Foresters pin hopes on Macedonian pine in bid to beat Dothistroma Needle Blight

Welsh foresters hope the rarely planted Macedonian pine could lead the fightback against Dothistroma Needle Blight (DNB).

The tree which originated in the Balkans appears to be more resistant than other pines to the effects of Dothistroma Needle Blight, a disease which is attacking its more common cousin, Corsican Pine.

The disease forced Forestry Commission Wales to stop planting Corsican Pine in 2006, but foresters believe Macedonian Pine’s resistance to DNB could provide some answers as they look to increase the diversity of tree species in their woodlands.

Forestry Commission Wales’s Silvicultural Operations Team (WSO) has collected thousands of cones from Macedonian Pine stands across North Wales in the first part of a process that could change the face of Welsh Government woodlands.

They searched thousands of hectares of forests to find the seeds which will eventually be re-planted as young trees. The seeds will be extracted from the cones and pre-treated over several months before being sown at a nursery in Delamere and then brought back to Wales in 2015 to be planted.

The operation was overseen by WSO operations manager Neil Muir. Local contractor, John Sweeney climbed the trees and collected 1,200kgs of cones, which could potentially yield more than 80,000 plants.

Muir said: "It proved difficult to source seed because Macedonian pine has not been widely planted and exists mainly in small coupes, or areas. But it can grow on a range of sites and so far has proved more resistant to Dothistroma Needle Blight so would offer an alternative tree species."

"We’re delighted with the number of cones collected. The trees we found were of good quality and form, and the seed should prove suitable in the same locations."

The Macedonian pine is one of a variety of lesser known tree species across Wales from which cones and seeds are being collected and examined by Forestry Commission scientists at Alice Holt Research Station in Farnham, Surrey.

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