New strategy to manage larch disease in Wales

Published on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 11:40
Written by Daniel Mason

Welsh minister for natural resources and food, Alun Davies, has launched a new strategy to manage the outbreak of the tree disease, Phytophthora ramorum that has been spreading widely throughout the larch in western Britain and Ireland.

The strategy has been developed to manage the spread of the fungus-like organism P. ramorum and minimise its impact on larch trees and the wider Welsh environment.

The disease management strategy is one of a series being developed by the Welsh government's Tree Health Steering Group to help protect trees in Wales from pests and diseases.

The P. ramorum strategy sets out the background of the disease and the current level of infection in Wales along with the approach that will be taken to ensure that the environmental and economic impacts of the disease are minimised.

The Welsh government recognises that due to the nature of the disease and the potential costs, eradication of the disease is not possible.

Alun Davies said: "The Welsh government is doing all it can to manage the spread of larch disease in Wales. That is why we have bought all key specialists and representatives from the forestry industry together into the Tree Health Steering Group and have based our approach on the best scientific evidence available.

"Unfortunately due to the virulent nature of this disease in our wet climate and the way that it spreads we know we cannot eradicate P ramorum from Wales. However we must take action to minimise the environmental and economic impact of P ramorum and this strategy sets out exactly how we will do that."

Emyr Roberts, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales said: "This strategy will provide a framework to help minimise the impact that this disease is having on woodlands and wider habitats in Wales.

"We have made tremendous efforts to slow the spread of the disease by felling infected trees in places like the Afan Valley and Bwlch Nant Yr Arian, felling more than 2 million trees across Wales.

"We have also worked closely with the timber industry to make sure that there is capacity to harvest the trees before they die and become unusable as timber.

"Our aim is to develop a more diverse forest estate in the future. We have already started replanting at some locations and our aim is to make our woodlands more resilient to disease, and continue to be a popular attraction for people to visit, as well as maintaining a good supply of wood to the timber trade."

The Welsh government aims to make sure that:

  • Monitoring continues so that any environmental impacts on wider habitats can be minimised
  • The economic impacts of P ramorum is mitigated by ensuring that timber can be marketed as efficiently as possible in order to maintain its value
  • Felled sites will be managed in line with the priorities expressed in Woodlands for Wales, the Welsh Government's strategy for trees and woodlands
  • The impact of P. ramorum on local communities and businesses will be minimised through good communications and careful planning of the necessary forest operations
  • Appropriate incentives will be put in place through Glastir to support woodland owners to manage larch sites positively, thus contributing to an effective disease control strategy

Key elements of the strategy are that it divides Wales into two zones; Core Disease Zones; which are areas with high levels of infection in larch stands and that have a geographically defined outer boundary and a Disease Limitation Zone which covers the rest of Wales where infection levels are very slight or non-existent.

The new approach manages tree felling differently in the two zones and focuses effort on reducing the spread of the disease further and on protection of the non-infected larch in Wales.

When an area is confirmed as infected with Phytophthora ramorum, Natural Resources Wales will issue a Statutory Plant Health Notice in order to assist in the management of the disease and the movement of diseased trees.

'In the Disease Limitation Zone the Statutory Plant Health Notices will require rapid felling of infected larch. The emphasis in the Core Disease Zone is on effective land management and the fate of infected material'.

The Core Disease Zone boundaries will be reviewed twice a year in June and November as part of the review of the strategy in order to ensure the reflect any new developments in the position of the disease in Wales.

Source: Welsh government

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