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Hi All,

So we’re already through the first week of March and wasn’t it nice to feel some warm sunshine over the weekend ? if in fact you were in the right place to do so because not everyone was 🙁

I never saw so many people out running, cycling or walking, just lapping up the first warm sun of the year, priceless and something that no government can tax, but hey give them time and I’m sure the E.U will come up with something crap….

The bird life as gone into overdrive with a more pronounced dawn chorus and lots of squabbling over territory. Over the weekend I watched Red Kites displaying over Fineshade’s Forest, a cracking site as they cartwheeled around the skies chasing each other, these birds are great aviators !

I’d love to say spring has arrived for good and it’s all downhill pedalling from here but I’m afraid that isn’t the case. I think the issue we face is that high pressure will dictate much of March’s weather and that will mean the tricky prospect of initiating growth in a dry, cold spring, more on that later. Of course for Scotland, the north and west, the prospect of drier weather will be very attractive after the rain of last week, this weekend gone and the coming week, talk about a north-south divide.

General Weather Situation

So for Monday we have a west / east divide with rain already into West Munster and heading over most of Ireland through the morning, but elsewhere we have a dry, clear, sunny start and ground frost for many. That frost will soon clear in the warmth of the sun, but by lunchtime that rain has pushed into the west coast of the U.K falling as a mixture of snow, sleet and rain over the higher ground of Scotland. By dusk this rain is affecting most of Scotland, the north of England, Wales and the south-west and slowly it’ll creep eastwards, though the south-east may escape totally. Winds will be light and from the south / south-east with temperatures pushing into double figures in the sun and just making it under the cloud. Further north where you’re closer to the low, those winds will be stronger and the showers blustery in nature.

For Tuesday we have that rain clearing most of the U.K and Ireland save for some wintry showers over the Highlands of Scotland. Tuesday looks a cracking day with plenty of sunshine and dry weather. Temperatures will be a little down on Monday due to a north-west wind, but out of the wind it’ll feel grand.

Overnight into Wednesday, temperatures may dip under clear skies to give a ground frost in places, (eastern and central areas particularly) but further west we have a new low pressure system butting up against that high pressure and trying to push in. This will bring rain overnight into Ireland and a pronounced change in the wind direction to milder southerlies as it does so. By dawn this rain is intensifying over Ireland so a wet day ahead for you guys and it is also pushing north-east into the north of England and Scotland. Again falling as wintry showers over higher ground.  During the morning this rain will push into all of Scotland intensifying as it does so, but also sinking south to affect northern England, Wales and the south-west by the afternoon. By evening those showers may affect most of the U.K, except the south and south-east of England that may escape them. Temperatures will be similar to Tuesday, high single / low double figures. Winds will pick up in strength with moderate gusts under those showers.

Overnight into Thursday that rain and wintry showers clears everywhere, except the extreme tip of Scotland and I shouldn’t think I have many readers that far north ! By dawn it’s a lovely clear day, plenty of sunshine for the east coastline of the U.K, elsewhere it’ll be dull and that cloud cover signifies the arrival of another front of rain. Again under clear skies we have a high chance of ground frost. By the start of the rush hour it’ll be nibbling the south-west of Ireland and quickly moving north and east again through the morning to affect all of Ireland, the north-west of England and Scotland. Elsewhere it’ll be dry and settled. Again this rain will be particularly heavy over the west coast of Scotland and the north of England. Further south and east, it’ll be dull and dry with temperatures nudging into double figures under that cloud cover. Winds will pick up again as the rain approaches and swing more westerly / southerly as they do so.

Overnight into Friday that rain moves centrally across the U.K in two pronounced bands so most areas waking up to a wet scenario here. Thankfully though it clears Ireland overnight and here it’ll be a bright and sunny start to the last day of the week with a widespread ground frost. By the morning rush hour that rain has cleared most of the U.K, except the east / south-east of England where it may be heavy in nature and reluctant to whisk off into The Channel. 🙁 Further west a nice dry sunny start to the day and although chilly in nature it’ll be a nice way to end the week. Winds will be light and from the south turning northerly through the day and that’ll drop the temperature later in the day. Temperatures will be similar to Thursday, high single figures maybe nudging into double figures in the sunshine.

Onto the all important weekend, well Saturday looks like a dry day for many with variable cloud cover and again the risk of ground frost under clear skies. A dull day for many but gradually this cloud will clear to leave a sunny end to the day. Winds will be light and temperatures in the high single figures I think perhaps cooler than the end of the week. Sunday looks dry again for many except the north-west of Scotland where some rain will push in during Saturday night. A chance of a much clearer day on Sunday with good amounts of sunshine and of course the risk of ground frost if skies are clear and winds light. All in all not too bad.

