As anyone knows who advises on trees, we can assess what we can see and from this draw our conclusions, but the most vital component that the tree depends on for its health and stability is often neglected.
The soil from which the tree draws its nutrients must be healthy for the tree to thrive; but how can we assess the health of the soil?
This month our Team Training brought us together at Leigh Court, outside of Bristol, to discuss and review our experience of soil related projects, look in closer detail at some of the soil services that the company offers and to learn practical soil assessment techniques.
The hands-on activities began in the morning with a discussion about the decision-making process to determine appropriate soil sampling position, timing and factors that may affect sample quality. Team members were then able to practice soil sampling in the field and basic field testing which considered the observation of above ground signs that might indicate particular soil properties including dominant minerals, water content, compaction and pH. There was then the opportunity to asses texture, smell and other features which can be used to provide further insights into the soil’s condition.
After lunch the workshop explored the contents of soil, this time using precision biology-grade microscopes. At 100x and 200x magnification we were able to observe and identify the microorganisms that comprise the teaming fauna and flora in healthy soil; vibrating bacteria and archaea, wriggling nematodes and ciliates zooming across the lens as well as fungal hyphae. There are over a billion micro-organisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil!
The day was led by our Director, Neville Fay, our Business Development Manager Simon Parfey and Claire Harbinson, Principal Consultant who leads our soil projects. The Soil Team took us through the history of our projects where we are addressing tree decline in historic landscapes through soil analysis and the prescription of soil amendments and also the importance of soil in our new tree planting audits – Claire guided us through the principles of assessing and understanding soil health and its implications for both the success of new tree planting and the viability of mature and ancient trees.
It is our goal to augment our existing soil expertise by continuing to advance the professional development of all of our consultants and surveyors to be even more proficient in assessing soil health and by equipping our national team of experts with a basic soil testing kit that they can apply in the field whether assessing trees for risk or within the Design, Planning and Construction context, whether providing ancient / veteran tree advice or tree planting advice.
This is the natural next step in our strategy of continued investment in our team and our services.