December 14th

Hi All,

My last full blog for 2020 and like many I think I’ll be glad to see the back of this year for sure.

It’s been a challenge in so many ways working in this industry in 2020.

In and out of lockdown, social distancing, furlough, raised expectations, increased play levels, dry spring, wet summer, mild autumn, wet autumn, worm casts, insect activity and our old friend Microdochium.

Chuck in Covid-19 and Brexit and yes I think we can legitimately call it a tough one 🙂

Weather-wise, we came out of 5 months of rainfall into a warm, dry spring that would have been one of our best for ages, had we been open of course !

We moved into the summer with concerns about water reserves and hosepipe bans only for it to start raining at the end of June and deal us up a mixed summer of heat and cool, wet conditions.

September was unusually wet and here it started raining on exactly the same day it did in 2019, September 23rd. Since then we have endured a really wet autumn.

November became the new October when it came to a high disease pressure month and that pressure has continued into December though it looks to abate this week and possibly next.

I’ve been so busy I didn’t even put my Paddy Power bets on for a White Christmas (they must rake it in on this one !) till a couple of weeks ago when there was the vaguest suggestion of an easterly airstream. It has been a year of fire fighting new and emerging situations and for sure that theme will continue into 2021 with Brexit and the wait for Covid-19 vaccinations. Let us not under-estimate the logistics of vaccinating the world population, they are immense but we have started on that road and I hear in my home town vaccinating the old and vulnerable starts this week.

So let’s see what Mother Nature has got in store for us on the run up to Christmas and beyond as we sit here less than a week before the shortest day of the year.

Will we be dealt for the 4th year in succession a crappy high pressure that brings dew, humidity and mild temperatures to the Christmas party or may be for this year some welcome respite ?

GFS141220 – Predicted on 07/12/20

GFS Actual 141220

General Weather Situation

So the top image is what GFS predicted for this Monday a week ago and the bottom image is the actual GFS run for today. Pretty bloody good forecasting I’d say with just the position of the low pressure a tad off, but in terms of weather patterns, spot on. That’s why I have faith in their forecasting.

So as you see for Monday we have a dominant low pressure in situ which is bringing in high winds and rain across the U.K & Ireland. So we have showers moving across Ireland from the south west pushing up north east. The same pattern across the U.K with the bulk of the showers across Wales, The North West and Scotland where the rain is heaviest. During the morning these showers will move north east so that means the south and south east will miss most of the rain today as will The Midlands. Not exclusively, but most of it. So these rain showers will continue through the day but all the time mainly affecting the western coast of the U.K and Ireland with less moving inland eastwards as we go through the day. Temperature-wise, it’s a south westerly airstream so that means mild with temperatures varying from 9-11°C.

Onto Tuesday and that strong south westerly pattern looks set to continue. Again we look to have rain across the U.K & Ireland but it’ll be mainly isolated to the west of Ireland moving northwards up the coast during the course of the day. For the U.K, that rain will be across The South West, Wales and moving northwards into The North West and south west Scotland later in the day. There’s also a suggestion of another band of rain moving along the south coast from morning to afternoon. Away from the coasts though it looks to be a dry day with a strong to moderate south westerly wind, some sunny intervals and a feeling a little cooler with temperatures around 8-10°C, so a good drying day and a rare one at that.

Mid-week beckons and overnight a low pressure system has snuck up from the south west and into Ireland bringing rain with some of it being heavy. By dawn this rain will be tip-toeing into The South West and West Wales and then pushing inland but also northwards into the north west of Ireland and England. By lunchtime that rain straddles the western half of Ireland and the U.K, having pushed up into Scotland. East of this though it looks to remain dry, certainly for the morning anyway. As the centre of the low moves northwards it’ll take that rain more northerly as well, however it’ll also push another band of rain across the south of England as we approach dusk. This band of rain will extend from the south coast up to The Pennines. Through the evening this band of rain will move eastwards across into East Anglia with another band pushing into the west coast of the U.K and extending up into Scotland. Ireland will see the rain clear on Wednesday night after a pretty wet day. Temperature-wise we look to be similar to Tuesday, that is 8-10°C, with a moderate south westerly / southerly wind in situ.

