Hi All,

A day later than usual, please accept my apologies, but I had to get down to a course yesterday, early doors, to look at a very aggressive fairway disease that in some areas had taken 40-50% grass cover and so the blog had to wait I’m afraid…The disease itself has taken out mainly Fescue species and when it first appeared displayed cottony white mycelium. It’s moved very fast across the course and is now affecting 60% of the fairways in different levels of severity. We’re waiting for a sample to be identified, but the candidates are Dollar Spot or some form of Foliar Blight.

Image on left shows first appearance of disease, mainly affecting Festuca species on fairway, cottony white mycelium are very evident. Image on right shows appearance 3-4 days later, with patches coalesced into bleached, matted, dead areas. My money is on Dollar Spot.

Last week’s combination of high temperature and high humidity has kicked off some unusual diseases with conditions severe enough in my mind to produce quite aggressive Rhizoctonia infections, not to mention Fusarium and Red Thread, thankfully that heat is on the way out as you can probably all feel at present.

General Weather Situation

Low pressure is set to influence our weather for the rest of this week and most likely through till the end of the month, so we’re talking cooler, wetter in places and generally unsettled in outlook. For Tuesday, we already have a band of showers pushing into south-west Munster and the south west of England and these will move diagonally (as usual) across the U.K into Wales, north-west England and Scotland through the day. The rain is showery in nature, so some areas will get it, others will miss it, particularly in the south-east of England which could stay dry all day. Wednesday looks to start off dry, but again a band of showers will push into Ireland and the U.K and move eastwards through the day, this time just about anywhere could get rain. Temperatures will be high teens / low twenties, so much more tolerable than of late and winds mainly westerly / south-westerly in nature and breezy throughout the week. Thursday looks a drier day for the majority of the U.K, but Ireland and north-west England / Scotland will be odds on for more showers unfortunately, with the former, the wettest. Friday follows a similar pattern, starting dry, before showers and a heavier band of rain pushes into south-west Munster, North Wales and the north of England, with some potentially heavy, localised rain in the latter. The Bank Holiday weekend looks pretty lousy really with potentially heavier rain in all areas during Saturday and Sunday in particular.

Outlook

Next week starts off between two low pressure systems, so possibly a brief respite before more unsettled weather kicks in as a quite intense low pushes strong south-west winds, cooler temperatures and rain across the U.K and Ireland. By Thursday next week, the winds will move round to the north as the low pushes away, so it may well feel pretty cool for a day or so. Tricky to say beyond that, but I don’t think we’re finished with the summer yet as heat is predicted to build west of the U.K and Ireland, so let’s hope it’s just a temporary blip before moving to warmer, drier conditions by the end of the week. (The power of positive thinking eh ?)

Agronomic Notes

As mentioned at the start of this blog, the combination of high temperature and moisture has kicked off a lot of disease with some weird of wonderful types doing the rounds, particularly foliar blights of one description or another. Constant leaf wetness with high daily humidity and heavy dews combined with high day and night temperatures are the catalyst here. Red Thread and Fusarium are also quite aggressive because of the ideal conditions for fungal development, but hopefully as temperatures back down, so will the disease pressure.

Growth has also been excessive, particularly on higher-height of cut areas, but with soil temperatures > 20 °C and moisture, it’s hardly surprising, again the cooler night and day temperatures should peg that back before the Bank Holiday weekend, which is a god-send (UK only, not Scotland, Ireland apparently)

The high temperatures have also dried areas out amazingly quickly and despite the amount of rain we’ve had previous to this short, hot spell, a lot of profiles have dried out significantly, so it’s key to maintain wetting agent and hand watering, if you are in this situation.

Another type of pathogen that’s been kicked into life recently by the high temperatures is ectoparasitic nematode species, particularly Spiral and Sheath nematodes. Populations tend to increase markedly in line with sudden increases in temperature, so localised turf damage in these hot spots occurs very quickly and often in a form that is not easily recognisable.

 

Spiral Nematode (Helicotylenchus) Damage

One eye should now be on the autumn unfortunately and my concerns there relate to surface fibre levels, on greens specifically. With the wet weather from April till recently, organic matter decomposition in the surface of the putting surface has certainly been higher than organic matter breakdown. Coupled with this, the difficulty in aerating and keeping the surface profile open by integration of topdressing (both from a weather and economic perspective) has meant a lot of greens have more compact surface fibre going into the autumn than this time last year. I appreciate a good number of courses have aerated recently and gained some brilliant recovery to boot with the high temperatures, lack of plant stress and moisture, but not everyone is in the same boat. Compact surface fibre brings with it a whole bunch of baggage, none of it positive, with increased likelihood of Fusarium and moss ingression top of the list.

100%, I know it is easy for me to say this typing a blog and not having to put up with a Greens Secretary, Chairman, Director of Golf, etc, dictating that no disruption to the surface is tolerable, but on the flip side, I’m sure they’re not going to be pleased with either a high fungicide bill and / or a potentially poor putting surface from October to March (or beyond). The sad fact is with golf rounds down 15-20% year on year (my straw poll)  the pressure not to disrupt is greater than ever. It is also very difficult to communicate to the hierarchy that unless you aerate, they’ll be problems, because nobody is complaining and the ” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it argument” can be a tricky one to work around. All I can say is that in my mind, aeration and topdressing are the foundations to good putting surfaces, full-stop.

All the best, enjoy you Bank Holiday (if applicable), but don’t forget your brolly….

Mark Hunt