Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

More than 80,000 trees felled across Northern Ireland after ash disease hits 90 sites

Michelle O'Neill, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development
Michelle O'Neill, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development

More than 80,000 trees across Northern Ireland have been destroyed to curb the spread of ash dieback disease.

According to Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill, the disease has been confirmed at more than 90 sites. Some 3,000 sites have been inspected since the outbreak of the virulent plant disease was first detected here in November 2012.

Of these confirmed outbreaks, 63 were found in forestry plantations, three in nursery or trade sites, nine in urban amenity settings, three on roadsides, 10 in private gardens and four in hedgerows.

No confirmed reports show the disease infecting mature ash trees in Northern Ireland.

The minister urged members of the public to be aware of the symptoms of ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) and report any sightings to DARD.

She said: "Over 3,000 site inspections have been carried out since the disease was first found here in November 2012.

"To date more than 90 sites have been confirmed with ash dieback infection. There have been no confirmed reports of C. fraxinea infecting mature ash trees in the north," she said. "As a result of the ongoing surveillance, approximately 86,000 young trees have been destroyed to prevent the disease spreading to the wider environment.

"Forest Service staff have been helping private woodland owners to deal with infected plants and debris.

"Surveillance plans for the 2014 season are well under way, with Forest Service plant health inspectors firstly revisiting and inspecting the areas around previously confirmed outbreak sites. Further surveys of both recently planted and mature ash will then be undertaken over the summer period."

The Woodland Trust said the fungus has only been found in recently planted sites in Northern Ireland.

"An obvious worry is the potential for ash dieback to spread to mature ash trees in the wider environment, having already happened on the mainland and also in the south of Ireland," a spokesperson said.

"The planting of native trees must continue in an attempt to expand and bolster Northern Ireland's limited and fragile woodland resource.

"And, to become more resilient, our woods should contain a mix of trees of different species and of different ages. A marked increase in tree planting will require Government incentives, as well as large-scale positive and collective efforts."

Symptoms

The main symptoms to look out for are: wilting and blackening of young shoots; loss of leaves from the top of the tree; darker diamond shaped lesion on the bark where the shoot joins the main trunk; fruiting bodies (3-5mm size creamy coloured 'mushroom shaped structures') on dead leaf litter during June to October. If you see an ash tree with any of these symptoms, report your findings, along with name and contact number, to afbi.planthealth@dardni.gov.uk or phone 0300 200 7847. For information visit www.dardni.gov.uk/ash-dieback-disease.

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