Technical Update

Film spreads phytophthora warning

A film to increase awareness of the lethal fungal-like phytophthora pathogens is being prepared for release in late spring.

The film is being produced by The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), with input from a wide group of stakeholders.

Its aim is to inform those with an interest in the countryside of the threat of phytophthora across a range of environments – woods, moorlands and gardens. It covers points such as the different types of phytophthora is, why they are a threat, symptoms to look out for, what people can do to prevent the spread and who to contact if they suspect and outbreak.

Pictured above being filmed for the project is FERA scientist Paul Beales.

The film will be available to view through FERA’s stakeholder groups and its website. A shorter version will appear on YouTube, aimed at a wider audience.

This is all part of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan. Other elements include two new biosecurity posters, one for woodland and one for recreational use of the countryside, an exhibit at events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Welsh and International Forest Exhibition, Forest Research Tree Health Training Days and best practice protocols.

For more information please see: www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/crops/tree-health

Help trees survive drought

Tree Wardens can do a lot to help trees in their communities survive drought – a key message of The Tree Council’s 2012 Tree Care Campaign.

And there are tips on The Tree Council website to help identify drought stress, prioritise which trees are the most vulnerable, and then water them in the most effective way. This includes avoiding evaporation by watering early or late, and watering slowly to avoid run-off but making sure the tree roots get sufficient soaking.

For the Tree Care Campaign, launched on 21 March, The Tree Council is challenging members of the public who have a tree on their land, or close by in adjacent public space, to make a real difference to tree survival this year.

It points out that trees need watering – by rain or by people – about three times a month from April to the end of September, and in dry times that’s especially important.

Tree Wardens can lead by example, not only taking action themselves, but also encouraging their neighbours to do likewise – both in their own gardens and in the wider community. Many Tree Wardens even co-ordinate rotas so that everyone can play their part, saving some of their waste water for the trees in their street.

“Simple actions will maintain the level of moisture in the ground that is necessary for trees to stay alive. Anyone can ‘adopt’ the tree outside their front gate and, since it is almost impossible to over-water a tree, this year give it as much water as you can,” said Tree Council director-general Pauline Buchanan Black

• Information on spotting a tree with drought stress and the top 10 tips on watering trees in a drought can be downloaded from www.treecouncil.org.uk/community-action/tree-care-campaign

There are also tips on the simple TLC that young trees always need to help them survive to maturity – including loosening ties, clearing away weeds that are competing for nutrients, moisture and light, and checking that the mulch layer is effective.

Quality is key for healthy woods

Quality not quantity is the key for England’s woodlands, says a report from Tree Council member Plantlife.

‘Forestry Recommissioned: bringing England's woodlands back to life’ – published in November – reveals that a lack of management has led to darker woods where plants cannot flourish and, as they have declined, so has the wildlife that depends on them.

The report shows that, despite there being more woodland than 20 years ago, woodland flora, butterflies and birds are still declining.

“The Government’s ambition of creating thousands of hectares of new woodland in England every year is missing the point,” says Victoria Chester, Plantlife’s chief executive. “Plantlife is not against more woodland but the reality is that newly planted woods will take years to have any real conservation value – whilst some of our really special ancient woodlands, in some cases home to England’s rarer flowers and wildlife, are slowly but surely going down the pan.”

Andy Byfield, Plantlife’s landscape conservation manager, adds: “More trees do not equal more wildlife. From the point of view of our woodland wildlife, it is what we do with our woods that counts.

“We need to put less emphasis on the quantity of woodland and focus instead on the quality of its management, so we can rescue our woodlands from a dark and dull future. Both public and private woodland owners need to take a more informed and active approach.”

• Download a copy of Forestry Recommissioned at www.plantlife.org.uk/about_us/news_press/forestry_recommissioned/