27th April

Hi All,

My apologies for a fortnights absence but sadly I lost my mum, not to Covid but because of it. I have to say it was and will remain as one of the most traumatic experiences of my life and one I wouldn’t wish on anybody. Not after sympathy, we all have our own personal woes I know, just explaining where the blogs been (or hasn’t been)

So I guess understandably I’ve been out of the turf and weather loop recently but cognisant enough to know it’s been very dry and Poa seedheads are making an appearance pretty much right on cue for this time of year.

It always makes me wonder that despite the many different winter and early spring seasons we have had since I started writing this blog, the last week of April and 1st week of May always seems to hit the mark in terms of our old friend (or foe) Poa annua var. reptans and seedhead development. I can humorously imagine an agronomic version of Boris chairing his first meeting of his cabinet at Downing St this morning and discussing measures to ease the lock down. “Well golf should resume pretty soon, but let’s get through the Poa annua seedhead flush before we do, we don’t want people moaning, you can just imagine what Laura Kuennsberg and Robert Peston would make of that” 🙂

I note more countries in Europe are either looking to open up golf or have done so already albeit in line with social distancing and clubhouse restrictions, so let’s hope along with fishing (a singular past time if there ever was one) it does so soon and we can all get back to a little piece of normality in what will be a changed world. My, do I miss a decent Flat White and a mornings fly fishing….

Nature is in full swing with the absence of people, I’ve had Blackcaps, Mistle Thrush and Goldcrest in my garden this spring, all are firsts. I should admit that the Goldcrest was a bit of a cheat because I could hear one singing nearby so I played a male Goldcrest singing on my I-phone and it came to within 2ft of me to investigate. What a beautiful bird it is and Britain’s smallest to boot. The Swallows and Martins are here and it was lovely to hear them yesterday chattering happily to themselves, whilst gouging on insects after flying all the way from Africa.

Another first visitor recently and an unwelcome one was obviously Bertie the Badger, who has to date gruesomely dispatched 4 Hedgehogs around my close. He can’t get into my garden now so my 2 surviving Hedgehogs are safe unless of course they wander out. I’ve discovered that when they sense that a predator like a Badger is visiting their territory, they go back into a mini-hibernation for a week or two in the hope it’ll return, find no more food and wander off somewhere else in the meantime. So far, so good, keep your heads down lads.

General Weather Situation

So this ones going to follow the pattern of my mini blogs, more for my sake really in terms of getting my head back into a turf-related gear. I have an enforced timetable though because Monday and Thursday pm’s I’m out delivering prescriptions to the self-isolating, sadly not on the motorbike (would be a great excuse to get on it but maybe not this week!). So without further ado, let’s see what the weather has in store for the U.K & Ireland this week.

Above is the GFS chart for today and it looks a pretty incongruous one with no weather pattern clearly dominating. That’s pretty apt because today is a ‘change day’ where we move away from the dominating high pressure to a more unsettled and wetter picture.

We start the week on a mainly dry picture though after yesterdays showers moved across the north Midlands and into Lincolnshire / Humberside through the afternoon / evening. We do have some rain already across my old stamping ground of the north east of Scotland, (spent many a day hacking along the roads between Nairn, Cumminestown, Turriff and the like) but for most this morning will be largely dry. That rain over north east Scotland will consolidate and drift south to affect Central Scotland, where I think it’ll be very welcome because it’s been very dry up there this April. (like most places). I would also expect to see some showers across The South West and along the south coast of England through Monday morning. Other than that pretty dry until last knockings with a cooler feel to the temperature than of late with low to mid-teens the order of the day for Monday and a changeable and light wind.

Tuesday sees that rain move into The South West overnight and push inland so expect plenty of showers or longer outbreaks of rain across the south on Tuesday. The low pressure that is bringing this rain is a Bay of Biscay jobbie so that means it’ll be more southerly-orientated and in this case Ireland looks to miss the worst of it initially with only a few showers across dear old Co. Kerry likely. Through Tuesday morning this rain will slowly edge northwards into The Midlands, East Anglia and across Wales. It does look to be very slow-moving which means some places may get a fairly nice day of steady rain and also it may not progress much north of The Humber. Towards the late afternoon we may see more in the way of showers breaking out across Ireland as that humid air pushes in from The Atlantic. Scotland looks to stay largely dry. A southerly low means it’ll drag easterly winds off the north part of the low that is affecting us so in the south of England expect a cold day on Tuesday with temperatures probably half that of the weekend and barely struggling into double figures.

The image above is the projection for Wednesday and you can see we now have an Atlantic low pressure pushing in from the west. So that means rain into the south west of Ireland on Wednesday morning and then moving east across The Irish Sea into The South West and Wales later in the morning. Some of that rain may be heavy across Co. Cork and Co. Waterford. By the afternoon that heavier rain will be across the south west and west of England and moving slowly north and east across the southern half of the U.K. At this stage it isn’t projected to reach eastern England and the north of England till Wednesday evening. The low pressure system will push bands of rain up across the U.K and Ireland through Wednesday and into Thursday, so as one clears another one will likely follow behind. With the wind more southerly now, it’ll pick up temperatures a little into the low teens, so feeling a tad milder.

