Aerial application of fungicide trial in Millbuie forest, Black Isle

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16 MAY 2014NEWS RELEASE No: 16269

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In a bid to assess new techniques to help reduce the impact of a serious fungal disease of pine woodlands, Forestry Commission Scotland is planning to conduct the second of three annual aerial application trials on the national forest estate this June.

It will use a fungicide with a long history of use in agriculture, and test whether or not its aerial application could potentially mitigate the impact of Dothistroma needle blight.

The 14 hectare, 2014 trial – within the 2,500 hectare Millbuie forest managed by Forest Enterprise Scotland on the Black Isle – follows a similar test last year on a 5 hectare Scots pine site in Monaughty forest near Elgin.

The aerial application itself will take less than an hour but the associated initial monitoring work by Forest Research will take a day to complete. It will all take place on one day between 3 June and 13 June and will only take place if weather conditions are suitable.

Hugh Clayden, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Tree Health Policy Adviser, said:

“Scotland’s pinewood resource, including our precious Caledonian pinewoods, is an intrinsic, vitally important economic and environmental asset for Scotland.

“Unfortunately, these woods are facing an increasing level of threat from Dothistroma needle blight, a disease which is already widespread in the UK and may yet become more virulent. These trials will help us determine the effectiveness of aerial application techniques as a possible additional, ‘last-resort’ measure.

“We will assess whether or not there is any significant impact on non-target species - such as fungi, lichens, insects and plants - and are also looking to see if there are other, more effective fungicide products that could be considered for aerial application.”

The copper fungicide being applied in the tests poses no risk to human or animal health and has long been used to reduce annual agricultural losses from fungal diseases such as those affecting cereals and potatoes. It has also been used successfully in forest applications in New Zealand over several decades.  

Hugh added;

“If this proves to be an effective and environmentally acceptable ‘safety net’ it could help reduce the wider impacts of the disease and buy us time to build longer-term resilience in our forests. This could be through finding and using durable, disease resistant pine, greater use of alternative tree species, exploring other chemical and biological control methods, or using silvicultural techniques to create conditions less favoured by fungal pathogens.”

A small area around the trial site will be closed on the day that spraying takes place and diversions will be in place until the active work has been completed. Members of the public will be informed when the forest is closed through Forestry Commission Scotland’s Facebook page and through Twitter

NOTES to Editors

1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate

2.  For news, events and recreation information log on to  For Twitter:  
3. Permission for three trials over three years was granted in 2013 by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate of the Health and Safety Executive.  The Monaughty trial in 2013 was the first aerial application of a fungicide in a GB forest and prior to 2013, the last aerial application of any pesticide in GB forests was in the early 1990s.

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 three years (starting in 2013). The results from the 2013 Monaughty trial, carried out by Forest Research (an agency of the Forestry Commission) indicate that over 95% of the fungicide was captured within the forest canopy. No significant impacts on the local ecosystem have been detected but monitoring will continue over the next few years.

5. 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 continue to be kept informed of the results of these trials.

6. Aerial application will only be considered where there is low risk in terms of water and nature conservation interests and these forest trials will begin to assess how often copper fungicide might need to be applied in forest conditions.
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.

 6. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508.