A ban on imports of ash trees to combat the threat of the tree disease Chalara fraxinea could be in place as early as November, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said today.
The disease causes leaf loss and has already killed trees in England, Scotland and parts of mainland Europe. The infected trees in the UK had come from nurseries in Europe or had been in contact with imported ash trees.
A ban would also mean trees from infected areas would not be able to be moved to other locations.
Owen Paterson said:
“This disease could have a devastating impact on our native ash trees so we need to take action to stop it. We are working towards a ban on imports, and looking to impose movement restrictions on trees from infected areas.
“Work is already underway to prevent the disease spreading and trade bodies have been encouraging their members to impose voluntary import bans.
“By taking decisive action we can prevent our ash trees from suffering the same fate as elm trees did in the 1970s.”
All infected trees are being destroyed and the Plant Health Authority are on high alert across the country. Ash trees in the vicinity of infected sites are also being monitored by the Plant Health Authority to ensure early detection of the disease.
Suspected cases of the disease should be reported to the Forestry Commission so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent the disease from spreading.
A consultation on managing the threat to the UK’s ash trees is due to end on 26 October. A ban could then come into force before the main planting season gets underway in mid November. The Government will work with the industry and those that grow or trade in ash plants to minimise the impact a ban will have on their businesses.
The consultation document can be found here: http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/consultations/index.cfm
Further information about Chalara fraxinea is available on the Forestry Commission’s website at: www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara
In October last year we published the Tree Health Action Plan to help us to tackle the threats of pests and diseases and ensure that the UK’s defences against them are as robust as possible. The Plan can be found here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/crops/tree-health/
The Plant Health Authority is made up of specialists from the Forestry Commission and the Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA).
Suspected cases of Chalara fraxinea should be reported to one of the following:
Forest Research Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service - 01420 23000
Forestry Commission Plant Health Service - 0131 314 6414
Fera Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate - 01904 465625