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  • Writer's pictureMark Hunt

February 12th, 2024

Hi All,

The picture above is an old one, but it is apt. I can't remember how many times I have seen The Welland Valley flooded this winter, with the river breaking its banks and flooding arable and pasture land. This weekend it was just a continuous sea of water stretching from one side of the valley to the other. Breath taking as an image but the consequences of that flooding are far-reaching. Winter Wheat and Barley acreage (in other words our grain crop species) is in some areas 40% affected by flood damage / hypoxic stress. So that means reduced yields and ultimately more expensive grain come harvest 2024. That will feed into food prices and ultimately inflation. I wonder how many so-called economic experts sitting on their trains passing fields after fields under water on their way to Smogsville this morning understand the implications of what they are seeing ? (if they lift their heads from their laptops of course)

At the same time, social media is full of pictures of courses and pitches under water after the 30mm+ we received last week and we know it'll be a long drag to dry those areas out again. Our climate is affecting our industry and our lives.

Paradoxically, it is also likely in an El Nino year, that in a few months time, I am writing this blog reporting on record temperatures and wondering when the drought / heat will finish / rain will arrive. Future-proofing your facility is never more needed but I wonder how feasible it really is in some of the cases I see ?

So with this in mind, is the forthcoming weather likely to continue the theme of a wet winter (wettest winter for some) or provide a reprieve ?

Image courtesy of

General Weather Situation - w/c 12-02-24

As the GIF above shows, currently we are currently sitting in a trough with that troublesome low pressure off to the east of us and another sitting to the north west. Just at the bottom of the picture to the west of Portugal, you can see a ridge of high pressure. These two systems will do battle over the coming week so we will see high pressure push up from the south but Atlantic fronts will feed into this pattern and push across the U.K & Ireland over the coming week. So it won't be a dry week I am afraid but it will be trending drier and in between the rain we will have some decent drying winds. There, I have put a positive spin on the weather !

So Monday looks to be one of the drier days of the week with the only blot on the weather picture being some persistent wintry showers across the north west / west of Scotland. These will track into central areas later in the day. Away from this rain, it'll be a largely dry day across the remaining of the U.K & Ireland with plenty of sunshine after a cold, bright start to the day. Light to moderate winds.

One consequence of the high pressure pushing up is that the winds will be from the south and that'll lift temperatures into the early teens during the week so we will be set mild for this week after the cool start. 4-8°C for today but by mid-week that'll be more like 13-14°C in the southern half of the country, across Wales and Ireland.

From Tuesday morning we begin to see the effects of Atlantic fronts pushing in with rain arriving into Kerry and The South West of England in time for rush hour. This rain will consolidate and push across Ireland, England and Wales through the course of the day. Scotland and the north of England past The Pennines should miss this rain on Tuesday. Winds will be moderate and from the south ushering up those temperatures.

Mid-week sees more rain but differently orientated with a front moving across Connacht and then the north of Ireland into Scotland. They'll be another moving across the southern half of England, Wales with a line drawn south of The Humber. Moderately windy from the south west and mild with temperatures in the teens for Ireland, England and Wales. Remaining cooler for Scotland with some of that moisture falling as snow over elevation.

Thursday sees a more consolidated rain front cross Ireland and the U.K, with some heavy rain later in the day for the north of England and Scotland. Lighter winds so that means a slower-moving front and hence higher rainfall totals I am afraid. Remaining mild, maybe a tad cooler than Wednesday, but another wet day and definitely not needed for many.

Closing out the week on Friday and we start to see the effects of the high pressure pushing that rain further north, so after Thursday's rain / wintry shower mix has cleared Scotland, Friday promises a largely dry day and cooler with temperatures down in single figures. Plenty of sunshine as well to close out what has been a dull week and the winds will be lighter in nature.

The outlook for the weekend is mixed. Saturday will see rain pushing into Galway / Mayo / Sligo in time for the Fanore rush hour :). This rain will push east across Ireland and into Scotland by the afternoon. Further south we should be dry for awhile but later in the day, rain arrives into The South West and pushes across Wales and England on Saturday evening. The wind will now be from the north west so feeling cooler than the heady temperatures of mid-week. By Sunday morning, most of that rain will have moved away with some reluctant to clear East Anglia initially. Sunday promises a much better weather day with some sunshine but remaining cool in that chilly north westerly wind.

Weather Outlook - w/c 19-02-24

We currently have a low-lying jet stream in place for what has seemed an age now and what effectively that means is there is no 'barrier' to Atlantic fronts pushing across the U.K & Ireland. It will come for sure and then the taps will turn off promptly and pretty soon after we will start looking for their resumption, trust me, we will. What also strikes me about the weather maps for February as they look for the 2nd part of the month is the presence of plenty of cold air to the north. If you follow the animated GIF above right to the end, you'll see this is currently earmarked to make a significant appearance right at the end of the month. So it could be a wintry entry into March perhaps ?

