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Hi All,

Well our cool start to the year continues courtesy of a north-easterly wind and North Sea Haar. That Haar played havoc with the Solar Eclipse sadly in some areas of the U.K last Friday. Very frustrating for me down in Oxfordshire as during the event it was dull and overcast and then it went greyer and colder and then 2 hours later the sun was fully out, bah humbug, I was stuck indoors in a meeting anyway !

Hedgehogs don’t obey Growth-Degree-Day models shock horror !Hedgepiglet2

My adopted Hedgepiglets duly emerged from hibernation on Friday evening, practically walking up to my lounge window where I was busy fly tying (I live life on the edge don’t I?) and demanding some Dried Mealworms and a drink. They were extremely hungry and will cost me a fortune over the year…..but I love them, as it’s the 3rd year in a row that they’ve raised young and kept them through the winter…..

They’ve emerged 4 days earlier than last year and a whopping 3 weeks earlier than spring 2013 when we had our worst winter for a long time and a very cold spring.

As you’ll note later in the GDD part of this blog, 2015 and 2013 aren’t that much different in terms of GDD and growth even though the conditions were a lot more severe 2 years ago weather-wise.

General Weather Situation

As we start the week we have a split weather situation with the east of Ireland, north-west of England and west of Scotland sitting under cloud and rain, with some of that moisture again falling as wintry showers over higher ground. Further south and east it’s a grand start to the week after a ground frost overnight. As we progress through the afternoon and evening, that rain and cloud cover will slip south clearing Ireland, Scotland and the north-west of England and bringing some rain to the west coast of Wales, the south-west of England, north of England and possibly The Midlands later this evening. Temperatures will be a little down on yesterday, high single figures, maybe a tad higher if you keep the sunshine in the south of England. Winds will be westerly and breezy in some places.

Moving onto Tuesday and during the night we see some rain moving down the east coast of England and into the south east. Further north in north-west Scotland we have a return of rain and wintry showers, again affecting Leinster, north-west Scotland and England. During the day this rain front will slip southwards into Wales, the south-west of England and The Midlands, fizzling out as it goes so, again the south should have another dry day.  As we move into Tuesday evening we see clear skies developing in all but the north-east of England and that could spell another ground frost. Winds will be from the north west and light to moderate in nature with slightly lower temperatures than Monday due to the change in wind direction.

By mid-week we have probably the last good dry day for many as proper rain is definitely on the way, a little later than predicted last week, but still on the way it is ! So Wednesday looks to be a cracker for most areas, with a bright start to the day, potentially with another ground frost in places. Almost immediately though it’ll start clouding over in the west of Ireland, a portent for some serious rain. By the afternoon this rain is into west Munster and Connacht and by the rush hour it’ll be cover all of Ireland and be heading eastwards. By Wednesday evening this milder wetter air butts up against the cooler air along the west coast of the U.K, so initially it may well fall as sleet and snow over higher ground before giving way to rain. Overnight into Thursday this rain band moves eastwards and should cross the entire U.K as it does so. Temperatures will be chilly under that rain, 6-8°C at best I think.

By Thursday morning that rain band will be sitting over the central and eastern areas of the U.K in a line down from Scotland to the south coast of England, again falling as sleet during the morning rush hour. Further west it’s long gone now and so you have a bright, chilly start to Thursday and a dry day to boot. By early afternoon that rain and wintry shower mix moves off into The North Sea (best place for it) and all areas of the U.K and Ireland should finish with a clear end to the day. Temperatures will drop under clear skies but should just stay high enough to miss a ground frost.

Closing out the week we have a re-run of Wednesday for Ireland with rain pushing into the west of Leinster and Connacht early doors and heading eastwards reaching the west coast of the U.K by mid-morning. This rain will push eastwards, but fragment to showers over Ireland and the west as it does so. So another wet day for many, but it’ll be a little milder as the wind swings round to the south-west pushing temperatures up to the giddy heights of high single figures, gosh golly and all that….

