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The World Wide Web in our soils and how we can utilise its benefits in establishing new Woodlands

A BLOG by Franziska Goeckeritz BSc (HONS), Assistant Forest and Woodland Manager in Southern England. Fran will be supervising the trials mentioned below on Tilhill sites in partnership with Rhizocore.

Whether it is restock sites or woodland creation, newly planted trees often struggle to establish under the harsh environmental conditions common on our sites.

Forests are traditionally grown on ground that is less suitable for agriculture, including sites that are waterlogged, dry, compacted, exposed, a north facing slope or rocky. In addition, pest and disease pressure can cause more losses. So, how can we help out our newly planted trees?

 

Rhizocore- Fungi are the future of forestry

In ancient woodlands, trees are interconnected with fungi mycelium which aid in water regulation and nutrient uptake. The fungal network can also act as an early warning system for pests, as plants exchange stress hormones to activate their own defenses early. This can help ward off tree pests and diseases for a longer period.

Figure 1 Mycorrhizal mycelium on conifer roots

Figure 1 Mycorrhizal mycelium on conifer roots

These fungi and plant associations are known as Mycorrhiza. The word originates from the Greek for “fungus” and “root. This mutualistic symbiotic relationship is ubiquitous in our soils and plays a vital part for more than 90% of all terrestrial plants, as they interconnect through the ‘Soil Wide Web’.

Mycorrhizal substrate or additives are not yet commonly used in the forestry industry despite the well-known benefits they can bring to our planting sites. Tilhill is looking to make a difference. As the UK’s leading forestry, timber harvesting and landscaping company, Tilhill has now begun the process of developing a Mycorrhizal additive product together with Rhizocore, a new start-up company based in Edinburgh.

 

In the initial phase this autumn, Rhizocore have begun to collect suitable spores from mushrooms and toadstools (fruiting bodies) which they will then experiment with to create an ideal product that is easy to apply in Tilhill’s usual planting setting. We will start using the developed product during the tree planting season 2022/2023 and on various crops, including Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Scots Pine and a range of Broadleaf plants. With the new product we hope to increase initial tree survival rates and create a more all-round biodiverse habitat within our woodlands and forests.

 

For more information on Rhizocore please visit their website.

Picture credits: Franziska Goeckeritz, Tilhill and Dr Toby Parkes, Rhizocore

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