ICF Hosts Meeting of Major Forestry Players in Battle Against Disease Imports

ICF Hosts Meeting of Major Forestry Players in Battle Against Disease Imports

The Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) recently hosted a meeting of the UK’s major forest plant buyers to discuss various voluntary measures that could be undertaken to reduce the risk of pests and diseases entering the country.

This follows the current outbreak of Chalara ash dieback caused by importing infected plants from Europe, where the disease is now widespread. The Horticultural Trade Association has called for its members to implement a voluntary moratorium on imports of ash while the Woodland Trust goes a step further, seeking an immediate and mandatory ban by governments across the UK.

The ICF is committed to ensuring its members undertake their work responsibly. This meeting with senior ICF members representing the major players within the industry was pivotal in order to begin discussions so effective procedures can be established. During the meeting Fountains Forestry, Scottish Woodlands, UPM Tilhill and the Woodland Trust agreed to work together to develop a voluntary  chain of custody for forest nursery plants. Discussions will now to produce a simple scheme which forest nurseries will be required to adopt if they wish to supply these organisations with trees in the future. It is hoped that other buyers will also use the scheme and that working together with nurseries this will provide buyers with the assurances that they need that the trees they are purchasing are free from disease.

ICF Executive Director Shireen Chambers FICFor commented: “The UK’s forests are under considerable threat and we need to ensure that our members are doing all that is possible from a biosecurity perspective when ordering planting stock, in light of the increasing level of risk associated with imported material. We welcome our senior members working cooperatively in this way to set new industry procedures.”

George McRobbie FICFor, Operations Director at UPM Tilhill, added: “British seed source is no guarantee that the plants have been grown within the UK. The precautionary principle must be applied and anyone buying ash should be absolutely clear that it is sourced from a disease-free area”.

Wilma Harper, FICFor, Head of Corporate and Forestry Support at the Forestry Commission welcomed the initiative, saying: “That plant you are planting – do you know where it has been? The rash of new disease outbreaks affecting British trees can only be tackled by Government and the sector working closely together. This is a welcome step by the ICF, which will support current and future measures we are taking. ”

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