Back to the outlook for next week and 'windy, changeable and unsettled' is the continuing theme. No high pressure blocking event evident yet. Next week looks windy from the west and north west, a sunshine and showers type forecast for the southern half of the U.K / Ireland but more consolidated rain for the north. A ridge of high pressure will keep the southern half of the country drier than the north but we will rain on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. As we push into the latter part of February, the wind looks to swing more north westerly and usher in colder air and more in the way of wintry showers I think. Temperature-wise, I think 6-8°C will be the norm next week.

Agronomic Notes

At the beginning of February, I talked about early season aeration and chronicled how in my books it makes sense should a weather window, ground conditions and sufficient resources be available. Above is the 'graph of recovery' for 2024 (vs. 2023) so we can follow how long it takes for there to be sufficient growth (measured using Growth Potential) to gain 'canopy close' as I call it. I work on the basis that a cumulative total of 9.0 from a G.P perspective will provide sufficient growth for recovery. As you can see from the graph above, we are already 1/3rd of the way to that goal by the end of the day today and looking at the very mild temperatures I think that we will continue to pick up good growth this week before dropping away week as temperatures cool. I'd be willing to bet we will have 66% of the job done by the time we turn the page of the calendar into March. What I'll do then is ask the superintendent if he would be so good as to send me some pictures of the surfaces to see how much actual recovery has been gained.

Walking along the shores of Rutland Water on Saturday morning, I passed Rutland County Golf Club on my way to a lovely stop at the Picks Barn Cafe @ Lyndon. I do love a walk with a cafe stop halfway, mainly because I know whilst I'm downing my soup, cheese scone and Flat White, my elevated metabolism is still consuming calories. Sorted.

I digress.

Guttation Fluid and Disease....

The picture above shows not dew but Guttation Fluid as a result of the copious rainfall prior to the weekend. Elevated soil moisture levels force fluid out of small holes at tip of the grass leaf (Hydathodes). This fluid isn't just water, it contains a mix of sugars as well and therefore serves as a nice food pack for growing fungi. As long ago as 1968, the presence of Guttation Fluid was linked to Dollar Spot prevalence. I took this close-up image awhile back and you can see the cob webby mycelium growing within the Guttation Fluid at the top of the plant leaf.

Now this week we have two very mild nights, Tuesday into Wednesday and Wednesday into Thursday. I think the combination of Guttation Fluid and mild overnight temperatures will provide significant disease pressure from Microdochium.

Now I wouldn't be rushing towards the Chemsafe because I think it's more likely that what we will see is something like the above. Mycelium activity around the periphery of a previous infection area. Interestingly this image also contains Guttation Fluid.

When we see fungal growth on the edge of an existing disease scar, we are seeing the area where the highest fungal population exists. As such I don't think modern-day fungicides have the 'ability' to control such outbreaks. In my mind the objective has always been to try and prevent this type of scarring in the 1st instance, not just because of the disruption to the surface but because of the inability to control this level of fungal population. The other point why I wouldn't be applying a fungicide is that we are approaching mid-Feb and the commencement of 'spring' so recovery is around the corner. Better to plug it out to the edge of the green if it's unsightly. Just my take.

GDD Totals - January 2024 - Default Location - The Oxfordshire, U.K

So above is the summary of the 1st month of the 2024. A year that could be particularly significant in my mind when you look at the bigger climate picture of the world around us. January 2024 from our GDD stats came in pretty much as January 2023 did, near as damn it and towards the upper end of January's as measured from 2005. No record though.

Reproduced courtesy of a BBC article which can be found here

If you take in the data from this chart, you can see that 2023 checked out globally significantly warmer than any previous year and 2024 has already started warmer than 2023. From a more local perspective, 2023 marked the warmest year on record for Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the 2nd warmest for England and the 3rd warmest for Scotland. Our jet stream 'complicates' continental weather patterns and provides us with the familiar peak and trough weather extremes that play havoc with yearly averages.

Nevertheless the meteorological smart money is that 2024 will be our warmest year ever and maybe we will surpass the record of Thursday, 28th July, 2022 of 40.3°C, measured at Coningsby, Lincolnshire. I think we will if we get a peak pattern in the jet stream sometime over the summer. The good thing agronomically-speaking is that we can spot these high pressure peak patterns coming a good way off (10-14 days usually) and they also tend to build over time, so we have time to react, whether that's from a surfactant, irrigation and / or plant growth regulator perspective.

it seems odd to finish this blog off talking about summer, high temperatures and maybe drought when the countryside around me is awash, but that's the nature of the beast and this job.

All the best.

Mark Hunt

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