6th January

Hi All and Happy New Year !

This post marks my 9th year (to the day) of this blog as I published the first one on 06/01/11.

That particular January we had snow cover, my Paddy Power bets had come in and we had plenty of Microdochium pressure.

If you think back then to the type of products we had at our disposal, not just fungicides, and now look at where we are, times have changed radically in the interim and to a point, we have adapted. As I look ahead, our ability to react and change will continue to be tested whether maintaining a golf course or responsible for running one as there appears very little let up from the weather pressure we have experienced of late.

Climate change is very much in the news now with the bush fires in Australia, melting ice caps and the ever increasingly negative predictions from climate scientists on where we are going as a world. Looking at our winter in a microcosm, we have had very few frosts, an inordinate amount of rain and honestly so far winter is just an extension of autumn. Now we know traditionally winter doesn’t start till after Christmas but I just can’t see the cold on the worldwide map. I have a customer in Russia where it’s normally -10 to -20 °C at this time of year and there it is still above freezing during the day with very little snow. It’s early days yet maybe to start talking about a year without a winter but traditionally our cold comes from the north and east. Well if Russia is barely freezing, it isn’t coming from there. Can’t see it coming from the north either. Recently you may have seen Norway enjoyed its warmest January day when the village of Sunndalsora recorded 19 °C on the 2nd of January, some 25 °C higher than their ‘normal’ average temperature for January. I’ll predict now that periods of March and April will be colder than this January.

That is the clear feature of our changing climate, warmer air is extending further north and a change in the behaviour of the jet stream is behind it I believe.

Thankfully for most, the Christmas period was dry, as was the start of 2020, but we have some new rain on the radar this week so the respite though very welcome will only brief.

For GDPR reasons, the Hedgehog in this picture isn’t actually Stella 🙂

Christmas for me was highlighted by the arrival of a Hedgehoglet the day before Christmas Eve. A friend of a friend knew I have a sweet spot for these animals and duly pitched up with a very wet and cold example that was found in the gutter. Some heat, Puppy milk and now a residence in the garage seem to have done the trick and he or she is pilling on weight. My local Wildlife hospital has 300 Hedgehoglets that they are looking after over the winter and can take no more. All of these were left without parents when they duly hibernated in late November and without Mothers milk and tender care have become stressed and pretty helpless.

That said I still have 2 such young Hedgehogs visiting my garden, they are very small (350gm) and if the weather looks to be turning ugly will soon join my present incumbent, Stella, in the garage to see out February. “Stella” by the way doesn’t mean that my resident is a female, I named her after the favourite tipple of the lady that called me 😉 (thanks Jude)

On a serious note, come spring there will be a need to rehouse these little animals in the wild, so if you can run to the cost of a Hedgehog house, have a quiet corner of the garden free and crucially don’t have a dog that would try to harm them, they make a good addition. They’re excellent at keeping down slugs and snails as well and kids seem fascinated by them.

Onto the weather, this week’s blog won’t contain a summary of December 2019, simply because if I don’t apply myself to writing some literature content sometime soon, I will incur the wrath of my erstwhile colleague, Mr Russell, so that’ll be next week.

General Weather Situation

With a 10-day window of dry conditions here , you could almost hear the countryside starting to breath again as ditches and rivers returned to normal winter levels. The same goes for our soil as well that has sat saturated for long periods of autumn / winter 2019 / 20. Although we have rain this week, some of it heavy, I don’t see a return to the weather pattern of September – December, 2019. The image above shows the temporary peak of high pressure that has brought us some dry weather of late and although this will be shunted eastwards this week with the arrival of low pressure, I can already see new ones on the weather horizon.

So Monday looks to start off dry everywhere across the U.K, but we have a threatening low pressure system pushing in from the west and this is already across Ireland bringing wind and rain to most areas. Through the morning this rain will clear from the west of Ireland and push into western coasts and England, Wales and Scotland, moving quickly eastwards. By mid-afternoon the rain has cleared the east of Ireland and it’s eastern front will be into central areas and the west Midlands. This rain will stretch the entire length of the U.K so from The Isle of Wight right up to northern Scotland. It’s a quick-moving front though and by evening it should have cleared all but the north west of Scotland and even here it won’t last long into the night. A dull, mild, January day with temperatures in the high single figures and accompanied by a strong south westerly wind.

