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The Airspade: Utilizing New Technology

The Airspade in use, uncovering the roots of a tree so the consulting arborist can perform a more thorough inspection of major roots below ground.
The Airspade in use, uncovering the roots of a tree.

Published March 1, 2003 By KEVIN BASSETT and RUSSELL PETERS


Our company strives to stay on the cutting edge of tree care. When new equipment or techniques become available, we focus our efforts on investigating the validity of claims made by manufacturers and vendors. Often “new equipment” simply replaces old equipment, looks shinier and cleaner, but really does not improve the quality of tree care. It is delivery of quality tree care that is paramount to our firm.

The "airspade" is a relatively new device that does improve the quality of care that trees receive. Airspades utilize compressed air to accelerate the air velocity as it passes through the device. It safely and efficiently removes soil from around the root collar, or base of the tree, without damaging living root tissue. Before the introduction of the airspade, excessive soil removal was a tedious task, often causing minor injury to the tree's root collar.

Airspades can be used to safely remove excess soil from around the base of a tree as well. Excess soil may result from planting trees too deeply, or from the application of fill during construction activities. The airspade can also be used to remove soil to prepare trees for the application of specific fungicides, or simply to remove soil for the inspection of major structural roots. The latter is often done on older trees where development has taken place in wooded areas. Experience has taught us that building around existing trees does cause some root injury, no matter how much care is taken. Also, fungal pathogens that live naturally in our soils enter these damaged roots and begin to colonize the tree’s root system affecting the major support roots of a tree. Fruiting structures called fungal conks develop near the base of a tree, indicating the presence of these pathogens.

Affected trees can often appear to be "healthy" if only the above ground parts are observed. A more thorough inspection of major roots below ground often leads to the discovery of very hazardous trees that may have a high potential for failure.

The airspade is not a panacea. But, it is an exciting new tool that can improve the quality of care your trees receive.

About the author

Mr. Kevin Bassett and Mr. Russell Peters

Mr. Bassett is a degreed plant pathologist, as well as a wood turner and artist. He is a self professed tree-hugger who gives new life to trees that have died by creating pieces of art from their wood.

Mr. Peters has a masters degree in plant pathology, is a Board Certified Master Arborist and is recognized as one of the foremost experts on the deadly disease Oak Wilt.

Both gentlemen are members of the certified arborist team at Arborilogical Services, “The Experts Your Trees Deserve.”® 

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