Tackling Ash Dieback Disease with agri-tech
Ash Dieback Disease (ADD) is a destructive disease of Ash trees, especially England’s native Ash species, that threatens forestry productivity and biodiversity in the UK. ADD was first detected in the UK in 2012 and is forecast to eventually kill 80% of UK ash trees, at a predicted cost of £15bn, with £7.6 billion being the estimate for the next 10years (Hill et al., 2019).
As one of England’s most useful and versatile native tree species, Ash provides an important commercial revenue stream to Ash growers who produce Ash across the UK. Ash timber is strong, durable, and flexible, with a wide range of practical uses such as tool handles, flooring, furniture, and joinery. Ash provides valuable habitat for a wide range of dependent species. It grows in a variety of soils and climatic conditions. The ‘airy’ nature of its foliage allows light to penetrate to the woodland floor, encouraging ground plants and fauna. Several insects, other invertebrates, lichens, and mosses depend wholly on Ash for habitat.
A collaborative project between Agri-EPI Centre and Vertinetik will use emerging technology to develop predictive models of ADD and other tree diseases, which can be integrated with decision support systems to inform management of England’s Ash trees. The project aims to provide an affordable solution to benefit smaller woodland owners in identifying disease infestations and taking proactive intervention measures to protect the economic and ecological value of Ash trees.
Kalique Dugarte, Co-founder of Vertinetik said:
“We are living through a period of climate crisis. Farmers and woodland owners sit at the front row among those having to experience it first. Changing weather patterns and alien invasive pests and diseases all represent new challenges to the preservation of woodlands. The severity of this challenge can be illustrated by Ash dieback and how an entire native tree species is under threat. So there is a call for action.”
“At Vertinetik, we believe in UAVs as a powerful low-cost alternative to the massification of technologies previously available to big budgets. Thanks to our project we will lower frictional costs to facilitate the mapping and monitoring of ash trees, record the state of the trees, and thus help farmers and woodland owners better manage ash dieback and plan routes to recovery and restoration of trees.”
On 6th June, Agri-EPI will host an online workshop in collaboration with Vertinetik about their project aimed at tackling the devastating impact of Ash dieback disease.
The workshop will provide the opportunity to brainstorm solutions that meet the needs of woodlands owners and learn more about the aims of the project. Speakers, including Kalique Dugarte, Kadmiel Maseyk and Joseph Fennell from Open University, and Simon James from Smallwoods, will provide an overview of the nature of the disease, the use of remote sensing for disease and stress detection, and the challenges of managing woodland areas affected by Ash Dieback.
Find out more here.