Overnight into Tuesday and we see another rain front pushing in however this one is more north westerly-orientated with rain from the off for north-west Ireland and Scotland. That rain will intensify through Tuesday morning over north-west Scotland with some heavy day totals likely. South and east of this we will enjoy a dry start to the day. Ireland will see some further rain through the course of Tuesday morning but it’ll always be heavier across the north and west. This rain will push showers into The North West and North Wales coastal areas with some of those showers drifting south across Mid and South Wales through the afternoon. Dry then for most central and eastern areas and it’ll feel very mild with temperatures into double figures and actually increasing through Tuesday night, aided by a fresh south westerly / westerly wind.

Onto Wednesday and a dry start for nearly all of the U.K & Ireland but it won’t last for long as wintry showers will push into north-west Scotland and later in the morning we will see a rain front push into The South West and Wales bringing heavy rain across Wales. This rain will push eastwards through the course of the 2nd half of Wednesday bringing rain to mainly central and southern areas. The north of England, most of Scotland and Ireland should have a relatively dry day and remaining mild with temperatures ranging from 9-11°C . The strong westerly wind will peter out through the evening and swing more northwards dropping the temperature as it does so.

Wednesday night into Thursday sees the arrival of the first of a succession of southerly-orienated, cold, low pressure systems and these will bring rain and wintry showers overnight into Thursday for the southern half of the U.K and Ireland. Scotland should miss most of this except for some continuing wintry showers across the north west. Now currently the rain is predicted for the lower half of Ireland and the U.K, extending down from the north of England. It’s likely with the cooler wind that we may also see some wintry showers across The Peak District. Tricky to say where the heaviest rain will fall but The South West could be in line for a heavy hit and also across the northern Midlands I am afraid. Through Thursday afternoon, this low pressure pushes south and east and clears Ireland and most of the U.K by the evening, except The South West. A cold, wet and pretty grim day with light winds not helping temperatures pick up much higher than 6-8 °C .

Closing out the week on Friday and we look to have a dry picture across the U.K & Ireland and with the wind swinging round to the south west, we should pick up some milder air as well. By lunchtime we will see a band of rain push into the west of Ireland and north-west Scotland and this will move south and east across Ireland through the 2nd half of the day. By Friday evening that rain will intensify over north west Scotland and push slowly south and east into northern England with some heavy rain for The North West again I am afraid. Away from these rain fronts it looks to be a dry, fairly mild day for England and Wales with temperatures initially down in mid-single figures but pushing up through the 2nd half of the day as the south westerly wind freshens.

The outlook for the weekend is very wet and windy through Saturday for Ireland, North Wales, the north of England and Scotland. That rain may push south into South Wales through Saturday but it’s a real north-west / south-east split with the latter enjoying a very windy but dry day. Showers will spill south and eastwards over the rest of the U.K through Saturday evening, clearing Ireland as they do so. Sunday looks to be a much better day with some rain around across the north west of England and Scotland, but dry for most with lightening winds and some chance of sunshine. Temperatures for the weekend should be 7-10 °C .

Weather Outlook

So the start of next week looks to be very windy with some really tight-packed isobars and low pressure systems funneling in. That means a pretty wet start to the first two days of next week with plenty of rain for all areas pushed along by a very strong, gale force, south westerly wind. By mid-week we see a peak start to build in the jet stream and although this doesn’t remove the risk of further rain through Thursday / Friday, it looks like it may build into a nice high pressure system by next weekend. So a pretty dismal start to the week but maybe a better finish. I should also add that the longer-term projections (yes I know they may change) is for a warm high pressure to build through the third week of January. So still no signs of cold this winter.

