Forestry sector unites to manage long-term impact of Dothistroma needle blight

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1 MAY 2012NEWS RELEASE No: 15438

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Scotland’s public and private forestry sectors are working together to develop a long-term, co-ordinated approach to the active management of a tree health disease which can cause serious physical and economic damage to conifer (mainly pine) forests.

Last week ( 25 April) representatives from Scottish businesses engaged in a full spectrum of forestry activity, from nurserymen to saw millers attended a Confor / Forestry Commission Scotland briefing on the current state of knowledge about the fungus which causes Dothistroma needle blight (DNB).

DNB - now endemic in Scotland and GB – causes premature needle loss on many pine species but also a number of other conifers, a resultant reduction in timber yield and. in severe cases, can also cause tree death. 

Jamie Farquhar, Confor’s Scotland manager, said:

“Getting on top of the management of DNB is all part of securing the long term sustainability of Scottish forestry and the timber industry.

“Left unchecked, DNB could have serious negative impacts for our forestry resource  and on the economic health of the sector in Scotland, which has a higher proportion of pine woodland than any other part of the UK. However, concerted, appropriate and early action can limit the impact of the disease. It will also buy us the time required to increase the overall resilience of our forests to the uncertainties caused by climate change and recent upsurges in pests and diseases affecting the land use sector.

“It is vitally important that everyone with a stake in Scottish forestry works together in tackling this issue – and this well attended seminar was a very positive starting point.”

Speakers at the seminar include Dr Anna Brown (Forest Research) an internationally recognised authority on the disease and Hugh Clayden, Tree Health Policy Advisor with Forestry Commission Scotland.

Dr Brown said:

“We’re still working on determining the full extent and severity of DNB and woodland managers can help us with this process - but we do know that in the last decade, the number of incidences of this disease has increased significantly, particularly on Corsican pine, lodgepole pine and, more recently, Scots pine.

“Woodland managers need to consider very seriously the measures they need to adopt if we are to limit impacts of this disease.”

A further presentation from the Commission’s David Henderson outlined how DNB had impacted pine woodlands on the national forest estate in the north east of Scotland, one of the worst affected parts of the country.

David said:

“It can be a real game-changer. We have basically had to review many of our existing forest plans and some almost having to start from scratch. Felling programmes needed to be rescheduled, some road building work brought forward, implications for timber supply commitments addressed and we have to think even more carefully about how we  are going to diversify the makeup of the forest in years to come to maintain and sustain our forest resource and ensure we maintain its productive capacity.”

The Commission has established a forest tree nursery transition scheme which provides support for forest tree nurseries infected with DNB in 2011/12 and, subject to circumstances, 2012/13. Support will be conditional on their setting out and implementing a robust DNB resilience action plan.

For further information (including copies of the presentation materials), current advice and details of who to contact if you suspect DNB in your woodland please visit: and or

Details about forthcoming field-based training events for the private sector (predominately focussed on the identification of DNB in the field) are available at:

NOTES to Editors
1) Confor is a membership organization that promotes sustainable forestry and low-carbon businesses. Confor represents and supports members by helping build the market for wood and forest products, creating a supportive policy environment, and helping members to become more competitive and successful.

2) Forestry Commission Scotland serves as part of the Scottish Government’s Environment & Forestry Directorate.

3) Forest Research provides research services relevant to UK and international forestry interests and informs and supports forestry’s contribution to UK governmental policies.

4) Trees of all ages can become infected and defoliation can continue year on year, gradually weakening the tree, significantly reducing timber yields and in some cases causing significant mortality.

5) Positive disease management measures include: surveillance to understand where the disease is present and its severity; regular thinning; felling heavily infected stands (to reduce ‘inoculum’ levels as well as to utilise the timber before it starts to degrade); when planting or replanting, select the right tree species for the prevailing site conditions; and sourcing healthy plants from nurseries. Brashing and pruning can also help reduce humidity levels in the forest, as can effective weeding practices in young stands.  Chemical control, in particular copper fungicides, have been found to be highly effective at suppressing the disease in other countries.