Greater efforts to protect Britain’s trees

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 20/05/2013

A new report on combating tree and plant pests and diseases has been launched today, a week after another ash dieback case has been reported in the wild.

This year the Chelsea Flower Show is hosting the “Stop the Spread” show garden which was part funded by Defra and the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera). The garden has been designed to show the importance of taking action now to tackle damaging plant pests and diseases.

The garden’s appearance at the Chelsea Flower Show coincides with the publication of the independent taskforce report on tree health and plant biosecurity, which has made a number of recommendations on how the UK can fight tree and plant pests and diseases. The Taskforce was set up by the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson as a result of the discovery of Chalara fraxinea (ash dieback) in the UK last year, to consider and address the current and possible future threats to tree health.

The Taskforce’s recommendations are that the Government should:

  • Develop a UK Plant Health Risk Register;
  • Appoint a Chief Plant Health Officer to look after the Plant Health Risk Register;
  • Develop and implement procedures to predict, monitor, and control the spread of pests and diseases;
  • Review, simplify, and strengthen governance and legislation;
  • Improve the use of intelligence from EU/other regions and work to improve the EU regulations concerned with tree health and plant biosecurity;
  • Strengthen biosecurity to reduce risks at the border and within the UK;
  • Develop a modern, user-friendly system to provide quick and intelligent access to data about tree health and plant biosecurity; and
  • Address key skills shortages.

Mr Paterson announced today that work would begin right away on the recommendations around developing a plant health risk register and implementing procedures to predict, monitor, and control pests and diseases. The rest of the recommendations will be examined and responded to later in the summer.

Proposals are also on the table for research councils and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to spend £7.5m extra on tree health and plant biosecurity.

The taskforce announcement comes in the wake of news last week that the first cases of ash dieback in the wider environment, outside of nurseries and plantations, were found in Wales. The infected trees in Carmarthenshire are the first confirmed cases in the wild in the west of the UK; the majority of cases in the wider environment are in East Anglia and Kent.

A ban on movements of ash plants and seeds into and within Great Britain has been in place since October 2012 to help slow the spread and minimise the impact of Chalara. The disease spreads naturally by airborne spores, and can be moved long distances by the transport of infected material.

The disease poses no risk to human or animal health, and public access to woodlands is not restricted, but people are asked to behave responsibly and take simple precautions such as removing mud and leaves from footwear and tyres.

The Forestry Commission ask that if you are visiting an infected or suspected wood, take some simple precautions:

  • do not remove any plant material (firewood, sticks, leaves or cuttings) from the woodland;
  • where possible, before leaving the woodland, clean soil, mud, leaves and other plant material from footwear, clothing, dogs, horses, the wheels and tyres of bicycles, baby buggies, carriages and other vehicles, and remove any leaves which are sticking to your car;
  • before visiting other countryside sites, parks, garden centres and nurseries, thoroughly wash footwear, wheels and tyres in soapy water;
  • follow the instructions on any signs.

The FC is also asking the public to help by looking at their Chalara symptoms videos or symptom images and reporting any sightings. You can also download their free Tree Alert app to your smartphone or tablet.

 



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