The tree, in a garden in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, is the parent of all the commercial and domestic Bramley apple trees in the world. But it is currently ravaged by honey fungus and has been predicted to live only another two years without successful intervention.
"It is really very much a race against time but we are optimistic that a chemical we have developed could eradicate the fungus," said Guy Eatch, managing director of Nottingham-based BioActive Environmental Technologies. "We are planning to spray the tree with a unique molecule called SingloTex that when activated by light produces potent, high-energy singlet oxygen, which is antifungal, antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral."
Before the original tree is treated, BioActive will trial the spray on younger Bramley apple trees, with results expected shortly. "We also intend to use some other innovative BioActive chemicals to treat the roots of the tree where there is no light," Eatch added.
University of Nottingham emeritus professor Edward Cocking, who has studied the tree for many years, has lent his support to the move, saying it is "worthwhile testing" with "a good chance of success". SingloTex was invented by California-based British scientist Barry Noar, whose company Singlogen recently joined forces with BioActive to form Anglo-American enterprise Singlobet. Eatch added: "It could even be a cure for other tree diseases like ash dieback or canker."
Meanwhile, an online funding campaign has been launched on the We Fund Any Charity website to raise £100,000 to treat the Southwell tree. If successful, supporters who contribute £100 or more will each receive a clone of the tree or a miniature bonsai version.