shortage of raw materials and / or rising cost of energy. If you look at gas prices, last year we were sitting at £0.50p per therm, now it’s 6 times that and still heading up. The problem is our budgets aren’t increasing proportionately.

I remember a long while ago talking to a Scott’s Techrep (as they were known back in the day in the U.S) about all the changes going on with the company / world and he said,…”It’s just ripples in the pond Mark”. I like that analogy and to a point he was right, but as I look at it now, that ‘pond’ is doing a very passable impression of The North Sea !

Now we have been here before back in 2008/9 but the drivers were completely different then. It’ll be a time for consolidating your strategy, cutting back where materials are no longer cost effective and planning an alternative route to get through Spring 2022 and hope the world settles down thereafter. It’s doable, I can see that sitting here, here and now, but it will be challenging as making broadstream changes often are. There is an end to this cycle, a logical one and it comes when the drivers / people pushing up the price suddenly realise that no one can afford to buy the product and the market collapses. “Urea to hit £1,000 a mt”….yeah right, but who’s buying ?

Onto the weather….

GFS output 11-10-21

General Weather Situation

So as projected last week, we start this week with that high pressure sitting slap bang over Co. Kerry  and cooler / unsettled air over the north west of Scotland. As we go through the week this cooler air will be dragged down the eastern side of the U.K on a northerly airstream and that’ll bring more cloud and slightly lower temperatures into the forecasting picture. So this week’s weather forecast is really split into the first half of the week and the second.

For the first half of the week we have dry and settled conditions over England, Wales and Ireland but for Scotland we will see some rain already into the north and west on Monday and this will be a recurring feature into Tuesday with that band of rain moving slowly from west to east. All of the U.K will be affected by a north westerly airstream trending more northerly across the east and that’ll drag both day and night temperatures down into the mid-teens / high single figures respectively with more in the way of cloud around than last week. Ireland being closer to the high pressure and further away from the cooler air across the north and east will have the best of the weather with high temperatures and more in the way of sunshine for the first half of the week. As we approach mid-week, the winds begin to drop and swing round to the west and that signals a change in the weather and a change for the latter part of this week.

On Thursday we again have another nice day for England, Wales and Ireland with a westerly wind lifting up the temperatures a little and some cloud / sunshine. The synopsis remains dry for most areas through Thursday with mid to high teen temperatures for Ireland, England and Wales and most of Scotland, though here it’ll be cloudier the further north and east you are and cooler over Scotland. The change happens on Thursday morning when more rain pushes into the north and west of Scotland. This band of rain, some of it heavy, will sink south over Scotland through the course of Thursday and it’ll be pulling that temperature down as well as cooler air follows on behind this rain band.

Overnight into Friday that rain sinks further south across the U.K into northern England and the north and north west of Ireland with cooler air following on behind and by dawn on Friday that rain will be over North Wales in a line stretching across to The Humber. Across The Irish Sea it’ll have fizzled out overnight into just low cloud. During Friday it continues to sink south so some showers around for The Midlands later on Friday but overall it’ll stay dry for the southern half of the U.K most of the way through Friday with reasonable mid-teen temperatures. Ireland will see the same, a chance of showers across the middle of the country for the second half of the day and similar temperatures, together with cooler air in the north, milder air in the south.

As we approach the weekend we have a reversal of our weather situation vs. the start of the week. The GFS output for Friday neatly sums this up if you compare it with the one above.

GFS output 15-10-21

So the synopsis for the weekend looks not bad but with a slowly declining weather picture from the west and north as an Atlantic low pressure system starts to influence the weather for Ireland and Scotland later into the weekend. So for most areas we look to have a dry and settled weekend with light winds and a changeable wind direction for Saturday. Lots of cloud around so on the cool side. Overnight into Sunday and we see some rain across the north west of Ireland and Scotland and this will push showers across Scotland through Sunday. Dry again for England and Wales with pleasant mid-teen temperatures, recovering from the cooler ones of Saturday. As we approach the back end of Sunday, rain, some of it heavy pushes into the west of Ireland, the first rain front from that Atlantic low.

