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    Government publishes plan for tackling tree diseases

    DEFRA, the Department for Food Environment & Rural Affairs, has now produced its tree health management plan with input from the Landscape Institute.

    The report was produced with advice from a seven-member tree health policy group one of whom was Roger Kent, representing the Landscape Institute. Kent, who is chair of the LI’s biosecurity working group, said, ‘I am quite pleased with the tree health management plan.  It is comprehensive and it does face the extent of the problem. It is looking for real solutions.’

    He added, ‘The shortcomings are that there is no compulsory enforcement of some of the regulations and it is clearly limited in its funding.’

    The plan sets out:
    • an overall approach to tree health in England;
    • management approaches to tackle Chalara fraxinea (ash dieback), Phytophthora ramorum and Oak Processionary Moth (OPM); and,
    • a framework for managing future threats to tree health in England.

    In terms of ash dieback, it aims to:
    • continue to support action to slow the spread of Chalara given there is no known means of eradication.
    • fund, through the England Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS), the removal of infected ash (in selected counties) and the replanting with alternative species nationally.
    • understand the impact of Chalara on non-woodland trees.
    • continue the ongoing programme of research to identify and exploit  resistance; identify potential disease management approaches (including  chemical treatments); improve understanding of the pathogen (including spread), and, understand the ecological impacts.

    With Phytophthora ramorum it plans to:
    • continue to fund the most effective elements of the previous Fera-led 5 year programme for a further 2 years.
    • work with the Forestry Commission, Fera and stakeholders to undertake a review of Government policy on Phytophthora Ramorum and Phytophthora Kernoviae.

    In terms of oak processionary moth, the plan is to:
    • continue to fund the current Forestry Commission (FC)-led OPM programme
    • in 2014/15 to contain the outbreak in South West London, and seek to
    • eradicate isolated outbreaks in other areas.
    • work with the OPM advisory board and the Tree Health Policy Group (THPG)
    • consider future policy and management approaches on OPM beyond 2015.

    The report also looks at other emerging threats and says that it will ensure provisions are included in the New Environmental Land Management  Scheme (NELMS) that could be used to help address immediate pest and  disease threats.

    In order to stop diseases coming in from the rest of Europe, Kent said, we really need plant passports (although this would not have prevented the arrival of ash dieback, which is wind-borne).  He praised the money that is to be spent on research – for instance into disease-resistant ash trees – but warned that by the time the reports are produced the disease will have spread much further.

    Kent was pleased that the Landscape Institute was able to be involved, brought in largely by the Tree Council.

    A second part of the report will be produced next year.

    You can read the report here.

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