Onto Thursday and overnight that rain has broken down to a large grouping of showers that will push across the U.K and Ireland throughout the day accompanied by a moderate southerly / south-westerly wind. At this stage it looks like the 2nd half of the day looks wettest with the rain pushing up from The South West throughout the day and moving north and east. A pretty dull affair after the bright sunny days we have enjoyed of late. Similar temperatures to Wednesday so low to mid-teens.

Friday sees most of the showers now further north and north east with some sunny intervals over the southern half of the U.K. We will also see further showers across Connacht and the north of Ireland through the course of Friday morning. Plenty of showers and longer spells of rain for the 2nd half of Friday, probably more long eastern coasts and stretching up to Scotland, brighter for the west. So an unsettled day, maybe a bit more in the way of sunshine and that’ll lift the temperatures into the mid-teens. Winds will be light to moderate, shifting round to the south.

The weekend for what it’s worth looks to remain unsettled with plenty of rain across Ireland and the west coast of the U.K on Saturday with showers pushing inland too. More showers and heavier spells of rain for the south of England on Sunday, with further showers for the north and Scotland. Some brighter interludes as well and remaining nicely mild at around 14-16°C.

Weather Outlook

Above is the GFS projection for the start of next week and as you can see we have another Atlantic low pressure system pushing into Ireland and the south of England. So we may have a quiet start on Monday but we will soon see a band of rain, some of it heavy pushing in from the south and west. Wet for the 2nd half of Monday and then a more showery outlook for Tuesday before we see that low spin down towards the south east of England. If the projections play out this way that could mean a period of very windy, wet and cool weather for the south of England as the low pressure drags cloud and moisture off The North Sea on Wednesday / Thursday. Drier further west and north. That northerly airflow means it won’t be particularly warm for the 2nd half of next week which is probably for the better in terms of keeping on top of grass growth.

Agronomic Notes

So a lot of things going on whilst I’ve been away, lock-down aside..

Leatherjackets

The first generation of Crane Fly appear to have hatched towards the end of April preceded by lots of you reporting a lot of grubs emerging onto the turf surface overnight. There’s also been a lot of damage reported on social media and the like from Corvids (which have young in the nest), Foxes and Badgers. After such a wet winter with very few periods of cold I think it is highly likely that we are seeing a much greater population level than normal having survived the winter and emerging now on our golf courses. I won’t make comment on Acelepryn and its efficacy because I don’t have the day to day knowledge currently so I’ll leave that to the Glenn and Dan at Syngenta, as they’re the experts 🙂

Poa annua seedheads

The above picture shows a Poa annua seedhead tucked down in the leaf sheath before it merges on its panicle. Now that’s where I think a lot of seedheads have been up until recently because April hasn’t been a Poa growing month.

As you can see from the graph above (thanks Rob), April has been a very dry month with only 13.6 mm recorded for this site (and that’s on the back of a very dry 2nd half of March). Most of that rain fell on a single day (18th April), which on this site coincided with a total GDD of 206 since January 1. Now I tend to work on anything > total GDD 180 for perennial Poa to start seeding but there is a lot of variability depending on the biotype you have. So in other words although we were past that point GDD-wise, we haven’t see much seedhead development because it has been so dry and Poa has just been sitting there….kind of sulking…

Since the rainfall on the 18th we have seen some seedhead development but I think this week will be the real catalyst with cooler temperatures and consistent rainfall from Tuesday. It’s worth noting that when Poa annua is putting its efforts into seedhead development, it does so at the expense of growth and tillering so you tend to see a paler plant, one that stands out in a dark stand (ryegrass for example) and the leaf morphology tends to be broader / coarser. Of course under lock-down maintenance, life is different but suffice to say from this week onwards, seedheads will be an ever-present feature and would require ‘cultural work’ to minimise their appearance if we had golfers (which currently we don’t). I know a number of courses are going through this period with a higher-height-of-cut currently so expect to see more seedheads (if you have Poa that is :)) because the pannicle will be able to fully extend under the cutting height.

It has been a very dry spring so far…

Using data from the site above I can see that we are already up against it from a soil moisture perspective in April due to the imbalance between rainfall and evapotranspiration (E.T).

For the Northampton location above I can see the stats for April read as follows ;

Rainfall month to date – April 2020 = 13.6 mm

Evapotranspiration month to date – April 2020 = 78.14 mm

Moisture deficit = 64.54 mm

Ordinarily we would all be out hand-watering like crazy to try and pick up dry areas and keep all the grasses happy but with minimum labour that’s not necessarily been easy. A bonus though has been the lack of outfield growth because of the above soil moisture deficit, at least things have been more easily maintainable (until the rainfall of the 18th) for most of the month with a slower growth rate. (not from lack of temperature but from lack of rainfall)

With rain arriving this week and a soil temperature currently sitting up at 17.3 °C, we can expect a flush on outfields for awhile but with the cooler day and night temperatures this shouldn’t last too long before growth rates drop back due to the lower temperatures.

My Meteoturf is showing a projected total GDD of 31 for the week which isn’t huge and a total G.P of 2.8, which averages out as 0.4 a day. So 40% of optimum growth rates should be maintainable once we get over the initial flush.

OK that’s me for now.

Stay safe, sane and healthy….

All the best.

Mark Hunt