Experts at the University of East Anglia have launched a new weapon in the fight against the deadly ash disease.
The disease, which threatens to wipe out 80 million UK trees, has seen ash imports to the UK suspended and large-scale tree felling tabled.
But quick thinking environmental specialists at UEA’s Adapt Low Carbon Group have come up with a new smartphone app which will not only help monitor the
spread of disease, but allow conservationists to target infected areas.
The free ‘Ashtag’ app will make it possible for anyone to take a photo of diseased leaves, shoots or bark and send it remotely to plant pathologists to
identify whether or not the tree is infected.
As well as collecting photographic evidence, the app also uses geo-tagging software to give a precise location of infected trees – allowing researchers
and authorities to build up a picture of where the dieback is happening. This can then be used to target areas for culling to stop the spread of the
The new app has been praised by organisations including the Forestry Commission, and the National Farmers Union. Steve Scott, area director for the Forestry
Commission, said: “Our teams have reacted quickly and are working hard to examine woodlands for symptoms of the disease. We are extremely supportive
of this app as any information which helps our own activity will be useful.
“The most easily spotted sign is blackened, dead leaves but we only have a couple of weeks until the autumn leaves fall; however there are other signs
that woodland owners and those interested in the countryside can look for. We have a good track record of working with the Adapt Group and the UEA
and we will liaise with them to ensure the information gathered can be used to best effect.”
Image, top right: Kate Nicol