Agronomic Notes

2020 GDD Spreadsheet ……

OK, first up and a bit later than intended, please find below the link for the 2020 GDD spreadsheet. Hopefully you found the 2019 one useful and in particular the chart section documenting dry days (or rather the lack of them) that makes a powerful argument for drainage !

I think the 3 charts above are a pretty good graphical summary of our year documenting the warm, progressive start to 2019, the wet summer and of course the extremely wet autumn / winter period. Just look at the wet day stats for October to year end, 69 out of a total of 92 days.

These stats are for York (thanks Adrian!) but I’m sure if I got a GDD spreadsheet for The North West it would make even worse reading for the back end.

Here’s the link…..

https://weather.headlandamenity.com/downloads/GDD_Logs/GDD_GP_Annual_Log_2020.xlsm

Microdochium nivale activity

Just like in 2018, we picked up a fair degree of Microdochium nivale activity over the Christmas period with the combination of mild nights, a lack of wind, heavy dew and high humidity.

It wasn’t as extended a period of disease pressure as Christmas 2018, but it was still enough to see re-activity on existing scars (see above) and also new activity on non-treated areas of approach, fairways and tee complexes.

Again in common with 2018, there were very few opportunities to get a fungicide, hardener, dew control down on the run up to Christmas with saturated soils, wet and windy weather curtailing spray days or even being able to get a machine to the greens to apply.

Hopefully you can see from the graph above the very rapid rise in air temperature recorded on the 26th December. This was the catalyst to disease activity aided by heavy dew and consequently, a wet plant leaf.

From the feedback I’ve had already, it’s a mixed picture out there…

Some who got on a good quality, hardening spray and / or a dew control seemed to have come through relatively unscathed. Those who were at the tail end of a fungicide application and weren’t able to apply hardeners, dew control and / or a fungicide were less fortunate.

Again it was the development of a high pressure weather system over the Christmas period that caused the issue.

Grub activity…..

I guess it is something we are going to have to get used to but I am already getting reports of Leatherjacket activity and damage. The run of wet and mild weather has suited prolonged insect activity, particularly on untreated areas. it’ll be interesting as we go into the spring to understand if the use of Acelepryn has been beneficial on Leatherjackets and Chafers. Fingers crossed on that one because without it we are dependent on the up until now, ‘hit and miss’ and expensive option of pathogenic nematodes. I would also expect to see activity from Biobionid larval species with the run of weather we have been having.

Getting a head start on the spring ……

I always smile when I see the picture above, it is quite simply a cracker (cheers Mark) although I feel for the chap using the Procore 🙁

With the way the winters have been of late, we often see less than ideal conditions for grass growth extending through March and April. It is either a lack of temperature, rainfall or both that makes getting consistent growth and recovery during those months a tricky proposition. It is also often the case that we pick up a run of dry, cold weather in the spring that more or less nulifies opportunities for growth / recovery on fine turf. Of course there is always the option of lighting up your turf with a heavy dose of granular, quick start N should the spring prove hard work but to me there’s a smarter play than applying 40% of your yearly N total in one hit 🙂 

Applying a low nitrogen granular fertiliser in January will give you a very nice result if and when we pick up some mild weather windows during January and February without the need to run to the sprayer to try and apply a liquid. The resultant sward benefit will bring you into March and April in a much better state of affairs and with good sward density and less need to push your greens hard in the spring from an ‘N’ perspective. 

The same goes for aeration, slipping in a crafty hollow core now or perhaps later in the month will lower your surface organic matter, encourage new root development and take the pressure off for the same during March and April. I have talked about it before but members perceptions are much lower now than they are in those months, so tolerance to aeration is higher. OK, surfaces currently are still drying out and I appreciate for some areas of the country, just getting machinery out onto the course is a challenge but maybe, just maybe we will have a nice window later this month for a sneaky one 🙂

OK, that’s it for the first blog of 2020, next week I should have a bit more time for the December 2019 stats and a reflective look back at the year. 

All the best for the coming year.

Mark Hunt