Sweet chestnut blight detections lead to further plant quarantines

The number of sweet chestnut and oak quarantine zones in south-west England will increase to 4 from Thursday (9 March), plant health authorities have said, following further confirmed outbreaks of sweet chestnut blight.

Image: Ana Perez-Sierra / Forest Research
Image: Ana Perez-Sierra / Forest Research

The prohibition makes it illegal to move sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) material including plants, logs, branches, foliage and firewood out of, or inside, zones within a 5km radius of the sites, with a 1km radius for oak (Quercus spp.).

Since 24 February the sweet chestnut prohibition has applied to an area around the the Exe estuary in south Devon centred on the village of Starcross, and an area of coastal north Devon between Ilfracombe and Braunton.

From Thursday, the same restrictions will apply to an area around the village of Willand in central Devon, and an area between Yeovil and Sherborne on the Somerset-Dorset border.

Full details can be found on the Government's plant health controls web page.

Forestry Commission England tree health team leader Andy Hall said: "This prohibition on movement is a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of the disease and we will do everything we can to minimise the impact on local businesses. The prohibition will remain in place until further notice and will be kept under review."

The Forestry Commission and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are attempting to trace the source of the outbreaks and are inspecting sweet chestnut trees at other sites.

The disease is caused by the fungal pathogen Cryphonectria parasitica, which enters trees through wounds or graft sites, and only seriously affects sweet chestnut (Castanea) species, though oak trees can also spread it.

Thought to have originated in Japan, the disease devastated the native American chestnut (C. dentata) early last century, killing an estimated 4 billion trees. It is also present in much of continental Europe.

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