The deer doesn’t bite off the needles
There is a saying in German “the mouse doesn’t bite off the string” which means: things are as they are, there is no shaking them. In similar vein there is a new kind of bio-degradable tree guard which is textile based. The idea is that it stops animals of the forest ‘shaking’ and/or browsing the young plants they find so tasty.
Oak, spruce, fir: game and grazing animals are fond of browsing these trees, particularly when the plants are still young and tender. First and foremost it is the terminal shoot, the main shoot of a tree that controls the direction of growth, that is a special delicacy. This makes it a frequent victim of game browsing and it is estimated that in Germany alone damage each year amounts to around € 500 million, which is quite a tidy sum. To protect plants and trees in the early stages of growth, we therefore have (this is our new favourite word) special browsing deterrents.
However, as these deterrents are required to be effective over a longer period of time, they are often made from synthetic polymers in the form of caps, crowns or ties and, having fulfilled their protective function, they persist in the forest, which – as we all know – is an extremely sensitive ecosystem. Whilst other options such as repellents are based on quite natural ingredients, it is true, they have no resistance to weathering over the longer term (“Tis the sad wind that sighs through the withering leaves”, or indeed the Elf King…) and so are not effective for very long. In a project supported by the German Federal Ministry of Economics a network called LanoTex, consisting of 15 companies and research centres, has now developed, therefore, a bio-degradable, textile-based tree guard. For use in agriculture and forestry, the idea is that it should be more ecologically friendly, whilst at the same time providing long-term effectiveness.
To develop this ‘green’ textile (here is the word again) browsing deterrent, scientists at the Thuringian Institute for Textile and Plastics Research (TITK) in Rudolstadt first researched how to add the active ingredient to the textile and its delayed release. In the meantime two sewing and knitwear factories took responsibility for designing and manufacturing the custom-made textile protection systems for quick and easy application to plants and trees in the form of small nets. Initial field trials on around 500 trees in a region of forest in Saxony show that the innovative protective textile can play its part in replacing tree guards, hitherto made from fossil-based materials, with sustainable textile solutions. So: an end to browsing!