9th March

Hi All,

Not sure about March, it felt more like April yesterday on Draycote reservoir with warm sunshine, howling wind, rain and hail, all in the same day. I did see some beautiful anvil clouds doing the rounds as well with storms sat below them. Cracking…unlike my fly fishing.. 🙁

It was a windy old job of a day though and wind will be a feature of this week, but that’s good in my books as it means more efficient drying of the turf surface 🙂

There’s a lot of talk about the Covid-19 virus and when you look at somewhere like Italy with one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world you wonder how we are going to be able to cope as a country with the NHS already creaking under the strain of our population. I have a mum and dad who are both ill, so I see the NHS ‘up close and regular’. In general the staff are great but you can see it is a numbers game, pure and simple and this couldn’t come at a worst time of year. Time to get off you backside Boris.

I wonder when and if they will  ban mass gatherings which will affect our industry massively whether that’s horse racing, football matches, golf tournaments and the like. Coming on the back of a very hard winter from a cash flow perspective, the effects on the economy of our industry (whatever side of the fence you are on) doesn’t bear thinking about.

I am up against it time-wise this morning so without further ado, I’ll look at the weather for the upcoming week.

General Weather Situation

As you can see from the GFS output above, we start this week with high pressure nudging some milder air into the picture. With high pressure below us and low pressure above, the isobars between the two are squeezed so that means a predominantly windy week is in store as mentioned above. So Monday will see a mainly dry picture for the U.K save for a belt of showers working across The Midlands and the north of England. They’ll be a more concentrated band of rain crossing Ireland and this will move eastwards across The North Sea into the west of the U.K during the afternoon, so the central and eastern areas may stay dry all day. By evening that band of rain should have largely cleared Ireland but now be located across the U.K. Strong to moderate westerly winds are to be expected freshening with that rain and pulling in mild double figure overnight temperatures.

By Tuesday morning that rain will have cleared the east coast of England but it will have left behind some associated fronts with rain likely to persist across the west of England, Wales, north west of England and western Scotland. As we progress through the morning this rain will become more isolated to the north west of the U.K. Ireland also will see most  of the rain across the northern counties through the morning as the high pressure nudges everything up a bit. That high will introduce some very mild air for a time across the south of England and Ireland with temperatures pushing up into the low teens on Tuesday. As we progress through the afternoon those northern showers will die down to leave a mild and warm picture across the U.K and Ireland, with a moderate to strong westerly veering slightly north-westerly wind.

Overnight into Wednesday sees a rain front push along the south coast of England and move off into The Channel by dawn. They’ll also be some more rain across the west and central Scotland from early doors. Through the morning we will see a band of showers across the north west of Ireland and Scotland with some of them wintry in nature over higher ground. Further south and east, a nice day on Wednesday with mild temperatures and some sunshine, in other words, a good drying day. By close of play we will see a more general band of rain push into Ireland from the north west and edge south eastwards slowly. Mild in the south, cooler in the north, so 7-13°C the temperature range and remaining breezy with a strong to moderate westerly in situ.

Thursday sees that band of rain push across the southern half of the U.K as showers. These are being fed by a low pressure system out in The Atlantic. This will introduce further rain showers into the west of Ireland by lunchtime on Thursday. Further east across The Irish Sea we look to be mainly dry through the morning but there will be some rain around across Wales and The North West. Some of these showers will push inland through the course of the afternoon across southern England. Ireland will see more rain for the west and north west as that low passes close by with some showers further east. Scotland picks up some heavier rain through Thursday morning in the west pushing across central areas and accompanied by some cool winds as well. So most of the rain associated with that low pressure looks to be mainly across the north west and north of the U.K with the south and east missing it this time. Cooler and windier on Thursday with a north westerly wind pulling down the temperatures to 7-9°C.

Closing out the week on Friday we have a drier picture for the U.K & Ireland with only some showers across the north west an issue. Dry with some sunshine but remaining on the cool side because of that north west wind. During the afternoon we see a ridge of showers push into the west of Ireland and move eastwards introducing a south westerly air stream overnight into Saturday. So again mainly dry across central and southern parts, a little bit more showery further north and an unsettled day for Ireland. Still cool with that north westerly wind which drops away as we reach dusk.

