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Hi All,

Slightly bleary-eyed typing this as I shake off the last vestige of a not-too-bad jet lagHunts episode on my return from San Antonio. A good trip, some interesting classes and not a bad show either, though it’s noticeably smaller every year. America is a country of contradictions for me and sometimes hard to get your head round. Food portions continue to remain at an excessive level when viewed from a European perspective and their waste must be mountainous. Good coffee and tea remain as elusive as ever, but I note that a relation of mine is obviously doing well with his brand of Tomato Ketchup ! I’ll talk about their turf perspective later in the blog….

jetstream020315

We had a good lesson in the power of the Atlantic Jet Stream (see above) on the way home, 10 1/2 hrs to get out to Houston flying against it and only 7 1/2 hours with it behind us, sometimes reaching up to 200mph as a tailwind, the plane was shaking big time 🙁 That same jet stream has been funneling down Arctic air since late last year and many states on the east coast are having a winter to forget. Whilst we were out in San Antonio, the temperature went from 20°C to 4°C in an evening with a negative windchill and some superintendents told me that they’d had up to 9ft of snow in 2015 ! Apparently there’s so much snow in Boston they’re considering pushing it into the harbour because there’s nowhere left to move it to !….

SnowdropsSo onto our weather, we had a cold, rough, wet week last week, but with a very mild end to it and now as I watch sleet fall past the window, it’s dropped cold again. Of course we’ve now tip-toed into March and as I walked through the lovely snow drops at Lamport Hall this weekend, I wondered if there is any sign that spring is around the corner ?…well the answer is a tentative yes, but don’t break out your factor 30 just yet…

General Weather Situation

A typical early spring day really for Monday with a cold wind, blustery, wintry showers falling as rain, sleet and snow depending on location and some nice sunny spells in-between. For Monday morning we have those wintry showers primarily affecting the west and north coasts of Ireland and the U.K. The east and south of the U.K looks largely dry, cold and sunny at present, but as we move through the day those showers will push east and northwards becoming confined to the north and west coasts of Ireland and the U.K. Temperatures will be cold, single figures for the day and winds will be blustery in those showers, so a fair degree of wind chill as well.

Overnight into Tuesday we have those wintry showers still lurking and a band of rain pushing into the south west of England. If you’re clear and you stay clear, then you can expect a ground frost for Monday night. By Tuesday morning those wintry showers sit stubbornly over the west and north coasts of Ireland and the U.K, whereas further south a band of rain pushes across in a line stretching from the Severn Estuary to the Thames Estuary. By close of play that rain is sitting over the south-east of England and the wintry showers of rain, sleet and snow (over higher ground) are camped out over the north west of the the U.K and west coast of Ireland. Again it’ll feel parky in a moderate, westerly wind with mid-single figures the order of the day, perhaps a little warmer in the sun and out of the wind. We should avoid a frost in most places on Tuesday night, but it’ll be close.

Over to Wednesday and a much better day is in order with those wintry showers dying out, maybe becoming confined to The Lakes on Wednesday morning. Elsewhere they’ll be plenty of sunshine across the U.K and Ireland and although it’ll still feel cold, it will be a lot better than earlier in the week for many, especially the north and west. Winds will be a little lighter, from the west, but still mid to high single figures the order of the day, so a cold start to March.

For Thursday we have a dry start for much of the U.K, but in Ireland a band of rain is pushing into west Munster and Connacht and moving eastwards during the morning. This rain will push into north-west Scotland later in the morning. Elsewhere it’ll be a dry and sunny start to the day, but cloud will push into the north-west of England and move down across country through the day. This cloud will be heavy enough to bring rain into North Wales and the north of England by Thursday afternoon. Temperatures will remain cold in the north, but further south it’ll be milder, maybe edging into double figures in the south-east.

Closing out the week that rain will become confined to the lower half of Ireland and the U.K, potentially affecting Wales in particular. A duller day with more in the way of cloud cover and again that cloud cover may be thick enough to bring rain to the north of England, Wales and Ireland through the course of the day. Further east and south, you may escape with just the cloud, but that will keep temperatures pegged back to high single figures at best in a lighter north-west / westerly wind.

The weekend looks potentially wet / very wet over north-west Scotland and this rain will also push into northern England and Ireland through the day on Saturday, but always wettest over Scotland and primarily affecting western coastlines the worst. Further south and east it looks like being a dull day, but mild with potentially a strong westerly / south-westerly wind. Sunday looks much nicer with sunshine over much of England and in it those temperatures will zip into double figures so nice really. They’ll still be rain sitting over north-west Scotland and Ireland and that will peg things back there. Winds will be moderate and from the west.

Weather Outlook

As the Unisys Weather GIF shows at the top of this blog, we have a very cold, wet area of low pressure sitting right above us next week, but we look to be sheltered from this by high pressure keeping it north of us, so the weather looks settled next week, mainly dry with perhaps some rain affecting Ireland and Scotland early in the week, but otherwise a good week really for early March.

