Costs associated with soaring temperatures are many. Bushfires, heat exhaustion, disruption to public transport, power outages and so on. Some costs often go unnoticed. Most Australians are used to the summer regime of watering gardens morning or night to mitigate the effects the dry conditions have on plants. Without better strategies, water alone is not enough to save many of them.
In its report released in February of this year, the Climate Council demonstrated that Australia’s hottest summer on record is part of a global long-term trend. Entitled ‘Off The Charts’, the report shows that no state was spared; from coast to coast, in the summer of 2013/14, Australians baked under the searing heat.
The majestic Oaks, Elms and Plane trees that adorn some of this country’s historic and iconic gardens can be under enormous pressure in times of excessive or prolonged heat. It is a constant challenge to protect these natural assets, responsible for cooling our cities, cleaning our air and providing the ambience cherished by millions of people every day.
Working closely with a number of key clients, Citywide has introduced innovative strategies to help heatproof old and established trees and ensure the longevity of urban canopies.
Citywide is a company that has grown based on its ability to solve problems with practical solutions, easily implemented on the ground or beneath it. The maintenance of trees native to the northern hemisphere and growing in Australia has presented many challenges. The company’s response includes climate sensitive work schedules, investment in new technology, and advanced treatments.
“Our goal is to ensure elm trees and countless others native to the northern hemisphere enjoy a healthy and long life whilst under our care”, says Matt Williams, Citywide Business Manager.
The secret lies in Citywide’s response to the unique challenges of the Australian environment. A strategic focus on innovation led to the development of two breakthrough technologies, namely the H2POD and the AirRaider Pro.
The H2POD is an automatic watering device, introduced during the last drought. The device allows up to 500 litres of water and fertiliser to be delivered directly to the drip-line of a tree over a period of 12 to 48 hours.
The key to the H2POD’s transformative effect lies in its improvements to productivity: the right substances can be delivered at the right place at the right time, with minimal manpower. All it requires is someone to deploy the technology, and remove it 12 to 48 later. This allows for a much more efficient use of staff, time and energy.
The AirRaider Pro, meanwhile, was developed as a cutting-edge solution to the problems posed by hardened topsoil during prolonged droughts. Compacted topsoil can be a problem even during periods of healthy rainfall. Designed in-house by Citywide’s open space team, the AirRaider Pro inserts cylindrical probes into the ground and is capable of delivering 20 litres of water directly at root level in as little as 20 seconds.
“The process creates unobtrusive soil fissures, breaking up compressed soils which act as a barrier to plant roots in critical need of nutrients,” says Williams.
On contracts managed by Citywide, front line staff have observed a decline in the number of trees needing removal. This indicates that our interventions helping trees better cope with the harsher environmental conditions are succeeding. Matt Williams notes that the most substantial improvements have been observed in trees at the mature and senescent stages of their life cycles, with a noticeable prolonging of their life spans. While Australia has entirely avoided the Dutch elm disease that has devastated much of Europe’s elms, notably in the UK, we still face many challenges in disease management.
Three years ago, Citywide introduced another innovation to cope with the effects of dry conditions on pest and disease control. Elm leaf beetles in particular were becoming a problem, with dry topsoil reducing the effectiveness of old methods, such as soil injection. A lack of moisture in the soil meant that the chemicals injected into the ground to stop infestations of elm leaf beetles were not being properly absorbed into the trees themselves, with inadequate uptake via the tree roots. The solution, carefully canvassed with clients prior to deployment, and subjected to trial phases, is to inject the disease control formula directly into the tree trunks.
“From the moment we adopted this application methodology, the percentage of elm leaf beetles found in trees and regions we have treated has dropped to virtually zero,” says Williams.
It will take strategy and technology to ensure Australia’s trees thrive in the hot future. Tracking that long term trend of extreme heat events, and developing innovative and practical solutions to help sustain non-native arboriculture is Citywide’s commitment to keep heritage trees an ongoing part of the Australian historical landscape.
Find more information about how we can assist natural assets through innovation and high quality services contact the team.