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Hi All,

I think today is held to be ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year, but looking outside we have a clear blue sky, a touch of frost and a lovely sunrise, so I think we can consign that one to the litter bin of life alongside Black Friday 🙂

I can also see my first Snowdrops pushing through flower heads and another week or two and the Hellebores will be into flower I think, so what’s there to be depressed about ?

Jan2015SDrops

Ok it is chilly, my weather station is showing -1°C with a wind chill of -3.3°C, so it’s cold and that’s the way it is set to stay this week.

It’s a tricky week forecasting-wise coming up because we have cold air sitting over us and moist air coming in from the west. Where they meet there’s a good chance of snow and indeed Scotland has already had considerable snowfall at the end of last week. For those of you at or heading up to Harrogate, Wednesday is looking like a possible snow, sleet, rain day, but the forecast has been getting milder, the closer we get to this week. At present it’s a mix of sleet and rain forecast through Wednesday, so we should be grand.

General Weather Forecast

Ok for Monday we have a largely dry start to the day after a keen frost in most places. They’ll be plenty of sunshine early on and a light, westerly wind, so a pleasant and dry day for most. By late afternoon, the first of those tricky-to-predict rain fronts is pushing into the west of Ireland and moving slowly eastwards overnight, dissipating as it does so. It’ll be cold with temperatures only just above freezing for the day.

By dawn Tuesday, it’ll be just pushing into the south west of England and by mid-morning it will be into the south west of Scotland, but aside from this Tuesday looks like being another dry, cold day with plenty of winter sunshine away from the west coast of the U.K and Ireland, where that rain will be slow to clear the south-east corner of Leinster / Munster. As we move through Tuesday, this rain pushes further into Scotland falling as a mixture of rain, sleet and snow depending on the altitude.

Overnight into Wednesday, this rain front is pushing eastwards and by dawn looks to be positioned in a vertical line drawn straight up from the Isle of Wight to northern England. It’s here the uncertainty lies because depending on the temperature at the time, this moisture could fall as snow and then turn to sleet and rain as the morning temperature rises, tricky to call, but as I said above, the trend is for the latter because of slightly higher temperatures. So a pretty wet day on Wednesday for the U.K, but a dry one for Ireland with some sunshine. It’ll still be cold though with low single figure temperatures.

Overnight into Thursday, that band of moisture fizzles out over The Midlands, so Thursday looks like being a nice dry day, cold, bright initially but duller the further east you go, with light winds from the east / north-east. This change in the wind direction will pull more cloud over from The North Sea so possibly only a slight ground frost for Thursday night.

By the time we reach Friday we have another rain front pushing into Ireland for the morning rush hour, so into Kerry, Clare, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal early doors 🙁 For the U.K, it’ll be a dull, dry start to the day, but that rain band will be into Scotland by lunchtime and by the evening rush hour it’ll be pushing across the U.K in earnest, so a wet end to the week for many I’m afraid though a tad milder in a south-west wind. (But nothing to get excited about !)

The outlook for the weekend looks pretty good across the whole U.K and Ireland for Saturday with plenty of winter sunshine, dry, save for some light rain into the west of Ireland on Saturday afternoon. It’ll remain pretty Baltic though as that wind will swing round to the north-west and that’ll keep the chill button firmly in the ‘on’ position ! Sunday looks similar, perhaps more unsettled in the west and over Scotland and maybe feeling a little milder as the winds swing round to a more westerly direction upping the temperatures to high single figures, positively radiant by the standards of earlier in the week !

Weather Outlook

Next week is looking milder, that’s the good news, but wetter I’m afraid with a westerly, unsettled weather pattern kicking off the week. Through the early part of next week this will bring rain into the U.K and Ireland, but by mid-week we have a pretty intense low dropping into a trough in the jet stream so that means mild, southerly winds, gale force possibly at times and rain. So it looks like a wet end to next week with that low firmly in charge. Of course this could change, so let’s wait and see.

