The Royal Forestry Society has welcomed a £1.5m research project to identify Chalara-resistant ash trees, but is appealing for an expansion of the 'high priority' area of support for landowners.
Although all landowners will receive grant support to replant sites with other species, only those in a high priority band running from Cornwall and Devon and north through Gloucester and up to the Midlands will also receive support to remove, and dispose of, recently planted ash and replace them with other species.
The society believes many new cases are likely to be identified in recently planted ash outside the area during spring and summer, leading to an 'unfair' postcode lottery in support available.
The society is also calling for greater flexibility on the choice of species to replace ash, including partial replacement by non natives and conifers.
The research project announced on March 26, by Defra Secretary Owen Paterson will see a quarter of a million young ash trees planted in up to 25 sites, mainly in East Anglia. The young trees will be exposed and monitored in the search for resistance.
Royal Forestry Society director of development Simon Lloyd said: "We recognise the long lead times needed to research, develop and license an effective fungicide mean that research and development of disease-resistant ash may be a more effective use of resources longer term. We therefore support the Government's focus on this."
The society is proactively working with partners to help its members identify and manage the current risks, and has supported Confor’s call for the Government to underpin the cost of felling, replanting and re-establishing trees and woodlands which have been lost to ash dieback.
It is also supporting the Government OPAL initiative to roll out the Tree Health Survey nationally and is updated its briefing on how to identify and respond to Chalara in line with Government advice.
LLoyd added: "We recognise that this advice needs to be put in the context of specific circumstances which will vary between locations, and depend on the owner’s management objectives. Active management is likely to lead to better control of the disease that a do-nothing strategy.
"The Royal Forestry Society will assist its members by sharing woodland owners' experiences of tackling the disease. It is vital that this knowledge is shared quickly. The Forestry Commission also has a role to disseminate this information and the RFS is well placed to work with the FC to do this. "