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Save the Ash tree – Calling all budding scientists

Case Studies

There are 125 million ash trees in England, Scotland, and Wales, and it is estimated that we could lose up to 80% of these to the disease called ash dieback, first identified officially in the UK in 2012. Ash dieback is a highly destructive fungal pathogen originating from Asia, it has already destroyed more than 80% of young ash trees in Norway.

Weeping Ash of diseased trunk and branch's with leaves with the Dieback fungus, Ivybridge Plymouth, UK
Weeping Ash of diseased trunk & branches with leaves with Dieback fungus, Ivybridge Plymouth

Lottie Hawkins, Founder of Earthly Biochar and her team are on a mission to save the UK’s ash tree population and other reliant species. A government-funded pioneering project has been launched to try and save Britain’s ash trees with the application of biochar and they need your help!

When applied to soils, biochar can improve soil health, crop yields, and resource efficiency, and as Earthly Biochar discovered in the summer of 2022, it can potentially be a treatment for ash dieback.

Lottie Hawkins, explains:

‘In summer last year, we visited a farm in Wales that had two woodlands, both with ash trees, and both suffering from ash dieback. The farmer makes his own biochar to EU regulatory standards, and in an attempt to save his ash trees, he top-dressed biochar around the base of the trunks. He did this on half the trees with ash dieback and left the other half alone. One year went by, and the untreated ash trees had little new growth and looked withered; they looked like they were dying. In contrast, the biochar-treated ash trees have bushy, deep green new growth and look far healthier than their counterparts. This was ground-breaking information, and we decided to take the private research forwards, and apply for government funding to create a citizen science project that can test biochar treatment on a much larger scale across the UK.’

Lottie and her team are asking everyone to play a part in helping to cure this tree disease. 

Lottie Hawkins, Earthly Biochar, Founder
Lottie Hawkins, Earthly Biochar, Founder

‘We’re asking people to go out and find an ash tree, whether it’s on their land, a nearby park, or a forest, and tell us about it using our new ash dieback website. We can then send biochar out for people to apply directly to the tree, or we can send it to the landowner, council, or forestry commission for them to apply.

‘We’re asking members of the public to come forward, become citizen scientists, and help us help the ash trees. Similar to the Big Garden Birdwatch from the RSPB, we’re hoping people will get involved, document their natural surroundings, and help our natural environment. 

‘It’s not just the ash trees we’re trying to save; it’s also the species that rely on the ash, which often get forgotten about when we discuss losing these trees. There are 115 Ash-related species made up of insects, microbes, plants, and birds that would risk falling into decline when the ash trees have gone. This extinction cascade would be devastating to our UK woodlands.’

Earthly Biochar is a UK biochar supplier, committed to combating climate change through making high-performance, sustainable products accessible at affordable prices. Since its launch in 2018, it’s been raising awareness of the powerful soil amendment which has, until recently, been somewhat overlooked by science and horticulture. To date, the company has helped hundreds of domestic gardeners and land managers to make the transition from using harmful chemical products in their soil to investing in more effective, long-term solutions friendly to both plants and the planet. 

More information on the company and the ash tree initiative can be found here.

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