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First ash dieback tree disease found in the north

The first finding in the north of Ireland of the tree disease Chalara, also known as ash dieback, has been confirmed.
Friday, 16 November 2012

The disease of ash trees which is caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea, was identified in young ash saplings at five sites in counties Down and Antrim. The plants, all linked to continental imports, showed symptoms of the disease and after samples were sent for laboratory analysis results proved positive.

Statutory notices has been served on the owners of the plantations requiring destruction of around 5,000 affected ash saplings and associated plant debris. The Department is also investigating a number or other sites planted with imported ash saplings as part of its ongoing surveillance programme.

Outlining the situation, Minister for Agricultural and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill said: “During a survey initiated last month by DARD and subsequent laboratory analysis, the disease has been found in young ash saplings at five different sites. This is the first time the disease has been confirmed in the north.

“My officials have been working with the plantation owners and statutory notices for the destruction of ash saplings and associated plant debris has been served. The saplings and debris will be destroyed by burning and this work has already commenced. We have alerted our colleagues in the south and are continuing to work closely with them.”

The Minister explained that all actions to contain and eradicate the disease have been taken by the Department, in line with scientific and legal advice. She added: “Legislation was introduced north and south last month banning the import and movement of ash plants for planting from infected areas. However, we must remain vigilant as this disease still poses a very serious threat. I would appeal for a responsible approach over the coming season. I encourage all stakeholders to be alert for signs of this disease and report findings.”

Further information on the disease and reporting finding is available on the Department’s website.

Notes to editors:

  1. Chalara fraxinea is a serious disease which has caused the death of many ash trees in European countries. Legislation was introduced north and south on Friday 26 October banning the import and movement of ash plants for planting from infected areas. It is not a threat to humans or animals.
  2. Further legislation was made on 6 November and importers are now  required to demonstrate that wood is free from infection by showing that it comes from an area known to be free from disease, or has been square sawn to removing the rounded surface, or has been dried to less than 20% moisture content.
  3. The Preliminary Woodland Register published by Forest Service indicates that the area of woodland is 105,700 hectares or approximately 8% of the land area. Ash is a native tree species and occurs as a component of broadleaf and mixed conifer/broadleaf woodland on mineral soils.
  4. Forest Service estimates that there are approximately 32,000 hectares of woodland (or 30% of our total woodland area) comprising broadleaf and mixed conifer broadleaf species on mineral soils which are likely to contain a component of ash. Approximately 20% of this is managed by Forest Service and the remaining 80% by a wide range of other bodies including farmers, estate owners, charitable trusts, local and central government.
  5. There are an estimated 75,000 miles of hedgerow (Countryside Survey 2007) which are also likely to contain a component of ash, both as standard trees and cut as part of routine hedge management.
  6. Further information on the disease and reporting finding is available on the Department’s website.
  7. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email: pressoffice.group@dardni.gov.uk. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.