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Forestry Commission Scotland has introduced a new support package to encourage early detection, reporting and action against a serious plant disease now increasingly affecting larch trees in the west of Scotland.
Phytophthora ramorum, which has jumped from shrub species such as Rhododendrons to larch, threatens to kill thousands of larch trees across Scotland, resulting in an economic and environmental impact for woodland managers.
Ramorum’s prolific reproduction on larch means that there is a significant risk of rapid spread in woodlands and the wider environment, so early detection and rapid action is imperative if the disease is to be controlled.
Hugh Clayden, Forestry Commission Scotland's Tree Health Policy Adviser, said:
“Owners of infected larch woodlands will have to remove all larch and other host plants producing Ramorum spores from around the infected areas but the benefits to an individual owner of implementing the required controls will very often be outweighed by the costs. The support package will help mitigate that.
“It is vital that we continue to engage the support of the sector on managing this disease and minimising its environmental and economic damage.
“We also need to raise awareness across the forestry and recreation sectors about sensible biosecurity requirements and disease management measures.”
Available until 30 June 2014, the support package will allow owners to get help from forestry management agents, and assistance for the removal of immature and inaccessible/uneconomic larch crops. Support for replanting such areas and for the clearance of Rhododendron ponticum is already available through existing measures in the Scotland Rural Development Programme.
Clearance of larch crops less than 26 years of age (from which no timber can be recovered ) will be eligible for a flat rate payment of £1200 per net ha (a 50% reduction will be applied where such action can be undertaken safely by clearing saw).
Where access or other constraints prevent the removal of older infected crops within the required time-scales or at or above ‘break-even’, a flat rate payment of £1,200 per net ha of infected larch will be made available to fell the trees in-situ or to kill them standing.
Special authorisations will be required to transport and process timber from infected trees.
For more detailed information about the support package, visit http://www.forestry.gov.uk/p-ramorumgrant
1) Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government’s Environment & Forestry Directorate. The Commission manages the 656,000 hectare national forest estate in ways that continue to protect, manage and expand Scotland’s forests and to deliver benefits to Scotland’s people, communities, biodiversity and economy. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
2) There are now 8 locations with confirmed infections on larch in Scotland with a total area of about 65 hectares but we suspect that further infections will be found as the larch trees resume growth in spring.
3) The GB Phytophthora Outbreak Management Team (OMT), which includes representatives from FCS, the Scottish Government and ConFor, is finalising a GB Ramorum Disease Management Strategy focusing on rapid clearance of infected larch and other larch within 100m-250m, as well as clearance of Rhododendron ponticum within 20m of infected Rhododendron bushes in woodlands.