Study to produce hard facts about benefits of aeration

A study to find objective results on the effects of air-decompaction soil treatments is being carried out by the Arboricultural Advisory & Information Service (AAIS).

The in-depth study is being undertaken this summer on plug samples from treated and untreated trees to measure the distance between rings and, therefore, the effect of the treatment on growth spurts.

The air treatment is intended to help increase spaces between soil particles where ground has been compacted.

AAIS arboricultural adviser Harry Pepper said the body hoped the study would provide more definitive information for people working with trees: "There are a number of organisations that do provide a service and have the equipment to do it, but there doesn't appear to be any hard, scientific data as to its efficacy. The information we have is more subjective, so we want to get a measure of how effective it is."

Pepper added that soil might become compacted for a number of reasons, including heavy plant on a site through development, or cattle and people traffic in rural areas.

The plug samples being used in the study have been collected by Rhondda Cynon Taff Council arboricultural officer Gwyn James.

They are taken from mature beech and oak trees in Aberdare Park, South Wales, which were given decompaction treatment by Terrain Aeration in May 2005.

The study will measure the growth spurts that have taken place over the past three years, compared with untreated trees.

Terrain Aeration managing director David Green said: "At last we are getting some objective testing done. Up until now we've had to rely on before and after pictures. I am sure we are going to get documentary proof that this treatment boosts growth."

James added that he had already noticed changes in the trees, but was looking forward to seeing the results of the study.

"I'm comparing the increase in leaf cover of those trees treated against those which were not," he said.

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