Urgent action to control spread of larch disease

Urgent action to control spread of larch disease

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The body that looks after the environment in Wales is taking urgent action after surveys showed that a disease which kills larch trees is spreading.

The disease, caused by the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, was first discovered in Wales in the Afan Valley three years ago and had infected trees in around 3,000 hectares by the end of 2012.

Some 1,300 hectares of larch trees, which form an important part of Wales’ commercial forests, have already been felled in the area in a bid to keep the disease in check and limit the damage.

Now aerial surveys conducted by Natural Resources Wales reveal it has spread to other parts of Wales, in particular South Wales.

Initial results indicate that a further 1,800 hectares are showing signs of infection. Experts from Natural Resources Wales are now carrying out ground checks to confirm if the trees are diseased.

John Browne of Natural Resources Wales said: “Our programme to fell infected larch is continuing and the timber is being marketed.

“When we get the test results from our laboratories, we’ll reconsider the scale of these operations and what we need to do to get on top of the disease.

“We’re also looking at new methods to treat the disease more quickly and working with stakeholders to review the Wales ramorum disease management plan in light of the findings.”

It’s believed changing weather patterns could have played a large part in the spread of the disease. One of the wettest summers on record followed by a mild start to the winter created the right conditions for the disease to thrive.

The countryside remains open and Ramorum poses no threat to human or animal health. However visitors to woodlands can help reduce the spread of the disease by taking some simple actions such as removing any mud, plant material or leaves from clothing, boots, dogs and car tyres.
Infected larch crops have been found in all four countries in the United Kingdom, as well as the Republic of Ireland.

For more information contact pressoffice@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Image: Trees affected by P. ramorum (c) Natural Resources Wales

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