THE GOVERNMENT will publish an action plan today to deal with ash dieback disease, which has now been confirmed in trees in Northumberland.
The newly-discovered case near Wooler, just outside the Northumberland National Park, is the first serious contagion risk case found in the region. A non-contagious ash dieback site was identified near Newcastle Airport and cleared, along with two near Seaham and one at Newton Aycliffe. At a summit into the issue held in London, where the Northumberland case was revealed, Defra brought together around 100 people, including scientists and forestry representatives. The disease has now been confirmed at 115 sites across the UK.
Ideas from the event, which are likely to form part of today’s action plan, included awareness raising and information gathering, such as on leaf litter management, continued surveying of woodlands for signs of the disease and a focusing of action on newly planted trees, rather than cutting down mature ashes.
The Country land and Business Association (CLA) said that the private forestry sector is best placed to provide early detection of tree pests and diseases.
CLA President Harry Cotterell, who attended the Government-organised summit meeting, said: “The CLA has welcomed the Secretary of State’s commitment to change priorities within Defra to help control the spread of ash tree disease.
“We are now asking for a culture change within Defra and the Forestry Commission so foresters are recognised as the best early detectors of tree pests and diseases.”
CLA North policy and public affairs director Douglas Chalmers added: “Foresters and landowners throughout the North are now in a race against time to check trees that have already dropped most of their leaves, making disease identification much harder.”
The disease, which causes leaf loss and crown dieback, can kill affected trees. It was first found in the UK in February in trees imported from a nursery in the Netherlands to Buckinghamshire. It is believed the disease is also spread by the wind.
The Government is treating ash dieback as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures.