Tree nurseries look to potential alternatives as ash import ban looms

Majestic Trees managing director Steve McCurdy has welcomed calls for a ban on UK ash imports until a control for ash dieback, Chalara fraxinea, is developed.

Defra has confirmed that a ban could be in place by November. A consultation on managing the threat to the UK's ash trees is scheduled to end on 26 October.

He said there have been no problems on his Hertfordshire nursery but he is not going to buy any more of the tree. "A ban is not a bad idea. It could be like Dutch elm disease. We need to be a lot more nationalistic in our policies on trees."

Buckingham Nurseries planteria manager Mike Easom said: "The UK market can't supply us with what we need. We have some on reserve (from Oakover Nurseries) but it's almost rationed." The market should be looking at alternatives, he added.

Oakover Nurseries sales representative Brian Goodwin said: "I don't know where all the (UK) ash will be coming from. Demand will outstrip supply. But we have to make sure it (Chalara fraxinea) is not already endemic in the country anyway." He recommended birch or field maple as alternatives.

Deepdale and Majestic Trees are also believed to have stopped ash imports.

Horticulture Week first reported the Chalara ash disease hitting the UK on imports from Holland on 7 June and the Government now looks likely to ban trees coming in.

McCurdy added that he has also stopped buying Aesculus hippocastanum because of leaf miner and bleeding canker. He said sales over the past year to September were up six per cent but were hit by hosepipe bans in the spring after being up 28 per cent from October-February.

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