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Hi All,

Just one week till we’re finished with February and we are into March 🙂 This past weekend gave a glimpse of spring with mild temperatures and even some warm sunshine. You’d be forgiven for thinking we are home and dry and done with winter but that certainly isn’t the case I am afraid.

Over the last two weeks I’ve done a couple of talks and highlighted how the jet stream controls our weather and can deal up ‘Peak’ and ‘Trough’ patterns with very little notice. Well last weekend was a peak and now we’re heading into a trough. The image below contrasts last Saturday with this Saturday coming..

Feb2016PeakTrough

This suggests that our transition into the beginning of March will be a cold one with a risk of some snow next weekend depending on the behaviour of a low pressure system.

So let’s put some detail on the coming week..

General Weather Situation

Monday looks to be a quiet day for many with overnight rain slipping south slowly out of the south west and south of England through the morning. Further north we see some wintry showers over The Highlands and these will also affect the west coast of Scotland down to The Borders. As we move through the morning we’ll see some sunshine break through across Ireland, Scotland and most of England with the exception being the south coast where cloud cover will linger. By the afternoon this cloud will have slipped south and we’ll see sunshine and broken cloud over all of the U.K and Ireland. As we close out the day, some wintry showers will push in to North Wales and the north of Scotland. Temperatures will be down on Sunday with high single figures the order of the day and a light north west wind.

Clear skies over most areas will see temperatures drop sharply after dark and lead to the prospect of a ground frost for many, particularly over Scotland and the north of England. So Tuesday sees the wind swing round to a more northerly aspect and this will push colder air down across all of the U.K and Ireland. For many it’ll be a bright, dry winter’s day after a hard overnight frost, but there will be some snow showers pushing down the east coast of Ireland, west coast of Scotland and possibly the north east coast of Scotland, England later in the day. Winds will be light to moderate and temperatures will struggle towards the mid-single figures even in the middle of the day. In other words it’ll feel pretty parky.

For Wednesday we pretty much have a repeat of Tuesday’s weather with a sharp frost starting the day and a lot of sunshine right from the word go. That northerly air stream will continue to feed down wintry showers into north west Scotland, The Highlands during the morning. By the afternoon you’ll see more cloud cover over the north west of Ireland and that could see some wintry showers creep into Donegal and also North and later South Wales. Those wintry showers look to persist over The Highlands pretty much all day, fed down on a moderate north west wind. If anything temperatures will be down on Wednesday with most areas struggling to hit mid-single figures and in the wind chill it’ll feel close to or below freezing.

Thursday sees a similar picture to Wednesday with a dry, bright and cold, frosty start to the day. Those snow showers remain overnight feeding into North Wales and then extending down into South Wales through the early morning. Elsewhere we look to be dry and bright but cloud cover will build from the west as a low pressure begins to exert a weak influence on the weather. This will initially pull the wind around to the west / north west for most places on Thursday but it won’t stay that way. Later on Thursday night we’ll see some light rain, sleet and snow showers along the west coast of Munster and Connacht and in addition they’ll also affect the south west and north west of England.

Overnight into Friday we see that rain, sleet, snow move across Ireland (where it’s likely to be rain at low altitudes and sleet, snow higher up) and feed wintry showers into the south west and north west of England. We’ll also see wintry showers over the north west of Scotland. Through the morning these will feed inland across Ireland, the south and north of England turning readily to snow as they meet the cold, continental air. These wintry showers will continue to affect Ireland, Wales, the south and east of England through Friday afternoon, extending up into the South Midlands later in the day. With more cloud cover it’ll be a duller day over most areas on Friday with only the east seeing much in the way of sun. Temperatures will be on the raw side, mid-single figures most likely and the wind will be on the change swinging round to southerly and then south easterly by close of play Friday.

So how do we look for the all-important weekend ?

Well as you’d expect from sitting in a jet stream trough and having a low pressure nearby it’s likely to be dull and cold with some pretty bracing south east / east winds. There’s some uncertainty about exactly where the low pressure will sit next week, if it’s south of the U.K, it’ll feed in cold winds and some isolated wintry showers through Saturday. If it’s a bit further north, the potential for more snow is higher so time will tell. At this stage the projection is for a dull weekend with strengthening easterly winds on Sunday and some isolated wintry showers likely across the south of England. That cloud cover will probably just keep us the sunny side of a frost but it’ll be close. Your best bet is to keep a close eye on the forecast nearer to the weekend to see how this low pressure develops.

Weather Outlook

Looking ahead to next week, are we likely to stay in this trough coming into March ?

