November 2nd

Hi All,

Well we are into November and many of us will be glad to see the back of what was a very wet month indeed, for some their wettest October for over 20 years.

Of course we now have the spectre of lock down in England looming whereas in a week, Wales will be out of there’s and Scotland will be doing something different. Ireland are already in a six week lockdown which will finish around the same time as England. Politicians and science just don’t mix, they don’t get it, nor do the young (in more ways than one). It remains to be seen how our industry is able to cope with a 4-week closure in England. It was inevitable that golf would close though, it has in Ireland, it has in Wales and now it has in England. I’d love to understand the science behind that decision but I suspect like most of the decisions made this year, there isn’t any.

You’d have thought by now we would have been able to clearly identify what part of our daily life is contributing most to Covid-19 transmission, is it pubs and clubs, is it shopping, secondary school up-spreading from the young to the older generations ? We could then single this area out, apply testing and ring-fence it. Too logical and simplistic ? Maybe but lock-downs are a very blunt tool that creates as many if not more problems than it solves…

I know it is pants for revenue but golf courses have been under so much play pressure this year that a month break is just the thing they need and I suspect many will use this to get on with their scheduled spring aeration work if ground conditions and the forecast play ball. Who can blame them ?

Balmy and barmy weather has been the order of the day over the weekend. Last night I was driving back from a last (?) fishing trip to see the thermometer sitting at 17.5 °C in the car and it didn’t drop below 14°C all night. Crazy really and it’ll be a bit of a shock when by tomorrow night temperatures will be 10°C lower as high pressure nudges in and we see ground frost make an appearance in some areas.

Without further ado it’s onto the weather.

General Weather Situation

So, we start this week in a similar fashion to how we ended last week, that is to say, mild, windy and with some blustery showers thrown in. During Monday we will see showers and heavier spells of rain across Ireland push east across The Irish Sea into the west of England, Wales and the west of Scotland. Some of these showers will push inland across The South West and track north east across central areas through the morning. Most of the rain though will confined to Ireland and the west / north west of the U.K, with the showers fizzling out later across central areas. Cooler across Scotland as that colder air pushes southwards on a freshening north westerly wind, so here temperatures just breaking into double figures. For England and Wales we will remain in the mid-teens but as we go through the day it’ll become noticeably chillier with temperatures dropping into single figures by nightfall. Ireland, like Scotland, already has that chillier air, so just breaking into double figures here and wet, though more on the west.

Onto Tuesday and high pressure begins to make its presence felt with conditions starting to settle. It won’t be dry everywhere though because Scotland will see rain across central areas moving through during the morning and a Bay of Biscay low pressure will skirt along the south coast of the U.K and bring rain initially to The South West but this will track eastwards along the south coast and into the south east and East Anglia later in the day. We will also see some showers across the west coast of Ireland through the morning but these will be reluctant to track inland. The wind will turn more north westerly and the temperatures will be noticeably chillier across England and Wales where we will now join Ireland and Scotland with high single / low double digit temperatures. Away from the rain across the south coast, it’ll be a dry and cool day with a cool, brisk wind and the occasional sunny interval. Night temperatures may be low enough for a ground frost in places.

Mid-week and we see that Atlantic high nudge drier, brighter and cool weather into Ireland and during the day its reach will extend across all of the U.K, so Wednesday looks dry (which is great because I’m topdressing !). So not a lot to say about Wednesday other than it’ll be a dry, cool day with a north westerly wind which will fade as we go through the day. Again a chilly night with temperatures down in the low single figures and possibly ground frost in some areas.

Thursday sees that high pressure slap bang over the U.K, so that means very light winds, possibly a chance of fog early doors with the colder temperatures and a light wind that’ll swing round to easterly through the course of the day. Remaining cool across all areas with 8-10°C the order of the day and dry pretty much everywhere. I like high pressure systems on this blog, much less to write about 🙂

Cool again overnight into Friday with a chilly night on Thursday night. Friday sees the wind strengthen from the south east and that’ll edge the temperatures down below double figures throughout the day, despite plenty of sunshine once the morning cloud has broken. So a broadly similar day to Thursday just with a brisker wind and remaining dry.

The outlook for the weekend is for the high pressure to slowly edge eastwards which will mean low pressure will edge in from the south west to affect western areas as we go through the weekend. So Saturday will see some rain moving into the south west of England and Ireland early doors but the high pressure will keep this rain always to the west. So Ireland will see rain on Saturday, initially in the south and west but it’ll edge up country as we go through the day. For the U.K, we look to have another dry, bright and chilly day, however that low pressure will introduce better temperatures into the south of England so expect low teens here and double figures in central to northern areas. Scotland will have light easterly winds so it’ll remain on the cool side with similar temperatures to earlier in the week. By Sunday that low pressure will be pushing those showers across Ireland but it’ll also be making inroads east across The Irish Sea into the south west of England, Wales and westerly-facing coasts. As we go through the day, Ireland should dry up a bit but we will see more extensive rain across the north of England, the north west and west of Scotland. Central and eastern areas stay under that protective high pressure for another day.

Weather Outlook

So next week’s weather projection looks delicately balanced.

Over the weekend, the GFS consensus was for low pressure to push in from the west and move the high pressure out of the way and therefore take us into a spell of unsettled weather. Looking at the GFS projection (above) for next Monday you can see that we have a west-east split with low over The Atlantic and high pressure over the continent. There are a number of consequences from this weather scenario. Firstly it’ll be reasonably breezy but probably with southerly winds so temperatures won’t be bad. As we start next week, we will have some showers / rain across Ireland and the west of England but the projection is for the high to keep that low out in The Atlantic so that means a dry week, I’d say on the cooler side as we progress through the week with the wind shifting from southerly to south easterly as we go through the week. Good news on the lack of moisture side as judging by the October rainfall stats that have come my way, there’s plenty of drying out to do !