For the weekend we have a potentially wet Saturday morning (Looks like I’ll be bailing the boat out again!) as more rain pushes across Ireland into and across the U.K. At this stage it looks like mainly affecting The Midlands and north of England, but we’ll see. What you will notice is the milder temperatures pushing up the air temperature well into the teens along with those rain showers which will clear during the late afternoon and early evening on Saturday. Sunday looks a better day except for northern Scotland, northern Connacht and Donegal where a band of rain will push across during Sunday. Further south it’ll be a mix of some sunshine but plenty of cloud cover making it a dull day for many, but a mild one again with temperatures in the low teens.

Weather Outlook

So after the long cool spell we have endured, is there a change to milder and wetter weather on the way ?

Well yes and no because we look to start next week with a strong, westerly airstream so that means sunshine, showers and milder temperatures as we close out March. This looks to be set for the start of next week through till Wednesday, but as we move through Wednesday into Thursday, the winds look set to swing back to a northerly direction dropping the temperatures again as high pressure pushes in from The Atlantic. Thankfully this cold blast doesn’t appear to last long because as we close out next week the wind returns to a westerly direction and potentially with it some very reasonable temperatures for the south of England. Could that mean a pleasant Easter ? 🙂

Agronomic Notes

Growth Comparison using GDD Data

Following on from last week’s exercise in comparing the growth in 2015 with 2014, I have updated the chart and as you can see we are now sitting about 4 weeks behind what was an early season in 2014….

GDD2203145tHEoX

If we look at the pattern of growth during March to date we find that we’ve had approximately half of the growth days in March 2015 than we had last year…

GDD2203145tHEoXDAILY

So this got me thinking…If we are so far behind 2014 I wonder how we compare to 2013 when we had a really hard winter and cold spring ? Well the comparison of all 3 years to date is shown below ;

GDD220313145tHEoX

You can see that the two years of 2013 and 2015 are practically at the same end point by the 22nd March, so even though we haven’t had the severe frost and snow that we had in 2013, from a plant’s perspective there isn’t much to separate the two.

But we’ve had good light levels…

Although growth might be behind, we’ve had plenty of good light days courtesy of the drier weather and that counts a lot in grass plant terms, maximising photosynthesis and producing plenty of carbohydrates ready for spring growth. Some of those carbohydrates will have headed down to the roots hence the benefit of doing early aeration and maximising root development. The drier weather has also been great for winter projects so it’s not all bad news….:)

Growth going forwards and nutrition

Well we have some milder and wetter weather on the way at the end of the week, so we should be well-placed to apply granular nutrition on areas that require recovery from winter wear such as winter season pitches, tees and complexes around greens and of course areas that have been aerated and require canopy close (Bullshit Bingo term #1). If the rain falls during milder air temperatures then we will see a much quicker rise in soil temperatures as that warmer moisture warms the soil, so I’d expect a good response from a granular application applied prior to this week’s forecasted rainfall.

Spotting those growth windows and using them….

This game is all about spotting those windows for growth and taking the opportunity rather than bemoaning the fact next week that it’s now too wet and windy to apply…Again the MeteoTurf module on your Headland Weathercheck forecasting portal is showing this nicely in both GDD and Growth Potential formats highlighting the upswing in temperatures…..

GrowthWindowMar2015

Plant Pathogen Activity

We’ve been dry in some areas of the U.K for a good while now and the advent of rain and also milder temperatures over the weekend will most likely kick some Microdochium nivale activity into life, so if you’re aerating this week and / or topdressing, just be aware that this may be the case. I’m not really a fan of spraying fungicides going into the growing season because if we have plant health and nutrition in the right area then we should be able to grow it out, but if you have a covering of sand anticipated this may not be the case, a tricky one really…

Insect ActivityLeatherjacketfeedinghole

Whilst out walking yesterday along the Leicestershire / Rutland border desperately trying to get my Fitbit total up to somewhere decent after forgetting to wear it for a day :(, I noticed lines of Corvids (Crows, Rooks, etc) working along a ridge and these guys were undoubtedly feeding on Leatherjackets and / or Bibionids. With the mild and wet end to last year and early part of this year, insect pests are potentially a problem. So keep an eye out for feeding holes on your surfaces especially after aerating when they like to come up at night and feed along the core hole itself giving a countersunk effect and delaying recovery significantly. If you plan to apply an insecticide, this week’s rain will do a good job of moving it into the turf layer.

Ok that’s all for now, on a tight one as usual, but then hey it’s March !

All the best…

Mark Hunt