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Independent.ie

Saturday 10 December 2016

Ash dieback is in decline but vigilance still required

Steven Meyen

Published 03/06/2015 | 02:30

My dog and I enjoy our daily walks. It gives me the opportunity to stretch my legs and see what is happening in the woods and fields near my home. My dog - well, she has other interests.

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It also gives me the opportunity to keep an eye on that most Irish tree of all - ash. Ash leaves have been emerging over the last couple of weeks gradually greening the countryside. When you're out for a walk, watch out for wilting ash leaves. It may be the first sign that ash dieback has arrived.

Ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees caused by the fungal pathogen Chalara fraxinea (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus). It has spread rapidly across much of Europe.

The disease can affect ash trees of any age and in any setting. The disease can be fatal, particularly among younger trees.

Only ash species are affected, trees such as sycamore, oak, beech or mountain ash (rowan) are not susceptible.

Over the coming months, watch out for wilting ash leaves. It looks very similar to frost damage but in the case of ash dieback no frost may have occurred the night before and only one branch may be affected while the other branches on the same tree appear to be green and healthy. The diseased branch will gradually die back changing colour and when the disease arrives in the main stem diamond-shaped stem lesions will form above and below the affected branch.

In Britain, officials are focusing on 'containment' by trying to control the disease from spreading further.

Here in Ireland we are still in 'eradication' mode hoping to stop this serious disease getting established in Ireland.

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Ash dieback was first noted in Ireland in October 2012 on plants imported from Continental Europe. Since then, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has carried out targeted and systematic surveys.

Location

If you have a smartphone while you're out you can report details to the Department of Agriculture's newly launched Tree Check app, with the website www.treecheck.net.

You send a photograph and location of the suspected diseased trees directly to the Department, and it will be assessed by plant health inspectors.

However, make sure you only take a picture; do not take samples as it could assist in spreading this serious disease.

Tom Hayes, Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry, recently stated there have been 149 confirmed findings of the disease, 59 in planted forests and the remaining 90 in non-forest locations, such as horticultural nurseries, roadside plantings, garden centres, private gardens as well as REPS and AEOS plantings.

The confirmed findings have been declining with 113 cases identified in 2012 and 2013, 30 during 2014 and to date in 2015, there have been six new findings.

"The vast majority of these sites have now been cleared of infected material. It is important to note that in four areas the spread of the disease from sites with infected imported plants into the associated hedgerows has been observed," said Mr Hayes.

"As further survey results come in during 2015, the situation will be kept under review and my Department will continue to carry out the following actions."

"We remain vigilant in terms of monitoring future occurrences and we will not delay in taking effective action to deal with infected sites," he said.

While you're out for a walk, keep an eye on ash trees and report anything suspicious. It's a great excuse to go for a walk, your dog will love it!

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