Monday 26 September 2016

Ash disease is gaining ground nationwide

Jamie Ball

Published 21/10/2015 | 02:30

Outbreaks of ash dieback could double.
Outbreaks of ash dieback could double.

The disease threatening to wipe out Irish ash is gaining momentum despite a €2.3m spend on uprooting two million trees.

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Confirmed outbreaks of ash dieback may potentially double, with almost the same number of confirmed findings (26) in the first six months of 2015 as for the previous year (30).

Sightings of the chronic fungal disease dipped after initially 113 incidents were detected in the first 15 months of the disease's outbreak.

The result of the Department's targeted surveys for Ash Dieback (Chalara fraxinea) for July, August and September are currently being collated.

The Farming Independent understands from forestry sources that they will mark a similar rise in incidences of the tree-killing disease that has become endemic across most of Europe since the early 1990s.

The Department have not specified which counties the confirmed findings relate to, but over a third of all findings since October 2012 have been in forestry plantations, followed by roadside planting and farm planting.

"A common denominator in the majority of these sites has been the presence of young imported plants with the infection or proximity to sites with such infected plants," said a Department spokesperson.

The Department's Reconstitution Scheme aims to eradicate the disease in affected forests by supporting the removal and destruction of trees and leaf litter, while replanting with alternative species. The Scheme has cost €2.3m to date.

"These figures are expected to increase in the coming months as applications for grant aid for the clearance and replanting of the more recently identified forestry plantations affected by the disease are processed by the Department," the spokesperson said.

By the first quarter of this year, over 693ha of infected ash plantations had been cleared and replanted with alternative species, which involved the uprooting and deep burial of approximately two million ash trees since October 2012.

Excluded

Since that year, the importation of ash seed, plants and wood has been regulated, while the species has been excluded from all of the Department's forestry schemes, as well as roadside planting by the National Roads Authority.

"The news is disappointing, but the level of cases is still quite small compared to other countries in Europe," said IFA forestry chairman Michael Fleming. He added that he thought the Government's response to the disease had thus far been "adequate".

The Department launched the TreeCheck app in April, which seeks the public's assistance in spotting and reporting potential tree diseases such as Ash dieback. However, no confirmed findings of the disease has resulted from the app to date.

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