Department ups ante with 22 outbreaks of Ash fungus
The Department of Agriculture is to step up its Ash Dieback (Chalara) eradication measures as the disease takes a firm grip on Irish plantations.
All ash trees from confirmed positive imported consignments are to be destroyed under the measures, with Department of Agriculture officials to supervise the destruction and re-establishment of these sites.
A re-establishment grant will be made available to the owners of private plantations which are part of the Department's current afforestation programme.
Ash plants from the infected batches supplied to other sites will also be destroyed.
Early results from a winter survey of woodlands have revealed further positive samples for the presence of Chalara.
The number of positive cases now stands at 22 sites, including 15 young plantations, six horticultural nurseries and one ornamental garden site.
The disease has been confirmed in plantations in counties Leitrim, Meath, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford, Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Longford and Galway.
Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, Shane McEntee, said that while the disease does not spread during the winter, Department officials were intensifying their efforts to deal with the threat by destroying any ash trees that may harbour the disease.
Forest owners are asked to report, with photographs if possible, any sites where there are concerns about unusual ill health in ash to the Forest Service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, phoning 01 6072651, or by contacting their local Teagasc Forestry Adviser.
Meanwhile, the IFA has questioned how the importation of forest plants from areas known to be infected by the ash dieback disease had been allowed, when strict regulatory controls were supposed to be in place under the EU Plant Health Directive.
"The new outbreaks of the ash dieback disease are very alarming, particularly since the disease has proven to be so invasive in other European countries, such as Denmark with 90pc of the ash trees wiped out to date," said IFA president John Bryan.
Following a meeting with Minister of State with responsibility for forestry Shane McEntee, Mr Bryan said farmers would co-operate to try to contain the further spread of the disease, but said that the responsibility for the importation of the infected forest plants was with the Department.
The IFA president said the minister must provide clear guidance that there would be no repercussions or penalties under the Afforestation, REPS or AEOS schemes if the Department asks farmers to remove trees.
He also stressed that there must be agreement from other agencies such as the National Roads Authority to remove all imported ash trees that pose any threat to further outbreaks.
"If we have any chance of containing the Ash Dieback disease we must act quickly while the disease is dormant," Mr Bryan said.