Tree biosecurity statement published

Position statement outlines key measures to reduce risk.

The Arboricultural Association points to great scope for guidelines to be taken up across horticulture
The Arboricultural Association points to great scope for guidelines to be taken up across horticulture

The Arboricultural Association has published a Biosecurity in Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Position Statement, outlining measures that it maintains are key to minimising the risk of importing and spreading potentially lethal tree pests and diseases.

The association's technical officer Simon Cox said: "While not all the guidelines are applicable to all people, there is great scope for them to be taken up by many sectors of arboriculture. For example, Kew Gardens and good landscapers are working according to similar principles already, but these guidelines may come as a shock to some."

The statement goes further than existing undertakings made under the association's Approved Contractor scheme and will require adherents to the scheme to have a biosecurity policy, either later this year or in 2017, he added.

"This document is not an answer to all biosecurity problems, but it is a beginning," said Cox. "Our statement is an industry-led first step to build on the positive steps so far undertaken, mainly by Governmental organisations, and paves the way for further, more detailed guidance and requirements for our industry."

He added: "We are already helping those who wish to implement company-level biosecurity policy by producing a free-to-download outline document, which will soon be available from our website."

Cambridgeshire tree supplier Barcham Trees has had its own "biosecurity code" for the past two-and-a-half years (HW, 16 January 2014). The company's sales director Keith Sacre, who is also Arboricultural Association vice-chairman, said: "The threats posed by pests and diseases have to be faced - it is irresponsible to ignore them. We can't simply expect the authorities to take a lead. It requires companies and individuals to take responsibility for their actions and I hope the industry will rally behind the association and give our statement its full support."

The London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) also has a dedicated biosecurity group. An LTOA representative said: "We are pleased to endorse the principles outlined in the biosecurity statement and will continue to work closely with the Arboricultural Association on these matters."

The statement is supported by the Forestry Commission, which has also launched its own Keep It Clean campaign ( keepitclean), including a free online biosecurity course. It is also backed by Defra, the Institute of Chartered Foresters, the National Association of Tree Officers, the Society of Garden Designers, the Trees & Design Action Group and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Wood fuel - Imports for burners increasing risk from alien pests

The boom in domestic wood-burning stoves is raising the risk of alien pests such as emerald ash borer entering the UK via imported logs, founder of wood fuel quality assurance scheme Woodsure and director of Grown in Britain Andrew Harvey has warned.

Around 300,000 of the stoves are estimated to have been bought over the past two years and, in tandem, an online market has sprung up to supply logs to owners.

"Wood-burning stoves have become a fashion accessory and they are certainly a much more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly way of heating your home compared to coal, oil or gas," said Harvey.

"The Government has increased security at our borders but it's simply not possible to check every log or every pallet that comes through. To help us take extra preventive measures, we're asking consumers to buy British wood fuel from a local, trusted supplier."

The value of firewood imported into the UK last year has been put at £7m. Meanwhile, an estimated 42 per cent of the UK's woodlands are under-managed, Harvey pointed out.

"Britain has some of the best woodlands in the world and the potential to have a thriving wood fuel market. At Woodsure, we're keen to encourage more harvesting and planting, thereby ensuring healthier woodlands in Britain."

Harvey has written to Defra to ask for a review of legislation around wood fuel imports and said this should be a key discussion in Brexit negotiations.

Position statement - Biosecurity in Arboriculture & Urban Forestry

- Tree workers to adopt biosecurity risk assessment processes and policy commitments, and to implement routine biosecurity control measures for all sites, as well as specific measures for higher-risk sites including the cleaning and disinfection of clothing, personal protective equipment, tools and vehicles.

- Arboricultural operations such as pruning, felling and planting to be planned, managed and supervised to minimise the movement of soil and arisings, which "must be appropriately disposed of".

- Operatives to understand biosecurity issues and comply with biosecurity measures, with appropriate training, guidance and supervision provided.

- Those planning, designing or implementing planting projects to "aspire" to source home-grown and nursed specimens and avoid, "where possible", directly imported stock.

- Suppliers to ensure that trees and associated soil reach customers free of pest and disease at all points in the supply chain, particularly imported stock.

- Tree populations to be managed to increase species and genetic diversity while ensuring site suitability.

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