Poor root systems deplete storage reserves by up to a third, starving trees to death. But sugar may provide the help required to stimulate tree growth. Dr Glynn Percival from the University of Reading has spent eight years prompting root growth through agents from bio-stimulants such as compost tea and seaweed to water-holding gels. But when he added 30 grams of sugar per litre of water poured on new tree roots, he was astonished at the root stimulation. Adding sucrose - "basically Tate & Lyle from Asda" - led to good water retention, better nutrient uptake and more root growth. The sugar "switched on" certain genes that jump-started root growth such as storage and defence genes. Sugar is the universal energy molecule and could help all plants from a grass blade to a mature tree. All great news as It is water soluble, non-toxic and cheap.