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  • Writer's pictureMark Hunt

January 30th, 2023

Hi All,


Well, this is the first Monday since the turn of the year when I am sat behind my desk. The Lamma show, Davis weather station installations across the length and breadth of the country and then BTME last week. It's been a bit of a blur and almost like working full-time again :)


What a Harrogate though, it was positively buzzing.


I stood with my colleague, Peter Palmer, on the stand on the first morning and said, "I hope it's a good show". The next time I looked at my watch it was 3:40 pm !


Thanks to everyone for coming along to say hi, to see what we do with Davis and hopefully there's a big bunch of installs on the cards for the next few months. Big thanks to BIGGA as well for their support, a slap on the back is merited for sure.


Of course, no trip to Harrogate would be complete without some quality time in Betty's with a Flat White and a Fat Rascal. (And I sat next to two of the biggest, thanks chaps :) )


Out walking yesterday (trying to burn off my Harrogate excesses) across some slightly claggy, but beautiful Leicestershire countryside, it was so so nice to see the sun again and pick up a bit of warmth on your shoulders.


I was talking to a group of greenkeepers on Friday and I asked them what type of weather forecast they wanted for the coming week and to a man / woman, they said "Dry!!!" Well, quite unusually I'd say for the start of February, that's precisely where I think we are heading for some parts of the country...Dry with a nice pick up in temperature as well for a time.


Our old friend the jet stream is to thank for this because we have an Omega Blocking pattern building courtesy of an Atlantic high pressure system and it has moved northwards which means colder, wetter weather is being pushed above rather than across us.


It has been very cold though with another prolonged run of frosts. Cold enough across Scotland for the very rare Nacreous 'Mother of Pearl' Cloud to be spotted over the weekend. These tend to form very high up in the atmosphere and at very cold (-80°C !) temperatures. (see image above). You can read about it here .


I have decided just to tweak the animated GIF's that I download from www.tropicaltidbits.com. Instead of splitting them into this week and next, the GIF's below are a straight 14 days from today run, so you can see how weather patterns are developing from this week to next...


Let's put some detail on what hopefully will be a welcome forecast for some areas


General Weather Situation - w/c 30th January, 2023


Now having said we are in for some better weather, this week is a transition week whereby the high pressure begins to build and push wetter weather away. In the meantime though, there is plenty of rain around for the north west of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland I am afraid until the high builds later in the week.


So for Monday we are dry for the best part of the day across England and Wales and most of Ireland save the north west where a front will cross later this afternoon. Scotland will see light rain initially move into the north and north west later this afternoon and this rain will intensify through the night and push into central areas as well. Further south and across a good chunk of Ireland we should be dry with a strong to moderate north westerly wind, keeping temperatures down around 7-9°C. It'll be mixed cloud and sunshine as well.


Overnight into Tuesday, that rain across the west of Scotland will sink down into north west England and then North and South Wales / Avon before petering out during the morning. Further north we will see a continuation of showers across north west Scotland, with some of these being wintry in nature. It'll remain on the cool side in that strong north westerly / westerly wind with temperatures still around 7-9°C. A very good drying wind mind.


Wednesday sees a repeat really with showers across the north of Ireland, north west of Scotland and north west England. Some of these will drop further south into North Wales later in the day. Away from this rain, most of Ireland, England and Wales will enjoy another dry day with mixed cloud and sunshine and that moderate westerly wind. Showers will feature for Scotland at the start and end of the day with some appreciable rainfall I'm afraid.


The wet theme for Scotland continues into Thursday with some heavy rain moving across country during the course of the day. Further south we look to have another dry day and with the wind dropping slightly, that'll allow the temperature to creep up into double figures with the south of England, Ireland and Wales maybe seeing 12°C. Which is nice. So a lovely day on Thursday with maybe just the odd shower creeping south into England.


Closing out the week on Friday and that high pressure starts to build in earnest. This will push drier and warmer weather further north and give Scotland and the north west of England some respite from the rain, though we will still see some showers for Scotland during the day. Another good day further south, with light to moderate westerly winds and temperatures creeping into double figures again.


The weekend forecast is not entirely dry as a band of rain will push into Scotland and Ireland during Saturday and move across country. I think it will encounter high pressure someone along the way which will stall its progress further south though some showers are likely in The North West and possibly across Wales and England later in the day. A little cooler on Saturday with temperatures sitting at 7-9°C. Sunday looks the best day of the weekend with a dry picture practically everywhere. Still on the cool side, 7-9°C, but dry.


You'll have noticed an absence of the word 'frosts', which is unusual for a high pressure system this time of year but during this week, night time temperatures will sit around 5-7°C. On Sunday with clearing skies, we may see some ground frost going into Monday morning and perhaps more risk next week.


Weather Outlook - w/c 6th February, 2023


So above is the GFS projection for next Monday and you can see the high pressure firmly in place across the U.K & Ireland. Now it is worth mentioning that there are plenty of Atlantic low pressure systems stacking up to the west of us and I think at this time of year when the jet stream is till pushing hard, it is only a matter of time before these prevail. Indeed next week we will see some rain for Ireland and Scotland on Monday / Tuesday but elsewhere it should stay reasonably dry. They'll be an increased risk of showers pushing in from the west through mid-week to the end of next week, when it looks like a high will build again potentially.


