Now is ideal time to look for Chalara but don't be fooled, says FERA researcher

Spotting Chalara ash dieback "is not as easy as it seems", a leading plant pathologist has admitted.

Image: Forestry Commission
Image: Forestry Commission

"Now is an excellent time to look for symptoms," Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) pathologist Charles Lane said on the website of tree disease monitoring body Observatree.

Describing his home area of rural North Yorkshire as "in the front line of the spread of Chalara Dieback of Ash", he said: "The most reliable and consistent symptom is the slightly sunken, foxy red-brown lesion centred on a side branch. This frequently causes the death of the leader, resulting in a flush of side shoots at the base as the tenacious ash tries to recover."

But he admitted: "Even I've been fooled on several occasions in thinking that lower shoot dieback is due to Chalara. But this is frequently down to light starvation – looking for stem lesions is the key."

Mature trees pose a particular problem, he added. "Talking to my local Forestry Commission tree health officer Alan Ockenden, he recommended looking at foliage for signs of wilting in late June and early July. If he sees suspicious symptoms he'll check on regrowth and hedgerows, which are easier to see and sample."

Lane has issued a free online video guide to identifying the disease.

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