Scotland and Ireland tackle ash dieback, as further outbreaks found

The rapid action Chalara survey carried out by Forestry Commission Scotland has now been completed with seven sites now confirmed as having the disease.

Two sites previously confirmed are at Knockmountain, near Kilmacolm and a private nursery in the North East of Scotland. The new sites are ear Castle Douglas. near Carrbridge, near Blairgowrie, near Montrose and near Eyemouth.

In the sample survey, which covered 80,000 sq km and lasted five days, five per cent of the sites investigated showed potential symptoms of the disease and will now be revisited for further inspection and where necessary samples taken for testing.

As the disease only spreads in summer, typically during July and August, there is now a window of opportunity in which to obtain best scientific advice on the appropriate action to take, including how best to deal with infected sites, said Forestry Commission Scotland.

The Commission added: "There is no risk to human or animal health from this disease. There is no need to restrict public access to woodlands either, but members of the public are asked to behave responsibly to ensure that they do not inadvertently carry ash leaves from one woodland area to another."

Forestry Commission Scotland has now sent 15 staff to the north east of England to help Forestry Commission England and DEFRA colleagues to complete a similar survey south of the border.

Environment & Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "Although the rapid survey has been completed, and the results are to be cautiously welcomed, we still need to be vigilant and there is no room for complacency.

"To establish the extent of the disease, Forestry Commission Scotland has been carrying out a rapid survey involving inspecting 2,730 ash sites across Scotland. Action is also underway to trace the destination of plants sent out from potentially infected nurseries.

"Only five per cent of the sites visited in the rapid survey showed any potential symptoms meriting more detailed investigations and subsequent laboratory analysis and this work is on-going.

"In addition to the two sites already confirmed, a further five sites have so far been confirmed as being infected, bringing the total known confirmed cases to seven in Scotland.

"Further surveys, including more detailed surveys in areas around infected sites, will be needed before we can be confident about the full extent of the disease in Scotland. There is also the possibility of windborne spread of the disease from the continent and from infected sites elsewhere in these isles.

A meeting with key stakeholders in Scotland to discuss Chalara and the findings of the survey is to be hosted by Wheelhouse in the week starting 12 November.

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry Shane McEntee TD has introduced legislation regarding the importation of ash wood into the country. Similar measures have also been introduced in Northern Ireland.

Under the new regulations, ash wood will be allowed into the country but only if it is from areas known to be free of the Chalara Ash Die Back disease or kiln dried or with the outer round surface (including bark) removed.  

The purpose of the regulations is to minimise the disease risk while permitting imports of ash wood in certain forms or from disease free areas.

He added: "The legislation brought in today introduces strong legal measures for wood combined with the measures brought in last month for plants.  This means that north and south of the border rules are in place to prevent the risk of the disease being imported into the island".  Minister McEntee added "While I understand plants are the highest risk in terms of a pathway for the disease, wood is also a risk and I was particularly concerned with high risk unprocessed wood such as firewood entering the country from infected areas."  

The legislation states that a person shall not land wood of genus Fraxinus L. into the State originating in countries where Chalara fraxinea is known to occur unless the wood –

(a) is accompanied by a plant passport or an official statement stating that it originates in an area known to be free from Chalara fraxinea, or

(b) is squared so as to remove entirely the rounded surface, or

(c) is bark-free and the water content is less than 20 per cent expressed as a percentage of the dry matter

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