news article

The threats associated with infectious diseases of trees continue to threaten many of the native and common trees found in the United Kingdom. Of these diseases, ash dieback, acute oak decline and Xylella have spread rapidly across Europe and, with the exception of Xylella, have evaded the quarantine and biosecurity measures enforced by the government and implemented by industry in the UK. 

Fast identification of pathogens in a non-invasive manner is a struggle for those charged with identifying and monitoring threats. 

Research is now focussing on the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) in the fight against tree pathogens. GPR uses high-frequency radio waves to create images of areas beneath a surface. Traditionally it has been used on media including rock, soil, ice, roads and built structures to identify geological features and faults within materials. It has also been used to identify the location of tree roots.

Preliminary research has shown the system may also have applications in tree health monitoring, as it is able to accurately show the internal structure of tree trunks. Diseases such as acute oak decline, ash die-back and Xylella can be identified from analysis of the trunk of infected specimens. Early research has shown characteristic defects within the trunk of specimens can be identified using GPR, which will allow specimens to be inspected without the need for time-consuming and invasive methods of sample collection.

BALI will continue to follow the development of this technique.

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