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A fungicide with a long history of use in the agricultural sector is to be trialled for its potential to help reduce the impact of a serious fungal disease affecting pine woodlands.
Concerned that Dothistroma needle blight, which affects mainly pine trees, and is already widespread in Scotland, could become more virulent, Forestry Commission Scotland is looking to find out if the aerial application of copper fungicide could be used as a technique to help combat the impacts of the disease.
Permission has now been granted by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate for the aerial application of a copper fungicide to small areas of forest land in Scotland in each of the next three years. In 2013 the trial will involve a 5 hectare Scots pine site within the 1,000 hectare Monaughty forest, Moray.
Copper fungicides have long been used to reduce annual agricultural losses from fungal diseases affecting, for example, cereals and potatoes, and do not pose a risk to human or animal health.
Hugh Clayden, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Tree Health Policy Adviser, said:
“Scotland’s pinewood resource, including our precious Caledonian pinewoods, are an intrinsic, vitally important element of our landscape as well as being an important economic and environmental asset for Scotland - but they may be facing an increasing level of threat from Dothistroma needle blight, which is just one of several pests and diseases to have become more common in the past ten years. We may soon reach a point where we need to consider the targeted aerial application of fungicide to some pine woodlands as part of a suite of wider measures aimed at safeguarding this highly valued resource.
"The fungicide has a long history of usage in agriculture and is routinely applied aerially to pine woodlands in New Zealand to tackle Dothistroma needle blight, so we believe it is worth investigating whether or not it could play a part in helping to tackle this disease in Scotland. In parallel, we also need to assess if the aerial application of copper fungicide has any significant impact on non-target species such as fungi, lichens, insects and plants - and we will also be continuing to investigate other fungicide products to see if they have the potential to be more effective in the control of this disease.
“If fungicide can be used effectively in some types of forest, it could help reduce the wider impacts of the disease until we have been able to build longer-term resilience by, for example, finding and using durably resistant provenances of pine, by greater use of alternative tree species or by using silvicultural techniques such as heavy thinning, brashing and pruning.
“The trial will determine whether or not we have an effective and environmentally acceptable ‘safety net’ if the threat from Dothistroma escalates or if our Caledonian pinewoods appear to be coming under significant threat from this disease in the wider environment.”
The aerial application will only take place if the weather conditions are suitable, and part of the trial will also involve detailed checks on spray drift. This precautionary approach will also include closing part of the forest off to the public on the day that spraying takes place – it will re-open the day after.
Members of the public will be informed when the forest is closed through Forestry Commission Scotland’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests and through Twitter www.twitter.com/fcscotland.
The forest trial will begin to assess how often copper fungicide might need to be applied in forest conditions, although evidence from countries that routinely use this technique, such as New Zealand, indicate that one application every 3-5 years, on carefully targeted areas, may be sufficient. In addition aerial application will only be considered where there is low risk in terms of water and nature conservation interests.
The Commission has undertaken an initial evaluation of the impacts of applying - and not applying - fungicide for Dothistroma needle blight in plantations as part of a risk based approach to disease management. The aerial spraying field trial will help address knowledge gaps in terms of the efficacy and impact, if any, of copper fungicide on non-target species.
The initial evaluation and trial have been discussed with SNH and SEPA as well as wider stakeholders in the Scottish Tree Health Advisory Group, all of whom will be kept closely informed of the results prior to any further trials being considered.
Subject to weather conditions, the trial aerial application of fungicide at Monaughty forest will take place between a ‘window’ of 16 July and 31 July. The operation itself will take a matter of minutes and will be undertaken in one day within that period.
NOTES to Editors
1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland.
2. For news, events and recreation information log on to
www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests For Twitter: www.twitter.com/fcscotland
3. Until the aerial spraying of a natural bacterial agent (Bacillus thuringiensis) against the Oak Processionary moth in a small area of woodland in West Berkshire earlier this year, the last aerial spraying of a pesticide in GB forests was in the early 1990s. The Monaughty trial will be the first aerial application of a fungicide in a GB forest.
4. The Chemicals Regulation Directorate has approved the aerial application of a fungicide (copper oxychloride) to a maximum of 20 ha of woodland in each of the next three years. In 2013/14 an experimental trial involving 5 ha of Scots pine plantation will be undertaken by Forest Research (an agency of the Forestry Commission) at Monaughty forest near Elgin, Moray. The results from that trial will inform decisions on the nature and extent of further investigations into the targeted use of fungicides as part of a suite of measures to help reduce the impact of Dothistroma needle blight in Scottish forests.
5. Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508.