Forestry Commission founds board for pests and disease

The Forestry Commission has established a board that will oversee a programme of work to protect trees from pests and diseases including Phytophthora ramorum.

The Biosecurity Programme Board will advise on how to implement a programme of protection for trees and forests that will be set out in a new plant health strategy to be published in 2010.

As well as targeting P. ramorum, P. kernoviae and oak processionary moth, the board is to investigate acute oak decline.

Forest Research scientists are now working to identify the cause of a form of the condition that is causing bleeding lesions on oak trees in parts of southern Britain.

Plant health service head Roddie Burgess told HW the aim was to work more closely with industry to help tackle the increase in pests and diseases.

"There has been a considerable increase in the number of new pests and diseases, largely as a result of globalisation and the speed of trade," Burgess explained. "We decided that the time had come to engage more closely with the industry."

The commission's head of specialist advisers Roger Coppock is chairman of the board, which comprises organisations including the Arboricultural Association, the Confederation of Forest Industries, the UK Forest Products Association and Forest Research.

Burgess said the aim was for a first draft of the new plant health strategy to be written by 4 February, when the board will next meet. In addition, he is developing a bio-security code that will raise awareness of issues such as the need to clean muddy boots and vehicles after working in forests.

Arboricultural Association chairman Jon Heuch, who is a member of the new board, said it was "early days" but he was keen to ensure that the issue of urban trees was properly addressed.

"The general area of bio-security is one of concern, particularly as a result of climate change and increasing trade," he added. "We are keen that some part of government takes clear responsibility for urban trees."


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