So for Wales and England, a relatively dry week initially, cooler than this week, with a risk of frost I think. For Ireland, the north of England, you'll see some rain push through at the start of next week and then a more consolidated front will push across Ireland and England, Wales, Scotland through the course of Thursday before petering out. After that I think my money would be on a more unsettled second part of the month but let's see and just be grateful in some areas we have some respite from the very wet December and first half of January.


Agronomic Notes


A little weather window


Normally in early February I'd be talking about using an early season, low temperature-available granular fertiliser application to push things along in the early part of the year when we still have moisture available and sometimes temperature too. Whilst that may be the case for parts of Ireland, northern England and Scotland this week, further south we have a brief weather window when the air temperature will rise high enough for some foliar uptake and ground conditions are dry enough to get a spray out.


I have plotted out the projected growth potential over the first 10 days of February and you can see a little peak in the graph for 3-4 days when we reach some better afternoon temperatures. Bearing in mind the lack of spray days in December and the first part of January, a nice liquid tonic with some cool temperature-available N, iron and plant hardeners should work a treat to pick surfaces up and give a little clip bonus. Now it is a transitory one but these short windows are just the weather features we should utilise to give our surfaces a pick me up. I don't expect huge disease pressure this week because the wind should keep plant leaf wetness on the low side, but with reasonable night temperatures across the southern half of the U.K and Ireland, it's something to be mindful of. Of course it's all down to local conditions and if that wind drops back enough for you to get out there and spray.


A little bit of positive E.T as well....


Now I'm trying to look for small positives here because I am aware the last 6 weeks have been very wet for most people across the U.K. With drying conditions in the southern half of the U.K, some sunshine and a westerly wind, I expect us to dry out nicely this week. I did my lawn renovation yesterday (it's only small) and I noticed today that the topdressing has dried sufficiently to be brushed in. So even if we are only picking up 0.50mm per day E.T, it's enough to help things along.




Letting the soil breath....


Now again this only applies to the areas of the U.K & Ireland that will miss most of this week's rain and had a relatively dry week last week. That's my caveat out of the way.


The image above is probably one of my most-used images and I am eternally grateful to Mark Todd @ The Wildernesse for sharing it with me but it really hammers home the benefits of deep aeration, later in the season. With so much rain over the last 6 weeks, the rootzone has sat pretty saturated and therefore oxygen deficient. Should ground conditions allow, now would be a great time to just open the greens and let them vent. Narrow diameter solid tines, compact vertidraining and the like are perfect tools for the job and there's definitely a benefit to rooting that extends far beyond this time of year. as Mark's image clearly shows.


It's all about partitioning of growth...


This time of year, air temperatures as we know are usually on the low side so the grass plant doesn't tend to develop much top growth. Soil temperatures though are another matter and really anything above 1-2°C is enough for the grass plant to develop roots, providing soil conditions allow it to do so. This comes down to availability of oxygen in the rootzone and that's where you help by de-compacting and venting. So with little leaf development to support currently, more in the way of the plants energy reserves are diverted downwards to initiate and develop good root development. It is called N partitioning.


Years ago, when I was a 'wet behind the ears' tech rep with Sierra (the inventors of Osmocote controlled release fertiliser), I called on a golf course run by a farmer. He was turfing a tee when I pulled up and during the course of our discussion I asked him what he was using as a 'Pre-turf' fertiliser ? "Nitram" he replied. Well that's 34.5% ammonium nitrate and so I queried (tactfully) whether it was the best choice to encourage roots.


Let's just say he wasn't impressed with my line of questioning. Not easily deterred I called back 6 weeks later and he took me to the tee in question. It was positively glowing, you could have spotted it from the International Space Station !.


"Geez" I said, "That looks healthy"....."Not really" he replied and promptly lifted the turf off. It had no roots at all. So with an excess of available nitrogen present, the grass just developed top growth at the expense of root growth. It was a lesson learnt for the both of us !


So N partitioning is something you want to be aware of, especially when the grass plant has the potential to develop roots.


We can see from the graph below that the soil temperature is already responding to the end of the run of frosts recently and I expect it to stay up nicely for at least the next week. Interestingly you can see the effect of the December and January cold snaps on soil temperature using the stats below from The Oxfordshire, Thame (Thanks Sean)

It wasn't that long ago that I used to see soil temperatures around 6-7°C at the start of November. As you can see from the graph above, in November 2022, we were sitting at nearly 14°C soil temperature on the first of that month and didn't drop to the 6-7°C range till the 7th of December, a month later than usual.


So, with good soil oxygen levels and the soil temperature picking up nicely, I expect this dry period to provide some good root development. Better rooting now means a more resilient plant when we come into the first of the dry months (usually April)


OK, that's me for now...catch you on the flipside next Monday.


All the best.


Mark Hunt























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