Farm Ireland

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Join the fight against deadly ash dieback disease and help preserve Irish forestry

William Merivale

As our ash trees come into full leaf, efforts are being redoubled to alert the public, and especially forest owners, to be watchful for symptoms of ash dieback disease.

At this stage, the authorities are still in eradication mode, whereas mainland Britain has moved onto containment mode.

This is basically an acceptance that the disease is now widespread there, especially in England. To date, the only instances of the disease identified in Ireland, north and south, have been in imported stock of forest transplants. So for the time being, efforts are concentrating on those areas known to have been planted with imported trees.

Fortunately, the greater proportion of ash planting in recent years has been from homegrown nursery stock.

The original 11 sites that were confirmed positive were planted with trees of Danish provenance shipped to Ireland via a broker in the Netherlands.

To date, 535ha of ash in the Republic have been identified for removal, including 36 plantations which have tested positive for the disease, and another 147 associated sites where material from the same infected batch has also been planted.


The 535ha are spread over 183 sites involving 175 owners. In total, 48 batches of imported plants contained some infected material.

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The oldest of the sites so far identified for removal was planted in 2007, the youngest in 2012, and the degree of noticeable symptoms of the disease has ranged from less than 1pc to as much as 20pc.

Over the winter, the Forest Service carried out an intensive survey of the 330 afforestation projects planted since 2008 with imported ash, and an ongoing survey is looking even further back to earlier plantings.

Now that trees are coming into leaf, a wider survey of ash throughout the country is also planned.

Forest owners are naturally concerned to know what compensation measures are in place. An infected site qualifies for a reconstitution grant of up to €1,500/ha to cover the costs of site clearance, which involves uprooting all the ash and burying them on site, together with all leaf litter to a minimum depth of 2m.

This grant is followed up by the standard afforestation grant to replace the ash.

Unexpired forest premiums will remain, but where the replacement species results in a change of grant premium category, the annual premium will be adjusted upwards or downwards accordingly.

This will not impact on any premiums already paid, only the unexpired premiums which remain to be paid.


Teagasc recently conducted a countrywide series of seminars on the disease. They included a detailed presentation on how to identify the symptoms, but for anyone who was unable to attend, the photographs below show some of the key symptoms to look out for.

All forest owners who have planted ash on their lands are advised to start examining their crops closely now and keep a watchful eye for more.

Also, similar hygiene arrangements to those deployed during the outbreak of foot and mouth are highly recommended and may yet prove essential.

The disease is to be treated seriously and anyone in doubt should contact the Forest Service or their forestry advisor immediately.

William Merivale is national secretary of PEFC Ireland and a forestry consultant based in Cork. Email:

Irish Independent