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London Tree Officers Association Soil Seminar

London Tree Officers Association Soil Seminar

This month, the Treework Soil Department delivered presentations at the London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) Seminar held in the Council Chamber of Hackney Town Hall on 21st November.

The LTOA aims to promote, support, and enhance the urban forest and those who manage it, and regularly holds meetings and seminars for members throughout the year. This particular event focused explicitly on soil and trees. Over 70 local authority tree officers, consultants and professionals from within the arboriculture sector were in attendance.

Rupert Bentley Walls

The seminar was opened by host Rupert Bentley Walls, Senior Arboricultural Officer at the London Borough of Hackney, who welcomed us all and then handed over to Treework Director and co-founder of the Sustainable Soils Alliance (SSA), Neville Fay. Nev spoke about the knowledge gap on soils within the tree sector, and the culture and background behind Treework’s approach to soil and trees; a journey of over ten years that has included research into the theory and the development of biological amendment programmes to the soil surrounding trees and their canopies. Nev highlighted the current threats to soils in the UK, the strategy for soil recovery and policy issues relating to the 25-year Environment Plan, all of which are issues currently being tackled by the SSA. He then handed the floor to Treework Principal Arboricultural Consultant Claire Harbinson.

Claire Harbinson

Claire leads the Treework Soil Department and new tree planting services for the company. She addressed the audience on a subject currently not generally in arboricultural practice – Soil Health for Trees. Her presentation drew attention to some of the possible indicators of soil health for trees, including soil organic matter and the importance of organic matter quality and diversity. Claire discussed the appropriateness of the current British Standard for topsoil for trees and where reliance on the standard alone can limit the capability of newly planted trees to survive, let alone thrive. An important take-home from the presentation was the idea that trees are ‘soil farmers’ that drive processes within the soil that they occupy and generate soil organic matter through fine root and mycorrhizal turnover, provided they have the right soil conditions.

Simon Parfey

Treework Business Development Manager and founder of independent soil testing laboratory SiolBioLabSimon Parfey, gave a presentation focusing on the practical considerations and execution of soil sampling. The session delivered the benefit of our years of experience of efficient soil sampling and the useful application of the data and information that we have collected through our soil projects. It is one of our objectives to standardise the sector’s approach to trees and soil as far as possible, and to provide guidance to others to improve knowledge and understanding of soil within arboriculture. We already have some technical guidance documents available to download and use, and have plans to produce more. We have uploaded our team’s presentations from the event to our Treework Library. If you don’t already have access, you can gain entry here.

The Seminar closed with a look at the right soil conditions for successful tree planting with Tim O’Hare from Tim O’Hare Associates LLP.  Tim stressed the importance of considering soil depth and the appropriate treatment of subsoil and topsoil when building a tree pit.

Attendees then dispersed for the traditional post-seminar pub lunch and discussion, questions, and networking opportunities.

We were delighted to see the growing interest in trees and soil amongst seminar attendees. These types of events provide vital opportunities to help fill some of the knowledge gaps in our understanding of trees and the environment and conditions in which they grow.

The Treework Soil Department has a busy program of work planned for 2020, including new areas of study, practical soil remediation projects and more presentations and workshops. We intend to maintain a regular schedule of education in this new area of arboriculture, and to continue to pioneer ways to help mitigate the increasing range of threats to our native tree population through the improvement of soil health.

Find out more about the pioneering work that we are doing with soil and trees here.

If you have a question or require help with matters relating to soil and tree health, contact a member of our Soil Department today.

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