28/09/2010

Alert Raised Over New Tree Infections

There have been further cases of the infectious Japanese Larch tree disease confirmed in NI.

Three new cases of Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum) in Japanese Larch trees have been identified in counties Antrim and Down.

Last month a plant disease caused by a fungus-like pathogen known as Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum) had been diagnosed on Japanese Larch for the first time in the north of Ireland. The disease had been confirmed at three woodland sites on the Antrim plateau.

Since then, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD)'s Forest Service has inspected all of its woodlands across the north, which include components of Japanese Larch.

Surveys have also been conducted within a 3km zone around the original confirmed sites. This has resulted in a further three sites being confirmed with the disease, following scientific tests.

Two of the sites are located on the Antrim plateau with a third small area located in County Down.
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This brings the total number of sites affected to six, four of which are within the public estate, managed by the Department, and two within privately owned woodland.

The disease, which is spread primarily by rain and wind, can also be spread on footwear, vehicle wheels and machinery.

The Department is continuing to manage the situation with the aim of preventing further spread of the disease. Bio-security precautions already in place at the three original sites, will now be extended to the three new sites. Felling of infected Japanese Larch at the sites will also be required.

In addition to ground inspections, the Department has also conducted an aerial survey across its forest estate. As a result, a small number of additional sites are being investigated further.

The Department has reminded all woodland owners and managers to remain vigilant for symptoms of the disease in Japanese Larch and report suspicious symptoms to Forest Service.

The first indication of the disease on Japanese larch trees, is a visible wilting of young shoots and foliage, or later in the growing season, withered shoot tips with yellowing needles which then become blackened.

The infected shoots shed their needles prematurely. Trees may also have bleeding cankers on their upper trunks.

(BMcC/KMcA)

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