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Natural soil treatment 'could help trees resist ash dieback'

An ash tree infected with Chalara dieback near Framlingham, south-east England. Photograph: Darren Staples/REUTERS

Trees could be protected from the devastating ash dieback disease with the help of a natural soil treatment, researchers have claimed.

A newly developed “enriched biochar”, which combines a purified form of charcoal with fungi, seaweed and worm casts could help ash trees resist the Chalara disease, according to research by tree and shrub care company Bartlett Tree Experts.

A study by the company’s research labs on 2,000 established ash trees over three years in Essex found that while a third of the established trees monitored have become infected with Chalara, none of the 20 trees which had enriched biochar applied to their roots were hit.Chalara ash dieback, which could kill millions of ash trees, was first identified in the UK in 2012 and experts fear it could have the same devastating impact on the country’s woodlands and landscape as Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.

Dr Glynn Percival, head plant physiologist at the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory, said: “While we cannot claim this to be a cure for ash dieback, we are clear that it has a beneficial impact.

“We will need to run further trials to be clear on its qualities to prevent the disease taking hold, but this is an important discovery and we believe using enriched biochar could help improve the survival prospects for the UK’s ash trees.”

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Date: 
Monday, February 29, 2016