Garlic Injections to Save the UK’s Trees
Acute oak decline and ash dieback are just two of many diseases killing off trees in woodland areas across the UK.
But there might be a cure for our wooden friends – garlic! Or more specifically, allicin, which is a compound found in garlic that is responsible for its unique and pungent scent.
What makes allicin so special is that it is not only have numerous antibacterial properties, but also antifungal and antiviral as well. It might be obvious to point out that scientists are interested in harnessing these magnificent qualities that make garlic one of the most powerful antibacterial agents in nature.
In fact, one potential application for allicin is against MRSA, a bacterial infection responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in human as it is resistant to a number of widely used antibiotics.
An experimental injecting device is being trialled on an East Midland woodland estate. This device is made up of a pressurised chamber containing a special allicin solution. The pressure punches the solution through eight “octopus” tubes and needles that are positioned in such a way that the allicin is evenly spread throughout the tree.
Just like the water being sucked up from the ground, when the allicin solution is injected into the tree it is pulled up the trunk, along the branches and into the leaves. Because the solution is organic, it isn’t rejected by the tree, and as soon as it encounters the tree’s disease, the disease is wiped out.
“If you go back to the tree the day after [injecting it with the solution], and crush a leaf that is in the extremity of the crown, you can often smell garlic,” explained Jonathan Cocking, a tree consultant involved in both the development and deployment of the treatment.
He explained that a company in Wales crushes cloves of organic garlic before amplifying the volume of allicin using a patented method. This method also improves the quality of the allicin so that it is stable for up to a year, where normally in the natural world it would only last for five to 10 minutes.
Over the last four years, we have treated sixty trees suffering badly with bleeding canker of horse chestnut,” he said. “All of the trees were cured.”
Not only did the condition of trees infected with acute oak decline improve after being treated, but the pathogen responsible for ash dieback was destroyed by allicin under laboratory conditions.
Although widespread use of this method considered potentially expensive and impractical, there are many trees dying out there can be so simply saved, especially those of sentimental or historic value.
At the moment, the injecting device is being used under an experimental governmental licence, though it is hoped that a commercial licence will be obtained for it by the beginning of next year.