GFS output 18-10-21

Weather Outlook 

So for the start of next week, we have a completely different weather picture as we move into a more typical autumnal pattern. Stronger to gale force at times, south westerly winds for a start but that means a mild airstream so it’s not all bad news. You can see from the image above that the south of England is sort of nestling just out of the way of the worst of the weather and so for Monday that’s how it’ll pan out. Wet and windy for Ireland for Monday morning with that rain crossing The Irish Sea into the north west of England, North Wales and Scotland during Monday. The south of England looks to miss this rain and wind initially but on Tuesday another rain front pushes in across Ireland and then all of the U.K through the course of the day, clearing the west as it does so. Strong south westerly to westerly winds in situ and these will flip round to the north west through Wednesday and if anything increase in intensity bringing more rain for the U.K mid-week and cooler with it. Thursday sees that low pressure move through onto the continent leaving behind a quieter end to the week. Still with some showers around for the north and east on Thursday / Friday but with much lighter winds and milder temperatures.

Grass Agronomics

This is a really cool picture and I’m grateful to Pete B for sending it in….

OK, we know it’s a picture of Microdochium nivale, no great surprises there but you can also see the grass is covered in a heavy dew and I think guttation fluid.

If we look closer (bottom image) we can see that the mycelium present are developing on the guttation fluid at the tip of the plant leaf. This backs up my feelings from last week that the main driver here is dew / guttation fluid formation, aided of course by some balmy / barmy overnight temperatures as well it has to be said.

So as predicted a week ago, we saw some prolonged pressure from Microdochium at the back end of last week and over the weekend but maybe not as bad as we thought ?

Not sure yet on that front I’ll wait for more feedback but that’s my gut feeling and if true, there’s a real learn to be had from this recent disease peak and the weather either side of it.

Drilling down into the data you can see when the main peak occurred from 23:15 pm on 06-10-21 through to 14:45 pm on 08-10-21 (highlighted in red)

During part of this period on the night of 7th / 8th October, the air temperature didn’t drop below 14 °C and the humidity stayed at > 90%.

We can also see from the bottom graph that the plant leaf wetness was maxed out (15/15) for 13 continuous hours.

All in all it represents high sustained disease pressure.

So how did you guys / girls do out there ?

Come through it ok or have plenty of disease activity, drop me an email or comment on this blog as I’m intrigued.

Outfield management

With a good forecast this week for most areas and the threat of rainfall next week and more unsettled weather, the mind soon turns to worm activity and mitigation strategies.

Obviously the main issue we encounter is smearing of the worm casts when the fairways / outfield are being cut. So as I’ve mentioned before, now may be a good time to experiment with a PGR application to minimise your number of cuts and therefore smearing events. I’d mix it with iron as well to not only serve the purpose of holding back the growth but keep the colour for longer into the winter as we know PGR’s tend to hold the iron in the plant for longer. OK, I know it doesn’t stop the worms casting in the first place, 100%, but maybe it’s worth a try on your worst affected outfield areas to see how it works and then assess over the winter ?

Nutrition

I began this blog by talking about the increase in prices currently gripping our industry and others and how it is likely to affect fertiliser price and availability into 2022. The main area where energy is utilised to produce products is in solid (granular or prilled) fertiliser production, whether that be the component raw material (urea, sulphate of ammonia and the like) or in the finished product. So it is very likely that this area will be affected the most going forward. For that reason and for an agronomic one (we don’t currently need the additional N input from a granular), liquids are definitely the way to go for the time-being with small spoon feed applications likely to keep things ticking nicely without breaking the bank. If you are sitting on a stock of granular fertilisers, I’d be thinking about where and when you can use it to its best effect. Keep your powder dry in that respect and ride this one out.

After all, it’s just another ripple in the pond….that’s me for another week, all the best.

Mark Hunt