86,000 – toll of deadly Ash Dieback infection

Symptoms of the tree disease Ash Dieback
Symptoms of the tree disease Ash Dieback

Measures to prevent the spread of Ash Dieback have seen around 86,000 young trees destroyed throughout Northern Ireland, it was yesterday revealed.

The colossal loss of tress – in all areas of the Province – emerged as forestry minister Michelle O’Neill provided an update on the current situation following the first confirmed outbreak in November 2012.

Mrs O’Neill said: “Forest Service plant health inspectors have undertaken a comprehensive programme of surveillance for the disease.

“Over 3,000 site inspections have been carried out since the disease was first found here in November 2012.

“To date 93 sites have been confirmed with Ash Dieback infection.”

The minister said 90 of the 93 sites found with Ash Dieback “were recent plantings” around the Province, with three findings on imported stock in trade.

She said “as a result of the ongoing surveillance” 86,000 young trees were destroyed “to prevent the disease spreading to the wider environment”.

“Forest Service staff have been helping private woodland owners to deal with infected plants and debris,” she added.

“Surveillance plans for the 2014 season are well under way, with Forest Service plant health inspectors firstly revisiting and inspecting the areas around previously confirmed outbreak sites.

“Further surveys of both recently planted and mature ash will then be undertaken over the summer period.”

She added there have been no confirmed reports of C. fraxinea infecting mature ash trees in Northern Ireland.

The minister encouraged landowners and members of the public to be aware of the symptoms of the tree disease and report any sightings to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).

Ash Dieback is a disease of ash trees (Fraxinus species) caused by a fungus called Chalara fraxinea (C. fraxinea).

The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees and it can lead to tree death.

According to DARD the main symptoms to look out for are: wilting and blackening of young shoots; loss of leaves from the top of the tree; darker diamond shaped lesion on the bark where the shoot joins the main trunk; and fruiting bodies (3-5mm size creamy coloured ‘mushroom shaped structures’) on dead leaf litter during June to October.

For more information on Ash Dieback disease, identifying symptoms, and guidance on reporting sightings visit the DARD website at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/ash-dieback-disease.

If you see an ash tree with any of these symptoms please report your findings to afib.planthealth@dardni.gov.uk or phone 0300 200 7847.