What's in store for arboriculture in 2017?

Biosecurity, contractor scheme, electric equipment, flood mitigation and pest threats.

Image: Urban Forestry WTCS
Image: Urban Forestry WTCS

Arboricultural Association technical officer Simon Richmond says: "We will be pushing hard on biosecurity in 2017. We have support from other organisations for our biosecurity position statement, published last year, and that will be followed with guidance notes on best practice for practitioners in the field. We are also lobbying Parliament on this and have some MPs and Lords onside - and it will also be the key topic of our conference in September, one day of which will be in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management, with whom we share aims on this. It will be the first arboriculture conference to address the topic at an international level."

The association will also run events around the country this year on BS5837, the British Standard on trees in relation to design, demolition and construction. "This is a hot topic and it has been challenged by some who say it isn't working well, and that's generated a discussion that we are keen to take forward," says Richmond.

"We also have funding to prepare five technical guides, the first of which will be out later this year, on basic tree access and tool use, followed by works on rigging, dismantling, and use of MEWPs (mobile elevating work platforms) and cranes. There is also a move in the industry to the stationary rope technique that a lot of climbers are experimenting with now that the equipment is available here, though being from the US it isn't CE-marked. This raises training and safety issues that we will address.

"We are expanding our Approved Contractor scheme to include utility contractors. Apprenticeship standards for arboriculture are now being approved and the colleges will be introducing them this year. In equipment, there is an ongoing move from petrol to electrically powered kit, thanks to improved battery technology."

Great opportunity

Barrell Tree Consultancy managing director Jeremy Barrell says leaving the EU "is a great opportunity to rebalance farming policy" in favour of catchment management to address the increasing threat posed by flooding. "I hope Government has the vision and leadership to bring back some wilderness into managing our countryside," he says.

Another aspect of climate change and the increasing pest and disease threat is the need for appropriate amenity tree selection. "Most species will grow on a site but we need potentially big and long-lived species, not pretty or small or short-lived, which is often what we get. The idea of single-species landscape features has to be removed."

Meanwhile, the commercial development of cultured antagonistic fungi "has the potential to be used to control some of our most lethal tree-decay organisms such as Armillaria (honey fungus), and Ganoderma", against which there are no effective measures currently available, says Barrell. "They will revolutionise how we manage our ageing trees, and provide us with a means of retaining many old trees much longer than currently possible."

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