Weather Outlook

So the start of next week looks settled as high pressure keeps an incoming low pressure away. As the two butt up against each other it’ll freshen up the winds and they’ll be southerly in the main so not too bad from a temperature perspective. With an Atlantic low sitting off Ireland I expect this to push in some rain fronts to the west of Ireland and north-west of Scotland, but away from here it should be dry and settled. Dry and settled in March means a risk of ground frost, but reasonably nice days with temperatures pushing up into high single and maybe double figures in the south-west and south of England later in the week.

Agronomic Notes

Purple Greens are all the rage 🙂

You know by this stage what dry and sunny means with cold nights during March ? Yes that’s right, my fine turf areas are going purple…..

purpling2

I know I write this every year, but just to refresh your memories why it is happening,,,,

During dry, bright days the grass plant photosynthesises and produces sugars in the leaves which ordinarily are translocated down and around the plant during the latter part of the day and at night. When the temperature drops rapidly as soon as the sun goes down, not all of these sugars move out of the leaves so they accumulate and bind to pigments in the leaf, one of which is Anthocyanin. Now Anthocyanin is the pigment responsible for giving us those lovely red, brown and purple colours in the autumn, so when it accumulates in the grass leaf blade it turns the leaf purple rather than green because Anthocyanin dominates over Chlorophyll.

Why doesn’t this happen evenly rather than in patches ?

Well particularly for Poa biotypes, but it’s also true of some biotypes of bentgrasses, some grow better at lower temperatures than others so this phenomenon occurs in patches where these faster growing biotypes are present. It’s also due to the location of greens. Greens that are in the open will warm up quicker and cool down faster whereas greens in the shade do not warm up as quick. So early doors we tend to see this purpling on more open greens or on non-shaded areas of greens. One last point is that the temperature fluctuations are experienced by the top of the leaf so this purpling takes place in the upper epidermis region of the grass leaf, flip it over and it’s nice and green. This phenomenon does affect outfield turf but the appearance isn’t as pronounced usually.

How can you stop it ?

Well to a large part you can’t stop it entirely, it doesn’t harm the grass plant, it’s not a nutrient deficiency, but of course it is a function of plant growth. So if you can pick up the growth with a well-timed nutrient input and get most of your biotypes growing then it’ll go someway to reducing the effect.

Turf Nutrition – Use the weather window….

One size doesn’t fit all so they say and with the mixed weather forecast this week that’s definitely the case when it comes to grass plant nutrition and fertiliser inputs.

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For the central and southern areas of the U.K this week we have the prospect of light rain pushing over late in the week and that may be the only rain for a week or so. Coming on the back of a relatively dry week last week that means if your forecast is showing rain then timing a spring granular before it may give you a nice boost of growth if you need to stimulate recovery. Further west and north this isn’t such an issue because the rainfall we’ve had and will get this week will provide you with plenty of opportunities to apply a granular fertiliser if you so wish…

If your forecast isn’t showing rain this week, then you can count on probably 2 dry weeks and that will mean a number of factors coming into play. Firstly the surface of the greens will start to dry out (heaven for some) and also that foliar fertilisation will be more effective than granulars for the time-being. As I explained last week foliar fertilisers come into their own when the air is warm and the soil generally cold and this will be the case this week and next, particularly if you get some ground frosts which will lower the soil temperature markedly.

So here we are looking to input 4-5 kg/N/hectare in immediately-available form, so that’s ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate and ammonium sulphate as the most efficient forms of nutrient. Adding Amino acids to this mix won’t do any harm either. Obviously mixing in a low rate iron to enhance colour and blend all those biotypes in will also be beneficial. It’s all about keeping the grass plant happy and that means light, regular inputs of N rather than big chunks. Obviously if you’ve aerated the run of cold, dry weather may prove tricky to gain recovery and allow you to topdress and get growth through the dressing. So look to fertilise on a weekly basis here with foliars if that’s practically feasible, little and often the order of the day.

Irrigation

Well ok it may be drier in some areas of the U.K, but we don’t need irrigation just yet, that said why not take this opportunity to get your system primed up and ready to go before we experience that annual rush when everyone wants their system opening up quickly and there aren’t enough irrigation people to go round….

Disease Activity

MicrodochiumThe milder temperatures at the back end of last week and warmer days of the weekend mixed in with some rainfall yesterday for most areas means that we will see a spring flush of Microdochium nivale. This will especially be the case where you have old scars and they become re-activated on the periphery of the scar because this is where the highest disease population is present. You could spot treat a contact like Iprodione on these areas or plug them out to the edge of the green or simply grow them out but as I’ve explained above we are less likely to be able to do this over the next week or so with the expected weather forecast.

Ok that’s it for this week, enjoy the sun if you get it, off to get my bags packed..

All the best…

Mark Hunt