Agronomic Notes

The year so far…

Well February passed with a relatively dry month (save for the end) for the south of England and Midlands, but wet / very wet for the north of England, Scotland, Wales and for Ireland as well. Growth-wise you can see how different the last two years have been in the graphs below ;

JanFeb201415Comp

The graphs show that practically no growth occurred during February 2015 and as is often the case, January was a better growth month than February. The figure for February in terms of GDD was actually lower than February 2013, when we had our worst winter for years, so it shows just how prolonged the cold spell was this year, practically the entire month of February.

Unfortunately this year it was another wet January for many so that means early hollow coring opportunities weren’t great during the month, however with February being relatively dry for many till the end of the last week, a good number of clubs have aerated already. Reports from the south of England and Midlands indicate The Midlands, south and east of England only received 30 – 40mm of rain during February, but I know further west and north of this, amounts were much higher.

A consequence of the lack of growth during February for both winter sports fields and heavy play areas like tees, walkways between green and tees, etc is that there has been little recovery from play, so I anticipate these areas are going into March with significantly less grass cover than last year.

The problem will be generating growth if no rainfall is forthcoming in the drier areas of the U.K and Ireland, to wash granules in and get things moving, particularly if next week’s high pressure looks like keeping things dry. Ironic really that we will need some rainfall to get some growth in some areas of the country. It may be the case if air temperatures lift up for us that liquid fertilisation using low water volumes (to bypass a cold soil) will be the order of the day and certainly when it comes to greens fertilisation, I think this will be the case.

Is a foliar fertiliser different from a liquid fertiliser ?

I attended an ok class on Foliar Fertilisation at GIS2015, only ok because it tended to deal with the use of liquid and foliar fertilisers during warmer climates and its conclusion was that urea was the best foliar fertiliser.

Of course the issue over here is that urea has to be converted by hydrolysis and the presence of an enzyme (urease) before it is plant-available and this process requires temperature. Now temperature is something we don’t have in the spring in the U.K and Ireland, so if you went spraying straight urea everywhere this week for example, you would need a calendar to gauge the response it would be that slow. This time of year, ammonium and nitrate N forms are key to getting an early spring response because they don’t require conversion to be plant-available and even if they are less efficient in terms of plant uptake (the plant leaf takes up nitrate less effectively than ammonium or urea it appears) you still see an excellent turf response from applying these N forms in a foliar form.

Back to my question, is a foliar fertiliser different from a liquid fertiliser ?, the answer is yes in terms of application water volumes, but no in terms of nutrient forms. Their guidance was that anything over 500 litres of spray solution per hectare tended to wash the spray solution off the leaf and so you got limited leaf uptake, but more root uptake.

Of course there are a lot of variables associated with this statement, cutting height, grass species, leaf wetness, E.T rates and nozzle / spray droplet characteristics to name but a few. I always work on 400L per hectare for foliar applications on fine turf and lower on outfield turf provided you have the sprayer set up properly and can avoid streaking and misses.

They also maintained that 90% of nitrogen uptake occurs in the first 1 – 4 hours after spraying, but that the grass plant leaf itself is relatively inefficient at nutrient uptake with the majority of nutrients entering the grass plant by the root via soil exchange.

Using mild air temperature to your advantage

One of the best uses of low water application rates (foliar fertilisation) occurs at this time of year when we get days of relatively mild air temperature, but the soil is still cold. For instance we may hit double figure air temperatures by the end of the week and possibly higher at the weekend, but the soil temperature is still low, sitting at 5.2°C here as I speak….So by inputting a cool temperature-biased nitrogen feed into the leaf accompanied by iron (for better colour) you can gain a good turf response, early, and get  the grass ‘attuned’ to fertilisation. (by breaking dormancy)

Sustainability U.S Style ?

Without a doubt the biggest difference between the U.S and Europe in terms of product usage surrounds pesticide usage. They still have in many places a zero tolerance perspective towards disease on a lot of golf courses and this includes fairways. When I attended a class on plant stress that covered Anthracnose prevention, I couldn’t help but look a tad bemused when I saw that their preventative program for this disease included 7 fungicide applications from April onwards on a fortnightly basis ! Can the disease pressure really be that much higher over there than here to warrant such an approach ?

Hardly surprising then that disease resistance to fungicides is an issue.

Base Saturation – A discredited system for soil analysis….

The U.S appears to have come full circle with respect to soil analysis with their lecturers now referring to Base Saturation as a discredited system for calculated nutrient input from soil analysis.

Slightly hypocritical when you consider it was the U.S that led the foisting of this approach on our industry over here and I can clearly remember attending classes 15 years ago when they advocated this system.

Now they are relying on SLAN (Sufficiency Level of Available Nutrients) for their soil analysis but they have no guidelines and little new credible research to back up recommendations. I came away from the classes in this area with a book full of conflicting notes and a comment “As clear as mud” written by me in bold. I think we are on the right lines over here in terms of nutrient input and really don’t need to look across the Atlantic for the best way forward any more, not in this area at least.

Ok that’s it for this week, off my Soapbox and dreading the size of my things-to-do list !

All the best..

Mark Hunt