Agronomic Notes

As this is the first blog of November, I’ll start by looking back at October from a GDD and rainfall perspective, thanks to Sean for the stats and to Wendy for prepping 🙂

GDD – October 2020 – The Oxfordshire, Thame 

As we can see from the stats, the GDD total for the month came in at 152.5, which places it towards the bottom of an October league table from a temperature perspective. No bad thing actually as it has meant less intense disease pressure, but as you’ll see later, the flip-side of that coin has meant it was really wet 🙁

The cooler than average October has brought y.t.d 2020 in line with more recent years but for sure I think we will top the 2,000 mark for 2020 total GDD unless we pick up a spectacular winter trough event.

If that’s the case it means 3 out of the last 4 years will represent our warmest.

GDD & Rainfall – U.K Locations

If you remember back to October it was a very consistent graph across our locations with the exception of Fife, Scotland which was lower in GDD, as per normal. I say that but then when you look at October you can see how much more ‘mixed up’ a month it was, both in terms of rainfall and GDD. Our location in Bristol came in with the highest monthly rainfall total I’ve seen for a good while but I know from the chat on Facebook and Twitter that some locations particularly in South Wales / Bristol came in with 500 mm + for the month ! The south west of the U.K often comes up with some very high rainfall totals but it’s interesting in October that the South Wales / Bristol area tended to pick up some very heavy, but very localised rainfall. Taunton just down the road recorded 157.6 mm (thanks Michael) as an example vs. 394 mm just a bit further north as the crow flies. From a GDD perspective, it is noticeable that Fife came in similar to locations much further south when normally it would be 20-25% lower, so this suggests the east and north east of the country had a milder climate in October. Top of the pops as usual was Matt in Jersey, well strictly speaking Matt you’re in France really 🙂

GDD & Rainfall – Irish Locations

Irish locations follow a similar pattern with a 2x difference in rainfall comparing the south west (Valentia) with Dublin. Remarkable consistency in terms of GDD with Cavan, Sligo and Dublin all within a gnats whisker of each other. Overall the GDD for Irish locations is 25-33% lower than the equivalent U.K locations which does make you think about grass growth but also disease growth. Less temperature is less aggressive disease population growth theoretically but I know it doesn’t necessarily work that way plus there’s also likely to be a distinct difference between the Irish strains of Microdochium and the U.K ones. Aside from GDD what strikes me is how similar Ireland is to most of the U.K locations in terms of rainfall. The Irish variance is 82.5 – 227.9 mm, the U.K variance is 82 – 394 mm.

Mild air and rainfall = big changes in soil temperature

The sudden transition at the end of last week from cool air to very mild air and rainfall has caused a significant change (increase) in soil temperature and that will have some significant effects on things like worm activity, disease levels and of course grass growth. All of these may not be exactly what you may have wanted going into lockdown but there we are 🙁

The graph below shows the effect mild air and rainfall has on soil temperature @ 25mm on a USGA-high sand spec rootzone ;

Quite a transition I’m sure you’ll agree, increasing by 8.4°C over a pretty short time period !

Now as stated above, the soil temperature sensor I’m using is placed at 25 mm depth but I can tell you that the increase in soil temperature extended all the way down to 150 mm on this high sand content rootzone, so it wasn’t just the surface that heated up. It will be interesting to see if we note a reciprocal decrease in soil temperature as we go through this week and pick up some cold night temperatures.

What was also interesting to me but unfortunately I don’t have the time to chart the stats (maybe next week), I also looked at the soil temperature effect on a clay area and remarkably saw similar increases in soil temperature and they extended right down to 150mm depth.

So it just goes to show that if you have a soil that takes water down to a certain depth (and maybe you encourage that process by good aeration), you can see a significant change in soil temperature when we have that combination of mild air and rainfall.

Next week I’ll try and chart the temperature shift and sand and clay over last week and this week so we can see how they both behave. The reason it’s interesting for me is because some of you are maintaining high sand content greens, whether that be recently (ish) built or greens where you have incorporated significant topdressing and some of you are maintaining soil, ‘push up’ greens.

Last week I remarked that the wind will be your friend over the weekend because despite its negative effect of carpeting your golf course / sports facility with leaves, it has the very welcome benefit of drying down the leaf. When you look at the fact we hit 17.5°C over the weekend that would normally mean very aggressive disease activity but the reason why this hasn’t been the case on many locations is that the high wind speed dried them down quickly, even after rainfall.

The graph below shows leaf wetness, E.T and rainfall but the thing to look at is the leaf wetness. When we had light winds we had long periods of a saturated leaf but as the wind increased over the weekend those periods of leaf wetness shortened considerably, even after rainfall.

So you may bitch about the leaves and judging by my attempts to clear the deluge from the local park behind my house, I’d join you on that one, but it does have a positive side.

Composting – a question

For those facilities that have lots of leaf fall and I guess plenty of clippings, the two make an ideal composting mix – high carbon from leaves and high N from clippings.

So how many of you out there compost your clippings / leaves, how do you do it and what do you use the resulting compost for ?

Just interested…..

OK, that’s me done, tempus blooming fugit again !

All the best.

Mark Hunt