Northern Irish plant health bodies maintain effort to hold back Chalara

"Close to 100,000" young ash trees have so far been removed and destroyed in order to contain the spread of ash dieback in Northern Ireland, the region's Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI) has said.

image: Jon Bunting
image: Jon Bunting

Ash dieback, or Chalara, was first diagnosed in Northern Ireland in November 2012 in a small number of infected ash trees at a recently planted site, and as a consequence all ash trees in the batch were removed and destroyed.

Since then the Plant Health Inspectorate of Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) carried out an intensive survey of recently planted ash trees across the province, including tracing the sources of the infected trees and then identifying where trees from the same source had been planted.

By mid-June this year, ash dieback has been found on almost 100 sites, almost exclusively on young trees planted in the last five years, leading to nearly 100,000 young ash trees being removed and destroyed.

This year DARD Forest Service and AFBI are conducting structured survey of over 1,000 sites across Northern Ireland, concentrating on plantations established with imported trees in the past five to ten years and on buffer areas around previously positive sites.

AFBI is also running a research project to investigate whether the fungus is producing spores in the wild and if these are becoming airborne, using air/spore samplers at a number of sites.

In April, DARD / Forest Service and AFBI launched a smartphone app, TreeCheck, which allows members of the public to record sightings of dieback and other tree diseases, and to submit a photograph for analysis and possible action by plant health authorities.

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