The first batch of timber from trees felled on the Welsh Assembly Government’s Woodland Estate due to the recent outbreak of Ramorum disease of Japanese larch will be sold on the open market on 30th March.
The timber will be sold by Forestry Commission Wales via its E-sales system.
Ramorum disease is caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum), and is fatal to Japanese larch trees.
However, Ramorum disease does not harm the timber and there is no risk of spreading the infection from wood that has been processed.
Craig Sinclair, sales manager from Forestry Commission Wales’s Harvesting and Marketing team, said, "We have had to fell many more Japanese larch trees than normal due to the outbreak of Ramorum disease.
"We are dealing with infected timber as part of our annual harvesting and marketing programme, which is set at a level we can sustain in the longer term.
"We have therefore adjusted the overall volume of larch harvested in Wales and, where possible, we are delaying the felling of uninfected larch in order to minimise the increase in the quantity available.
"By taking this approach, we will be able to market the infected material within our annual timber production programme of 770,000 cubic metres.
"We are seeking to minimise the impact on the timber trade and we are grateful for the co-operation and flexibility they have shown.
"We will continue to work together with the industry to deal with Ramorum disease of larch in the most sustainable way."
Felling of Japanese larch trees infected by P. ramorum got under way last summer in Wales and is due to be completed later this Spring.
Half of the timber produced annually on the Assembly Government’s Woodland Estate is sold via long-term contracts. Much of the timber felled due to the outbreak of Ramorum disease of larch has therefore been bought by businesses already holding a contract with Forestry Commission Wales.
Material from trees too young to be sold as timber, and branches from all infected trees, are being converted into ‘brash bales’ for sale as woodfuel.
Larch of all three species grown in Britain (Japanese, European and hybrid) forms 10 per cent of the area of the Assembly Government’s Woodland Estate, making it an important component both in terms of its appearance in the landscape and timber production.
So far, Ramorum disease of larch has been confirmed in 906 hectares of Japanese larch trees in public and private woodlands in Wales, which equates to approximately one million infected trees.
P. ramorum is a fungus-like pathogen that kills many of the trees that it infects, and it produces the spores that spread the disease much more quickly on Japanese larch than on other infected plants.
The aim of felling the infected trees is to limit the production of the spores and therefore minimise the impact of the outbreak.
The felling, transport and processing of infected timber is subject to regulatory controls to minimise the risk of spreading the pathogen.
Biosecurity measures must be taken when moving logs and processing the timber, such as washing trucks between journeys and destroying the bark, or treating it in a way that kills any pathogen being harboured in the bark.
The Forestry Commission is continuing to research P. ramorum’s behaviour, evolution and the means by which it is spread and will soon be carrying out further surveys to look for infected trees.
"It is difficult to diagnose Ramorum disease on larch during the winter months as these conifer trees shed their needles, where the symptoms are most easily detectable, at the start of winter," said Craig.
"Our surveys will start again in the Spring, when the trees have grown their needles."
Further information about P. ramorum can be found on the Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum.
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum) is a ‘quarantine’ organism under European Union law and its suspected presence must be notified to the relevant authorities (the Forestry Commission, Fera, the Welsh Assembly Government or the Scottish Government). It was first found in Britain on a viburnum plant in a nursery in 2002.
- P. ramorum can kill many of the plants that it infects, but symptoms vary according to the species. On Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi) trees, it causes shoot tips to wilt and needles to turn black and fall prematurely. Cankers that bleed resin can appear on the branches and upper trunk. Infected Japanese larch trees produce particularly high numbers of the spores that spread the disease – five times the level produced on rhododendron - meaning the disease can quickly affect a large number of trees and shrubs.
- P. ramorum was first discovered on Japanese larch trees in Great Britain in 2009 in South West England. It was then found on larch in South Wales in June 2010 in public woodlands in the Afan Valley, near Port Talbot, in the Garw Valley, near Bridgend and in the Vale of Glamorgan.
- Larch is a durable, versatile timber that tolerates changes between wet and dry conditions very well, and resists rotting when used in the ground. It is therefore in demand for outdoor uses such as fence posts, fence 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.
- About 14 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government. Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf. Forestry Commission Wales provides advice on forestry policy to the Minister responsible for forestry. It provides grant aid to other woodland owners and regulates forestry by issuing felling licences. It is also part of Forestry Commission GB and contributes to the international forestry agenda. More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales.
Mary Galliers, firstname.lastname@example.org , tel: 0300 068 0057.