Well we have a battle between an Atlantic high pressure and continental low pressure in the early part of next and we know what that means don’t we ? Effectively the wind will be squeezed between the two and will turn to northerly so a cold start to next week with strong northerly winds. During the course of Tuesday a low pressure system is projected to slip down across the U.K and Ireland and it’ll bring rain, some of it heavy as it does so. With cold air sitting close to the east of the U.K this may mean wintry showers along the east coast and south east of England by mid-week. By Thursday that low pressure is away and high pressure tries to push in so the winds turn northerly again but it may introduce milder air into Ireland and the west of the U.K. The east though will still be sitting cold. So it looks like a dry but cold end to next week with strong to gale force northerly winds. These may relent by the weekend and turn to a more milder, westerly and wetter orientation, time will tell.

Agronomic Notes

Forecasting Uptake Windows..

MeteoturfEndFeb2016

Last week I talked about the milder weather that was forecasted for the weekend and how it presented a good uptake window. I’ve joined two Meteoturf images together to show last week, the weekend and this week (above) and you can see that the growth window represented 3 days – Saturday, Sunday and Monday and then it’s gone. If you were looking to raise your turf vigour or initiate some growth at the end of February in order to gain early recovery from winter wear, this was a good window because at the weekend air temperatures increased to 16°C and the plant put on a nice bit of growth.

210216WST

Interestingly the soil temperature also increased quickly from a lowly 5-6°C to 11°C in a matter of hours.

So my point or points are these – Meteoturf correctly forecast a growth peak and uptake window 5 – 7 days before it occurred. This growth peak allowed the application of either granular or foliar nutrition to initiate a response and now the grass plant has responded it will effectively be primed to grow again when temperatures oblige.

You can see if you missed that window that applying a product this week will do very little as the growth potential beyond Monday is effectively nil.

A Whole Lot of Pecking Going On…

I’ve noticed a lot of Corvid (Crow family) pecking activity over the past couple of weeks in particular and I think we’re in for quite a heavy grub spring in terms of damage to turf. The milder weather and greatly extended growing season of 2015 has caused a number of knock on effects in terms of larvae activity, life cycle and feeding habit. I noticed that the mild weather of December caused Crow’s to start nesting earlier and I’m pretty sure they will have active young earlier this year because of this. Those young will need feeding and that’s what should concern us.

Leatherjacket

Last week I saw a number of incidences of grub activity from the typical ‘countersunk’ hole effect (image right) on a golf green where a Leatherjacket has been coming up and eating the turf around its exit hole at night.

I also found very small Chafer Grub larvae on a piece of outfield turf which had been subject to pecking.

The latter has me a bit bemused because I understood that the life cycle of most Chafer species culminated in the grub developing in the autumn to maximum size and then moving deeper in the soil profile to escape the effects of winter. To find extremely small grubs in February close to the surface was interesting. (see below)

ChaferFeb2016Veho200

You can see in the image on the left how small the grub is compared to a 1p coin (you can tell I work for a small company as the multinationals take pictures with pound coins or maybe I’m just tight  🙂 )

I then used the excellent Veho Discovery portable scope (image right) to take a picture at 50x magnification  which clearly highlights the presence of front legs and a distinct head to confirm identification as a Chafer Grub. (which species I don’t know to be honest)

It is clearly an immature larvae so that might suggest that the eggs were laid much later in the year than normal so is it possible that Chafers can have two life cycles in a year ?

Of course we are limited in terms of treatment options now with no Chlorpyrifos available in the amenity market (for Leatherjackets only) and a ‘use up’ period with Merit specifically for Chafer control.

It’s tricky because we know the larvae will have an effect on the turf and pecking by Corvids and / or Badgers / Foxes can be extremely destructive. In terms of minimising the effects of the larvae on the grass plant’s root system the only option here (as far as I know) is to try and encourage more rooting so the plant can sustain itself whilst the grub is in its feeding stage. That means slitting, spiking, vertidraining and good organic matter control (so the roots aren’t confined to the surface organic matter layer).

The lack of insecticide options out there is a major challenge to our industry for sure and I feel this spring will illustrate the severity of the challenge we face.

Superficial Fairy Rings

BasdioFeb2016

Chafers aren’t the only thing up early this year and over the weekend I received an image of what looks to me to be Basidiomycetes activity on fine turf. (Fairy Ring Species)

Now I’ve seen this before during the winter and it’s clear that some species of Basidiomycetes can be active very early in the season. I expect this activity to fade during this weeks return to winter.

The Week Ahead

Looking at our Meteoturf for the coming week it’s clear very little will be happening in terms of grass growth so applying nutrition won’t achieve a whole bunch till we see some milder air move in. If conditions allow though you may be able to aerate this week and encourage some root development. It’s worthwhile remembering that even when the grass plant appears dormant due to lack of shoot growth it often uses this time to develop roots and so aeration can tie in with that process nicely.

Ok that’s it for this week, can’t even see the in tray, it must be close to March 🙂

All the best..

Mark Hunt