With a rain front moving across The Irish Sea overnight we can expect Saturday to start unsettled with Ireland starting reasonably dry and the U.K blanketing under a belt of rain / rain showers. Through Saturday morning that rain will edge eastwards across the U.K but we will see more rain pushing into Ireland unfortunately. So a dry start then a wet day for Ireland and sunshine and showers for the U.K after that early rain moves off. Most of the showers will be along western coasts. A strong to moderate south westerly wind will bring the temperatures up nicely through the day breaking into double figures. Sunday looks like starting off dry but further rain showers are likely across Ireland, The South West, Wales, The North West and Western Scotland. These showers will consolidate into longer spells of rain through the afternoon for western regions breaking down into showers across Ireland and the rest of the U.K. So a sunshine and showers sort of weekend with heavier rain across the west.

Weather Outlook

You could be forgiven for thinking we haven’t lost our rainfall pattern of the winter as promised. I’d argue we have because now the rain fronts are pushing through quicker, they carry less rain and we have more drying down periods between them. If you look at the 3 images above, the bottom one shows a low-lying jet stream during February which brought us record rainfall, the middle one is for this week and you can see the jet stream has lifted northwards. The top picture is for later next week and you can see it is pushed even higher across Iceland. (The jet stream tends to follow the line between cold and warm air so if you look at the base of the cold air denoted by light blue that’s where it is situated)

So how does next week look ?

So next week starts off cold and a tad unsettled as that weekend northern low pressure system pushes off into Scandinavia. So cold northerly winds and some rain showers along eastern coasts potentially falling as sleet and snow over elevation. Elsewhere drier but feeling raw in that wind with the odd blustery, wintry shower kicking around. As we progress through into Tuesday we lose those cold northerly winds but pick up some rain across the north through Wednesday. This rain will move south through Wednesday but fizzle out as it does so. Now currently from Thursday onwards we are projected to build high pressure across the U.K and Ireland which will swing the winds round to the east across the south of the U.K and westerlies across Scotland. Not a warm high, not least initially but dry and staying mainly dry after that save for some showers across the north and south coasts of the U.K on Thursday. Easterlies don’t make great conditions to grow grass but I’ll take the dry any day.

Agronomic Notes

OK, I didn’t manage to do the monthly GDD and rainfall comparison last week for February so here it is…

Monthly GDD Total – The Oxfordshire -February 2020

Not surprisingly with February being such a wet month, it was also a mild one, in fact our 2nd mildest since we started monitoring GDD. Following on from a mild January, I reckon when we get round to adding the GDD for January and February 2020, it’ll exceed March !

It is early days I know but the cumulative GDD for this year at the end of February is the highest total we have seen, easily surpassing previous years. In fact with a total GDD of 88 by the end of Febraury, it is higher than the first 3 month total in 2018, 2016, 2015, 2013 and 2010 !

Now before we reach for the shades and factor 30, I think a note of realism wouldn’t do any harm. If we get high pressure building for the 2nd half of March then that’ll mean colder easterlies will be in situ and that’ll drag down the total GDD at month end, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves eh !

GDD and Rainfall Statistics – U.K Locations

Before I put the charts up for the U.K and Ireland, it made me wince when I looked at the rainfall totals in some of these locations. It was a total right off of a month and one that’s been condemned to the memory a little too quickly maybe because of Covid-19 maybe.

So here we have the U.K stats and you can see some pretty bruising rainfall totals with the west and north of the U.K getting clattered by rainfall. Again The South West bears the brunt of Atlantic weather systems but North and South Wales aren’t far behind. Jersey tops the GDD (now I know why you relocated Matt though it may be a bit tricky getting back here now!) in what will probably become a slightly irritating statistic as we battle a cold start to the spring. Very diverse rainfall totals with The Midlands clearly missing the worst even though the fields are saturated and flooding was very evident. GDD-wise, in general where we have had less rain, we have had better GDD (except Jersey), but nothing can lessen the impact of this kind of rainfall following on from the 4 previous months. As I’ve said before, it’s been a grim one whichever side of the fence you sit in our industry.