Agronomic Notes

Rainfall Stats

We are still a little way behind last year in terms of locations reporting total 2014 rainfall, so if you can dig out your figures and email them over that would be great. Please send them to weather@headlandamenity.com, cheers.

Legislation and our industry going forward…

Last week I was over in Holland (Cheers Bart) and I was keen to understand the situation they have with pesticides because the rhetoric I’d heard was for all pesticides to be banned from managed amenity turf from 2017. Chatting through the situation now reveals that this market sector has been able to secure a (perhaps temporary) reprieve to this legislation by presenting the government with a ‘reduced pesticide usage’ option, known as a ‘Green Plan’

I wondered where our own pesticide situation is going ?

Where is our interface is between the legislators, CRD and the industry ?

Aside from the Amenity Forum, do we have this option available to us or will the legislators just keep removing fungicides till we are unable to manage turf effectively from October to April ? The same is true in Ireland, where the range of actives available to greenkeepers and groundsman alike is smaller and so the potential for resistance is higher.  Any of you coming along to my 30 minute fringe talk at BTME (Wednesday 12.00 p.m.) will find out that fungicide resistance is a real issue for us now and the range of effective products is extremely small in terms of Microdochium management.

Turf Management – October to March

Last week I posted about organic matter management and why I believed it was contributory to the poor performance of some turf surfaces at the back end of this year. A lot of people have said that golf greens (for example) have performed more poorly in the back end of 2014 compared to the previous year and as I stated I think this is one of the contributory factors.

Looking at the rainfall stats, this poor performance has been on some locations where they received less rainfall from October – December 2014, than they did the previous year, (this isn’t a universal pattern though as plenty of locations had more rainfall in 2014 than 2013). But monthly rainfall totals don’t tell the total story because there was actually a big difference between how we got our rainfall in the last 3 months of the year in 2013, compared to 2014.

I’ve just picked one location, The Oxfordshire, always towards the drier end of the rainfall stats for the year and graphed out the daily totals below. You can see the rainfall pattern, but if we just look at the monthly totals, this is how they look.

               October          November       December      Total

2013           86                       54                      77               217mm

2014           67                       92                      89               248mm

So in this location they received 31mm more rain over the last 3 months of the year in 2014, compared to 2013, but look at the pattern of the rainfall…

Rainfall2013OctDec

Rainfall2014_OctDec

Note that in 2013, there was only one significantly wet day between November 14th and December 14th and this was because a high pressure was in situ most of the time. This allowed surfaces to dry out between the heavy rainfall of October and the beginning of November 2013. Contrast that with 2014 and you can see no such period of extended drying with heavy rainfall at the end of November and beginning of December. The longest period of non-significant rainfall was about 8 days vs. nearly 28 days the year before.

Rootzone Performance

So at the back end of 2014, we had more continual rainfall events and less drying out time, so surfaces have been saturated for longer, hence the problems we are seeing.

You must also look at your rootzone is terms of how it functions in moving water through the profile (firstly through the fibre layer) and down to the drainage layer below (hopefully).

Wetboots

I think it’s a fact that lot of turf managers are maintaining rootzones with poor physical characteristics and poor (in some cases non-existent) drainage and so we shouldn’t be surprised when we receive 10 – 16″ of rain (250 – 400mm) over the last 3 months of the year and they no longer function as we’d like them to. The continual rainfall events will mean that the rootzone is permanently at ‘filled capacity’ with nowhere for the water to go. If at the same time there’s too much organic matter in the surface, they’ll sit like sponges, wet sponges to be precise, until we either get a break in the weather and / or the E.T rate increases in the spring. So in addition to good surface organic matter control we need good drainage characteristics, if we are to provide a consistently good surface through the winter months. No amount of aeration and topdressing to sort the former will make a difference to the latter.

Ok a bit of a short blog today, have to get packed for Harrogate, I hope to see you all up there and if I’m busy on the stand when you come past, bear with me as I do my best to make time for everyone 🙂

Mark Hunt