Fight against fatal tree disease enters critical next phase

Press Releasein Industry News

Last year, 876 hectares of Japanese larch trees were found to be infected by an outbreak of ramorum disease in Wales.

During the winter, Forestry Commission Wales put surveys of woodlands on hold as, once the larch trees have dropped their needles, it is difficult to spot symptoms in infected trees.

Since the trees regained their needles in late spring, Forestry Commission Wales surveyors have again been out in force checking woodlands to find out how far ramorum disease has spread.

Initial findings from these surveys indicate that this fatal tree disease has infected a further 227 hectares of larch trees in Wales.

Owen Thurgate, Phytophthora Project Manager at Forestry Commission Wales, said, "The worst case scenario would have been to have found the same number, or even more, trees infected by ramorum disease this year as last year.

"The advice of Forest Research scientists to prevent the disease's spread is to fell infected trees to kill the living plant material on which the Phytophthora ramorum pathogen depends.

"Whilst it is therefore worrying that we will have to fell a large number of infected trees again this year, it would seem that our decision to swiftly fell infected trees last year has played a key role so far in managing this major outbreak."

Most of the newly diagnosed trees are in woodlands adjacent to the areas found to be infected with ramorum disease last year in the Afan Valley, near Port Talbot.

Ramorum disease has also been diagnosed in a small number of larch trees at Bwlch Nant yr Arian, near Aberystwyth, where 60 infected trees were felled in 2010, and, for the first time, near the Alwen reservoir in Hiraethog Forest, north Wales.

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