GDD and Rainfall Statistics – Irish Locations

Like the U.K stats, we have some pretty bruising rainfall totals in the Irish stats. As usual the west and north of Ireland picked up the lions share of the rainfall with Co. Mayo, Co. Clare an Co. Cavan, the worst hit. It’s difficult to believe the lack of rain for Dublin, I’m wondering if someone nipped over to Casement, took the water out of the rain gauge and topped up Mayo, Clare and Cavan on the quiet ? A bit like The Midlands here in the U.K, you dodged a bullet there. Significant variability in GDD as we would expect with the rainfall patterns with some very low monthly totals for the worst-affected areas.

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Stats are one thing but as emphasised before in this blog, autumn / winter 2019/20 has been atypical in terms of the lack of dry down days between rainfall events. We have had wetter periods across a winter as a whole,  although February 2020 will go down in the record books, but the characteristic that most affects our industry (and agriculture) is this lack of dry down time.

If you look at any of the high rainfall total locations above, this chart is typical. So 10 dry days out of a possible 60 for the first two months of the year. This is how the rainfall looked over that period, spot the dry days In February. In this location they were on the 4th, 5th and 6th of February and were followed by 23 days of consecutive rainfall until the end of the month. So if anyone complains about surfaces being wet, you can send them a link to this blog !

Growth Prospects and Nutrition

The graph above also shows that some growth has continued pretty unabated in 2020 because the lack of frosts. (this location had 5 frost days in the first 2 months). As we move through this week towards a projected high pressure scenario building next week, we should maximise our opportunity to move surfaces on, treat moss, etc with granular nutrition. I know it sounds completely daft but if things play out as projected and they may or may not, you could be looking at a dry, coolish 2nd half of March, so best to act now. We also have a growth spike coming up this week so any nutrition already down will show a good reaction by mid-week.

You can see this below on the Meteoturf graphic for Central England.

Looking on the bright side, whilst projected rainfall still exceeds projected E.T, they’re getting much closer and it demonstrates the more effective dry-down we are getting now as opposed to two weeks ago.

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Microdochium activity

With the spike in temperatures coming this week we may see some renewed activity on Microdochium disease scars but because we are reasonably windy, it is likely to be confined to more sheltered locations / surfaces. I don’t think it warrants spraying with hopefully enough growth to grow any activity out over the next week. (although growth levels dip after mid-week)

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Insect activity

The mild winter with its lack of frosts has played into the hands of grub pest activity and so we are now seeing significant damage on greens, tees, approaches, collars and fairways. These are particularly evident if you have cored / tined late in the autumn (November onwards) or during the early part of this year. This is one of the drawbacks of early season aeration and is dependent on the level of grub activity on your site. It never ceases to amaze me how some sites are really badly-affected but just down the road there is nothing ?

Corvids, like Crows and Rooks now have young in their nests so the amount of pecking damage is escalating rapidly across maintained areas. It is probably too early to say how effective control measures like Acelepryn have been but I guess we must remember we are likely to be comparing its efficacy to something like Chlorpyrifos. It is a similar situation to the one I have talked about before with newer fungicides vs. older chemistries and their effectiveness on Microdochium, i.e newer chemistries aren’t as effective as the old ones. Autumn / winter 2019 / 20 with its high rainfall, lack of frosts and warmer soil temperature has also been a perfect breeding ground for insect pathogens so expecting total control I think is unrealistic.

That said if you are staring down the barrel of a high insect grub population currently with damaged turf or areas that won’t recover (like greens for example) what is to be done ?

The ground is too cold for pathogenic nematode products to work, (6.4 °C soil temp currently on our trials site) we have no labelled control currently available to us as I’m pretty sure the last date for use of Acelepryn under the emergency approval was the 30th September, 2019. (If I am wrong I’m sure Dan will put me right once his legs have recovered from running the Cambridge Half Marathon yesterday !!!).

It is a tricky one for sure and I haven’t got an answer / easy solution.

OK, that’s me for this week, all the best…

Mark Hunt