Thursday sees rain from the off across the south coast, North Wales, The North West and south west Scotland, but Ireland looks to start the day dry. Through the course of the morning the rain looks to fizzle out so a pretty dry picture across the U.K & Ireland, however more rain is set to push in from The Atlantic around lunchtime for Ireland. This rain will make landfall at Kerry and then push north and east across Ireland during the evening though the east may stay dry till late. Remaining on the mild side with 8-10°C the norm. So the same pattern as most of the week with the north and west bearing the brunt of the rainfall.

Closing out the week on Friday we see that band of rain that arrived on Thursday evening into Ireland straddled over the U.K with only East Anglia missing the first rain of the morning. Ireland will see rain across Connacht and the north. Through the morning this rain across the U.K will push eastwards so if you’re out for a bracing walk on Wells next the Sea beach, you better make it an early one :). That rain across Ireland pushes north but a new front of heavier rain moves into Kerry (sorry lads) and pushes north and east. This rain looks heavy in the west and north west of Ireland. A hop, skip and a jump across The Irish Sea sees heavy rain into The South West of England and West Wales, with some showers breaking off and vectoring along the south coast of England. Through the afternoon that rain moves eastwards across Ireland and Wales into The Midlands and Central England. Scotland will see rain confined to the western coasts. As we close out the day that rain intensifies across the north west of England and western Scotland to bring some heavy downpours and localised flooding. Ireland looks to clear from the west through the course of Friday afternoon with the rain leaving Leinster during early evening. One note about Friday is the wind strength with a strong southerly wind blowing to gale force through the course of the day so a blowy one.

The outlook for the last weekend before Christmas looks like a continuation of sunshine and showers for Saturday with some bright intervals between them. As usual for this type of weather pattern, the risk of rain is highest across Ireland and the west and north of the U.K. Tricky to predict but I’d say we may see rain moving along the south coast of England, across Wales and later into the west of Scotland. Ireland will see showers in the west moving cross country on Saturday but dissipating as the wind lessens through the day. Sunday will still see some showers the western coast of Ireland and the U.K, with some rain across Wales early doors. This fizzles out though through the morning to leave some sunny intervals and pretty nice weather for the week before Christmas. Windy on Saturday but the wind eases through the day and into Sunday. 8-11°C for Saturday and feeling a little cooler on Sunday with those lighter westerly winds allowing temperatures to drop more on Saturday night.

Weather Outlook

Well now this is a tricky one to call because it pertains to the Christmas week and beyond.

Some of you will no doubt remember that for the last few years we have endured a pretty naff Christmas weather pattern when it comes to disease pressure with an Atlantic high pressure pulling up mild, humid air from Portugal and the like. This gave us consistent dew, mild day and night temperatures with little variation between them and of course Microdochium by the bucket load 🙁

Below was the GFS prediction for Christmas Day 2019 WBC (World Before Covid !)

If you look at the GFS projection for next Monday, you can see that high pressure is sitting below us waiting to pounce maybe but it is balanced by low pressure to the north keeping it south of the U.K & Ireland. Ultimately the weather over Christmas and perhaps beyond will be dominated by which systems wins this battle. Now although I’ll be finishing up this week I will update on a mini-blog basis next Monday to firm up my Christmas – New Year weather prediction.

That said, looking at the ECMWF projections and the GFS as well, the consensus as it stands now is not for high pressure to dominate over the Christmas period, below is the GFS prediction for Christmas Day, 2020. So they have low pressure dominating and actually pulling in some cold easterly air over the Christmas period. Maybe those Paddy Power bets for a White Christmas on the eastern side of the U.K may not be so foolish after all ! 🙂

Next week…

Onto next week and the run up for Christmas and the likelihood of a spray window….

