Soil deficiencies study aims to develop diagnostics tool

Soil deficiencies and the impacts on tree health could become part of arboriculturists' diagnostic tool kit.

Arboriculturists could, in coming years, benefit from greater evidence on the causes of tree decay following research combining science with day-to-day working.

Treework Environmental Practice (TEP) is leading a study that examines tree failure and its links with soil deficiencies. Working with Laverstoke Park's laboratory, TEP is gathering evidence from soil and trees in the Royal Parks' Bushy Park and Richmond Park.

"We are exploring identifying trees that are under stress and comparing soil samples where stress appears greater or less," explained TEP principal consultant Neville Fay.

"It is early days but we are building up a profile."

Fay said the aim was to create a standard across the industry that could be used by arboriculturists in their daily working lives. The study will quantify bacteria, nematodes and mycorrhizae in the soil, and aim to find links with tree failure.

He explained: "There has been big investment in substantial pieces of kit in producing tomographs, resistographs and thermographs, but these are expensive and all the work takes place above ground.

"Simple diagnostic tools, such as light permeation through the canopy or soil condition, are not standard but could be carried out very cheaply.

"I believe soil-condition tests could become the most basic of them all, whether that happens in one year or five years."

Fay said he hoped to present evidence from the research during TEP's conference Trees, Roots, Fungi, Soil (Part 2): Towards a Model of Good Soil Practice for Arboriculture on 30 June at the Linnean Society in London.

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