Signum included in agency's ash cure trials

Fungicide rejected by Chemicals Regulation Directorate set to be included in Food & Environment Research Agency tests.

Ash trees are under threat from disease - image: Forestry Commission
Ash trees are under threat from disease - image: Forestry Commission

A potential cure for ash dieback will be considered by the Food & Environment Agency (FERA) despite the Chemicals Regulation Directorate rejecting an application for the fungicide Signum to be registered last week (HW, 23 November).

FERA has contacted Crop Protection Association members for suggestions, which Signum manufacturer BASF said will include the product.

Plant physiologist and University of Reading Bartlett Trees research laboratory manager Dr Glynn Percival tried unsuccessfully to have Signum registered last month (HW, 23 November), believing it could cure ash if injected into infected trees.

"My concern is that by the time something is registered it's a Dutch elm scenario and most trees will be too far gone to save," he said.

A FERA representative said: "We have been compiling a list of all treatment suggestions. These will be prioritised in early December for any future lab and field testing. Nothing is underway. What we're doing is getting suggestions and putting together a list of priorities."

BASF stewardship manager John Young said: "FERA asked us to nominate candidate fungicides for screening studies. We will be pleased to assist and responded with suggestions from our product range, including Signum."

He said the pyraclostrobin and boscalid active ingredients are effective on ascomycetes such as apple scab.

Dove Associates managing director John Adlam, who made the Signum application on Percival's behalf, said: "Signum has good possibilities because it has several other ornamental and non-edible approvals. This is in the hands of the authorities and we're optimistic approvals will be forthcoming for protecting nursery material in particular."

Adlam added that the fungicide could be used as a foliar spray so diseased leaves do not drop in autumn, which would break the disease cycle. He said ash must not be forsaken because it has unique properties for timber and biodiversity.

Meanwhile, Natural Ecology Mitigation, Forest Research, International Pesticide Application Research Consortium and Imperial College London researchers are "awaiting the green light from Government and investors to carry out further tests" on ash dieback with CuPC33, a solution of copper sulphate and other minerals.

Plant controls Environment secretary threatens limitations

Defra environment secretary Owen Paterson has threatened to clampdown on the export and re-import of plants, a practise the industry can use and still call the products British.

He told Daily Politics on BBC: "I'm not sure we can treat plant and tree products as a free tradable commodity any more. We had this crazy trade of sending seedlings to Holland and then bringing them back and planting them here. So I am prepared to have a very radical look at how we handle the trade in those materials, which have up to now been completely free."

HTA policy manager Gary Scroby said: "That's the nature of the trade. Overseas they can do it slightly more competitively so it makes more commercial sense to do it that way. But I think that Paterson will probably tighten up on controls."

The revision of the EU Plant Health Regime, due in spring 2013, seeks to bring in a single piece of legislation to cover areas such as pant health, animal health and welfare and forestry reproductive material.

A Defra representative said: "We're looking at all possible steps to improve biosecurity."

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