So next Monday looks like we start similar to how we finished the week with a mild south westerly airstream and unsettled. They’ll be rain with some of it heavy and likely the brunt of the rainfall will be across the southern half of the U.K early next week. Now as we go through Monday into Tuesday we reach the critical phase of the weather in my view. The winds drop and that means a drier day on Tuesday with light winds and the risk of a dew. It won’t stay dry for long because we have another Atlantic low pressure stacking up to push rain into Ireland on Tuesday and the U.K later the same day. This low pressure will set the theme for the week. If it arrives then I think the high pressure below us will stay on the back foot. If it doesn’t then it could easily assert itself. As it stands now Tuesday looks to start dry and finish wet and still with a westerly wind direction though it begins to veer north westerly through the day. By Wednesday that low pressure is off and out of the way leaving behind a quieter and cooler day with northerly winds dropping temperatures down despite being light. We continue this settled cooler feel to the weather on Thursday (Christmas Eve) with light winds, northerly-biased and probably some fog and frost maybe in places. Come Christmas Day, low pressure pops up from The Bay of Biscay and pulls in cooler easterly winds and rain for the far south of the U.K. These cold easterlies may bring in some wintry showers to Scotland and the north and these will have an eastern bias. As that low pressure departs it pulls northerly air down for Boxing Day so a nice bracing walk or run could be in order 🙂

So that’s where we stand now, delicately poised I’d say and in a way I hope that’s how we stay as it’ll mean a couple of spray days just before Christmas possibly and a colder outlook which should keep both worms and Microdochium on the back foot.

Agronomic Notes

Ok so I know that the back end of last week and this weekend gone has seen a continuation of the elevated level of disease pressure we have experienced this autumn. Principally November was by far the worst month but like other years this activity has carried over into December but thankfully I can see it dropping off for awhile as we pick up windier weather from the west.

Here’s a flavour of what I am talking about as you look at the last 5 days or so in the graph below. Now as usual it’s a complicated graph from yours truly but the tings to focus on are the periods of leaf wetness and the situation today as we pick up a higher wind speed and mild temperatures which has allowed rapid leaf dry down on this site. Now I’m fully aware that there’s plenty of rain around which will of course give a different result but even on this site there was 5mm of rain early this morning but the leaf soon dried down and that is key to further disease development.

So the message is you don’t need long and you don’t need much E.T to dry the leaf down considerably.

Carrying on the theme of disease pressure, I’ve summarised the disease pressure since October 1st on a number of locations.

Now I’ve started the graph at 50% because it makes it easier to understand and identify the peaks in pressure and when they occurred. It makes interesting reading to me and certainly confirms that Central England and particularly along the south of the country has picked up the bulk of the disease pressure this autumn. That said, Wales and Ireland have also picked up more disease pressure this year I’d say.

Now at your facility you might find that disease pressure from 50-80% is containable with non-pesticidal IPM programs and likely a combination of cultural (dew control and the like) and plant hardeners, irons, e.t.c and it’s only the last 20% that requires pesticidal intervention.

On the other hand you may have a very high % Poa reptans (perennial Poa) sward and that could mean that anything over 60% is tricky to control without reaching for the Chemsafe key and even then control of active disease is no longer easily achievable?.

Or maybe this year you’ve had a successful overseeding program with bentgrass be that colonial or creeping and by virtue of that your disease pressure is noticeably lower ?

As usual I’m interested in feedback either way..

So a hard autumn / winter and as I showed last week disease pressure combined with casting earthworm activity which has been at its worst during November and December 2020. Not wishing to be negative but the mild temperatures this week combined with rainfall will continue that trend but if next week stays on plan, the colder wind direction will put a stop to it at least for the Christmas period.

On one site I am monitoring the soil temperature has increased from 2.7°C at 05:30 a.m. yesterday morning to 8.5°C by lunchtime today courtesy of that mild rain. The rootzone is high sand so you’d expect to see this kind of increase but what surprised me was that sensors on the heavier clay soil showed a similar increase over the same period and temperatures are now sitting at 8.8°C in the top 25mm !

That’s why you see increased worm activity after mild, wet weather on heavy soils and we have had it by the bucket load this autumn / winter.

Ok time for me to sign off, I need to get my ‘something’ together and plan this week before it disappears in front of my very eyes.

So a mini-blog next Monday, firming up the weather for the Christmas period and beyond and then I’m done for another year, my 10th of writing this weekly (ish) blog.

All the best.

Mark Hunt