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NEWS RELEASE No: 153417 MARCH 2012

Events to highlight threat posed by larch disease in Cumbria

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The Forestry Commission and its partners are stepping up efforts to tackle the spread of ramorum disease in larch trees in Cumbria.

The disease is caused by the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, (P. ramorum) and kills larch trees very quickly. Infected larch trees also produce huge numbers of the spores that spread the disease.

A recent arrival in Britain, it was confirmed in two woods in western Cumbria last summer and has since been found at four more sites. Nine locations have also been discovered in Lancashire.

Workshops are now being held for forest workers, landowners, hauliers and sawmill managers as part of wide-ranging efforts to contain and combat the outbreak.

Cumbria Woodlands is holding free training sessions for forestry contractors working on infected sites, on 12 March in Thirlmere, and at Newby Bridge Hotel, Newby Bridge, near Ulverston, the following day. Experts from the Forestry Commission will give an update on the disease, describe essential biosecurity and hygiene measures, and outline how forestry operations have been managed on infected sites elsewhere in the UK.

Then on 27 March the forest industry organisation, Confor, has convened a forest health day at Penrith Rugby Club to raise awareness of the disease and the practical implications for woodland owners and those working in the timber sector.

The events are being supported by the Forestry Commission and part-funded by the European Social Fund.

Keith Jones, the Forestry Commission’s Area Director for North-West England and the West Midlands, said:

“These events are crucial in raising awareness of the disease and the measures we need to take to tackle it. It is very important to encourage everyone in the  forest industry to be aware of the symptoms and report outbreaks immediately. It is no longer possible to eradicate ramorum disease from Britain, but widespread awareness and the tough measures we are taking and will result in fewer tree losses in the future."

Larch trees comprise about 6.3 per cent of Cumbria's total woodland area,  and the county is deemed a high-risk zone for P. ramorum infection.

Aerial surveys are set to resume in the spring across northern England to check larch plantations for symptoms, with field visits organised where suspected cases are detected. 

The Forestry Commission is leading the programme to manage ramorum disease in trees and woodland, in partnership with the Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera), which is leading the effort on other plants and habitats in England and Wales. The only strategy available to minimise the risk of spreading the disease is to fell trees quickly, preferably before peak sporulation (spore production) occurs. Current knowledge indicates that this occurs in the autumn, shortly before the larch needles fall.

Further information is available at

Event details

Forestry contractor workshops:

Monday 12 March 2012, 5pm – 7:30pm at the Thirlmere Recreation Hall, Stanah Lane, Thirlmere, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 4TJ (grid ref: NY 318 189).

Tuesday 13 March 2012, 5pm – 7:30pm at Newby Bridge Hotel, Newby Bridge, Nr Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 8NA (grid ref: SD 368 862).

Light refreshments will be provided, and registration is essential. For details and book, contact Marcus Wright; tel: 07966 850048; e-mail:

Confor Plant Health Day:

Tuesday 27 March 2012, Penrith Rugby Club, Winter’s Park, Penrith CA11 8RG.  Registration is essential. Contact Ann Stewart, Confor; tel: 0131 240 1410; e-mail

Notes to Editor:

  1. P. ramorum is a ‘quarantine’ organism, and its presence on trees or woodland plants must be notified to the Forestry Commission, which must take action to contain or eradicate it. It is not harmful to humans or animals.
  2. Larch is a durable, versatile timber that tolerates moisture and resists rotting when used in the ground. These qualities make it well suited for outdoor uses such as fence posts and panels, exterior wall cladding, boats, sheds and furniture, as well as indoor uses such as flooring and chipboard. It is easily stained, worked and finished. P. ramorum does not harm the timber, so logs from infected trees may enter the timber market, provided biosecurity measures are put in place to prevent accidental spread of the disease during timber movements.
  3. There are about 134,000 hectares (331,000 acres) of larch woodland in Britain, equivalent to about 5 per cent of the total woodland area. Japanese larch is the most popular species with industry and end users because of its superior timber properties, but European larch (Larix decidua) and hybrid larch (Larix x eurolepis) are also grown in Britain.
  4. Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.
  5. Follow tree pest and disease news at

Media calls: Richard Darn on 0750 8010411.