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RFS welcomes £1.5 million for Chalara research but calls for more support for landowners
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Simon Lloyd, RFS Director of Development, responds to news of £1.5 million for Chalara research

Date Issued: 27 March 2013

 

The RFS has welcomed a £1.5 million research project to identify Chalara-resistant ash trees, but is appealing for an expansion of the ‘high priority’ area of support for landowners.

Although all landowners will receive grant support to replant sites with other species, only those in a high-priority band running from Cornwall and Devon and north through Gloucester and up to the Midlands will also receive support to remove and dispose of recently planted ash and replace them with other species.

However, the RFS believes many new cases are likely to be identified in recently planted ash outside the area during the coming spring and summer, leading to an ‘unfair’ postcode lottery in support available.

The RFS is also calling for greater flexibility on the choice of species to replace ash, including partial replacement by non-natives and conifers.

The research project announced on 26 March 2013 by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will see a quarter of a million young ash trees planted in up to 25 sites, mainly in East Anglia. The young trees will be exposed and monitored in the search for resistance.

RFS Director of Development Simon Lloyd said: “We recognise that the long lead times needed to research, develop and licence an effective fungicide mean research and development of disease-resistant ash may be a more effective use of resources longer term. We therefore support the Government’s focus on this.”

The RFS is proactively working with partners to help its members identify and manage the current risks, and has supported Confor’s call for the Government to underpin the cost of felling, replanting and re-establishing trees and woodlands which have been lost to ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea).

The RFS is also supporting the Government’s OPAL initiative to roll out the Tree Health Survey nationally and is updating its briefing on how to identify and respond to Chalara in line with the Government advice. This will shortly be available on the RFS website.

Simon added: “We recognise that this advice needs to be put in the context of specific circumstances which will vary between locations, and depend on the owner’s management objectives. Active management is likely to lead to better control of the disease that a do-nothing strategy.

“The RFS will assist its members by sharing woodland owners’ experiences of tackling the disease. It is vital that this knowledge is shared quickly. The Forestry Commission also has a role to disseminate this information and the RFS is well placed to work with the FC to do this.”

The RFS is also actively promoting strategies of species diversification to increase resilience in woodlands.