Arboriculture professionals "need to talk the language of tree biology", says author

A new book published this week aims to provide arborists and horticulturists with a better understanding of the biological processes underpinning their work.

Image: Andrew Hirons
Image: Andrew Hirons

Applied Tree Biology has been written by Myerscough College arboriculture lecturer Dr Andrew Hirons and Keele University reader in plant ecology Dr Peter Thomas.

Hirons told Horticulture Week: "I couldn't point my students to a book that delivered what I wanted. We didn't want to a write a point-by-point guide to, say, pruning, but to show the link between trees' biology and arboricultural practice. At higher education level, we want students not just to follow practices, but to understand them. But we still rely on works from the 1980s and 90s."

Alex Shigo's Modern Arboriculture, first published in 1991, "was useful at the time but now has all sorts of holes in it", he said. "Shigo talks about 'static and dynamic energy' - that doesn't mean anything in the broader world of plant biology and physiology. We need to be talking the same language as other specialists."

And he added: "Climbers and trees officers involved with issues like planning can drift away from the fundamentals of the tree as an organism. And while the standards say to cut in a particular way, they don't unravel why that's the case."

And the same time Myerscough itself "is going through a five-yearly periodic review to make sure the contents of our courses are up-to-date", Hirons said. "We are able to revise and set our own agenda. Other courses may not be as up-to-date, and you get old thinking maintained."

But he added: "While our online courses are very popular internationally, there remains a strategic problem of engaging students here with arboriculture and horticulture as a career option, and a number of courses elsewhere have shut down."


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