Latest News

Safer alternatives to synthetic pesticides for controlling insect pests in forestry

The large pine weevil, Hylobius abietis, is a insect pest with a taste for young trees. Without effective control, it can easily destroy all newly planted trees on a conifer clearfell site. For many years, the main method of defence from Hylobius has been to treat the trees with synthetic pyrethroid pesticides, but over the last decade or so the forest industry has been on the search for less hazardous alternatives. From 2009, Forest Research has undertaken a very large research programme to find possible safer alternatives. In 2019, it asked Andy Moffat to help in writing up the research so that peer-reviewed publications could be produced. The first of three planned scientific papers reporting on this collaborative research effort has recently been published in the journal Forestry. This initial paper reports on the effectiveness of over fifty different combinations of chemical and non-chemical approaches, which were tested on sixteen different sites. It concludes that there several new protection strategies could alleviate the need for commonly used pyrethroid pesticides and thus help to protect the environment. The paper can be downloaded HERE.

Where do we plant all those trees that everyone thinks will help reduce global warming?

At the last election in Britain, all the main political parties promised the electorate that they would ensure millions of trees were planted. The current government is supporting the planting of 130,000 trees in urban centres (see HERE), using an (unattributed) image of the silver maple trees in Petersfield Square taken by Andy Moffat! In East Hampshire, the District Council has promised to plant a tree for each resident, namely 120,000 trees, over the next few years. However, it is not clear where, in many towns, space can be found to meet these targets – hard infrastructure dominates and green infrastructure is limited in area. The Petersfield Society has now launched a project to explore where in the parish sites can be identified for potential planting. Working jointly with colleagues in the Urban Forest Research Group in Forest Research, Andy Moffat is leading this citizen science project. Further information on the project will be given in later posts – see those in 2021.

A small contribution to important wildfire research in New Zealand

Andy Moffat was pleased to be invited to participate in baseline vegetation monitoring as part of a large wildfire experiment whilst visiting New Zealand this year. The internationally supported research, led by Scion’s Rural Research Fire Group, sought to test an American hypothesis that convective heat transfer plays a more prominent role in fire spread than previously thought. The hypothesis has been tested in 2020 in a series of heavily instrumented fire experiments in mature gorse at Redcliffs Station, Rakaia Gorge, Canterbury. More information can be found on the Scion website and a video of the experimentation can be viewed HERE.

Visiting Professorship at the University of Reading renewed again

Andy Moffat’s Visiting Professorship at the University of Reading has been renewed for a further three years. Andy graduated at Reading and was granted the title of Visiting Professor with the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science in 2007. He has maintained close links with the university throughout his career and co-supervised a number of PhD students there. He remains actively involved, for example in projects on citizen science and soil health, and is part of the Mentor scheme there.

The University of Reading ( is one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities and is in the top 30 universities in the UK (QS World University Rankings 2020).

How to plant three billion more trees in Britain!

Last week, the Tree Council organised a Forum for Trees in London, with the main purpose of discussing how the UK could extend its stock of trees in order to fight the increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Sixty six representatives from from sectors spanning forestry, arboriculture, property development, infrastructure and government, as well as conservation charities, farmers and scientists were invited, including the Tree Champion Sir William Worsley. Sir William gave an address describing Government policy for more tree planting and he described his continuing work to ensure that this succeeded. Amy Bray, a very impressive sixteen year old, and founder of the charity ‘Another Way’ was another inspirational speaker. Most of the day was spent determining the opportunities and challenges associated with tree planting, and finding ways to marshall the public and private sectors, as well as charities and communities themselves to rise to the challenge. Andy Moffat was delighted to take part in the event and can be seen in the account summarising the event by the Tree Council. Those interested in receiving a summary of the Forum’s findings can register interest at the Tree Council website.

Soil training for professionals involved in forestry and arboricultural management

Sadly, only two British universities now offer undergraduate courses with the word ‘soil’ in the course title. As a soil scientist almost by accident myself, I can see that soil may not attract many school leavers to commit three or four years in its study. But as someone who has been involved with soil management for a large part of my career, the lack of opportunity for formal soil study at a crucial time in our planet’s evolution seems very regrettable. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to see that a number of professional organisations have sought to train their staff in matters of soil management. Following delivery of soil workshops in previous years, the early summer in 2019 has been an especially busy one for A J Moffat & Associates, with delivery of soil courses for the Royal Forestry Society Royal Forestry Society in Alice Holt Forest, Surrey, the Arboricultural Association at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire and, for the first time, the South Wales Trunk Road Agent near Swansea.