New Merlo machine will help Scotland’s leading tree management specialist deal with devastation of Ash Dieback disease

Complete Weed Control - Keith Gallacher and Merlo

A MAJOR investment by one of Scotland’s leading tree management and weed control specialists has made the removal of diseased and dying trees not only safer and more controlled, but also immeasurably faster.

Complete Weed Control, which now covers the greater part of Scotland from its newly-acquired base in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, has spent £240,000 on a Merlo Roto 50.26s with GMT 050 TTC grapple saw tree removal machine, which effectively safely dismantles even the largest trees.

The company is one of a very few enterprises in Scotland with access to this level of technology and it is placing itself to be a significant part of the solution to the problem of Ash Dieback disease, symptoms of which became increasingly visible across the country during 2020.

Current evidence suggests that the disease, which has swept across the south of England, will cause the death of 50% to 75% of Scotland’s 11 million mature Ash trees over the next two decades. There is no known cure for the disease.

Keith Gallacher, director of Complete Weed Control operations in Scotland, said: “This scourge is a tragedy for our landscapes, in which Ash trees are iconic, but it creates unique problems for those tasked with dealing with the outcome.

“While we would normally send climbers up to deal with trees, Ash Dieback makes the branches brittle, and therefore unsafe, so we have to remove the working-from-height element from the equation.

“The Merlo Roto can reach up from ground level to remove large parts of the affected tree and bring them to operators who can further dismantle them for removal and disposal. A video of how the machine operates is available here.”

The Merlo machine proved its worth in spring this year when Complete Weed Control was contacted by highways maintenance company BEAR about larch trees alongside the M9 which were affected by Phytophthora Ramorum Disease, a highly-destructive water mould which causes damage and death.

BEAR’s client had been served with a statutory plant health notice and Complete Weed Control used the Merlo technology to remove 3,500 larch trees, working day and night over an extended period.

While the machine has been stood down during the bird nesting season, Complete Weed Control expects that it will again be in significant demand – so much so that its tree management division now contributes equally with the firm’s longer-established grass cutting and weed control activities.

As well as its own activities, Complete Weed Control is also working with trusted tree surgeon partners, who can access the Merlo on a day rate basis, allowing them to benefit from its advantages without the need for substantial initial investment.

Mr Gallacher added: “Work that was previously done laboriously and often dangerously by hand can now be carried out much more safely and in a fraction of the time.

“The machine can lift nearly 5,000 kilos in one grab and is ideal for working in confined or awkward spaces, providing there is a minimum of 5.5m working width. It is a great addition to our asset portfolio.” 

Complete Weed Control posted record turnover of £2.75 million to May 31, up from £2 million last year. It employs 19 people, all of whom are full-time.

It is now an active partner with South Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Falkirk Councils and has just won a three-year contract with Stirling Council. It works closely with BEAR and Amey, the companies charged by Transport Scotland with the maintenance of the country’s roads.

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