Deadly oak disease hits Welsh private woodland

An outbreak of the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, otherwise known as sudden oak death, has been discovered for the first time in Wales on trees in a privately-owned woodland, reports the Forestry Commission Wales.

Staff from Forestry Commission Wales and the Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera) have visited the owner of the woodland in Denbighshire and a notice has been served to fell the infected Japanese larch trees. Only a small number of trees are infected, and the owner will use the timber on site.

Sudden oak death is a fungus pathogen that kills many of the trees that it infects. It was first found on Japanese larch trees in Wales in June this year in public woodlands  near Port Talbot, near Bridgend.

The outbreak in South Wales was the first time P. ramorum has been encountered on larch elsewhere in Great Britain since it was first discovered on larch in South-West England in 2009.

The woodland owner, Wendy Charles-Warner, contacted Take Cover, to say: “We feel rather aggrieved at the tone of the [Forestry Commission] press releases stating that we have been served with enforcement notices as if we were responsible for this outbreak and somehow in the wrong.

“We could take no steps to prevent this disease which is mainly airborne, have done nothing wrong and have at every point done everything we can to assist the forestry commission.”

A motor rally set to attract thousands of spectators to South Wales in July was postponed as a result of an ou6tbreak of the tree disease.

The route of the Swansea Bay Rally ran through forests that had been hit by the infection.

Richard Siddons from the Forestry Commission Wales said the organisation was “determined to minimise the impacts of this serious tree disease on woodlands, and the support of woodland owners in looking out for early signs of P. ramorum infection will play a key part in achieving that”.

It seems as if the warm but wet summer has been a key driver in the development of tree pathogens, with a number of cases making the headlines.

In April, a group of woodland experts expressed their fears for the future of British native oaks in light of the emergence of a disease called Acute Oak Decline, a bacterial infection that, they warned, could be as devastating for the English Landscape as Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.

They called for much more financial support from the UK government to help tackle the problem through research and land management measures.

In July, the Forestry Commission announced a £600,000 support package for woodland owners in South-West England and Wales to help tackle the outbreak of P. ramorum infection on larch trees. The package is part of Defra’s £25 million, five-year Phytophthora management programme.

Forestry Commission Wales is developing a complementary programme of support for private woodland owners who have P. ramorum confirmed on their land. Details of this support will be announced in September.

Ms Charles-Warner, in her comment to the story on this blog (see below for her full response), added: “

The ‘package of assistance’ that the Commission have announced is £300 per hectare, which we are not receiving or going to receive.

“If you have knowledge of tree felling you will appreciate that in a situation where stringent biosecurity measures have to be used and the trees have to be felled and brashed by hand that is a paltry sum, even in the highly unlikely event that you receive it.

She went on to say that she was “deeply concerned” about the situation: “If the Commission wishes landowners to report Phytopthora Ramorum and control it, in order to protect commercial forestry, then realistic support needs to be in place.

“Many landowners faced with a the prospect of funding felling and site clearance work themselves with the attendant stress and unpleasantness, are likely to ignore the disease and not report it.”

More information about sudden oak death can be found on the Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum.

To find out more about the support fund or to report suspected P. ramorum infection in their trees, woodland owners should contact Forestry Commission Wales’s Grants & Regulations Office on tel: 0300 068 0300 or email: bww.ts@forestry.gsi.gov.uk.

Source: Forestry Commission Wales press release

Date: 25/08/2010

About these ads

2 Responses

  1. As the owner of this woodland I would not consider having to fell approximately 250 trees totally at my own expense without any support, financial or otherwise, to be a ‘small number’ although clearly it would be so for a commercial landowner.
    We are going to burn the timber on site because the site is not accessible by vehicle and, unlike commercial owners, we do not have the resources to deal with the matter in any other way. The alternative to burning the site is to leave it cordoned off and unused by animals or human being for 5-6 years. That is approximately 1/5th of our total land owned. In any event, wild animals would access the site and risk spread of the spores.

    We feel rather aggrieved at the tone of the press releases stating that we have been served with enforcement notices as if we were responsible for this outbreak and somehow in the wrong.
    We could take no steps to prevent this disease which is mainly airborne, have done nothing wrong and have at every point done everything we can to assist the forestry commission.

    The ‘package of assistance’ that the commission have announced is £300 per hectare which we are not receiving or going to receive. If you have knowledge of tree felling you will appreciate that in a situation where stringent biosecurity measures have to be used and the trees have to be felled and brashed by hand that is a paltry sum, even in the highly unlikely event that you receive it.

    I am deeply concerned about this situation. If the commission wishes landowners to report Phytopthora Ramorum and control it, in order to protect commercial forestry, then realistic support needs to be in place. Many landowners faced with a the prospect of funding felling and site clearance work themselves with the attendant stress and unpleasantness, are likely to ignore the disease and not report it.

    To us this is the permanent loss of our winter pig grazing shelter. It is the expense of in the region of two months of my total personal income. It is unwarranted worry and stigmatisation. Many landowners simply will not play ball facing those concerns.

    If the forestry commision is to have any realistic chance of controlling this disease then proper support is essential. Ideally this would be the forestry commission carrying out the work themselves or by using cobtractors and the cost being defrayed by the commercial forestry owners whose interests we are protecting.

    THat will make landowners far more likely to support the iniative.

    • Dear Wendy — thanks so much to time the time and trouble to write a response to this blog. As you have raised a number of serious points, which are likely to affect a growing number of landowners, we have updated the blog posting to include your thoughts and experiences.

      We hope the situation is not too stressful, and wish you all the best in dealing with your P. Ramorum outbreak.

      Warm regards,

      Take Cover team

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: