11:42am Wednesday 3rd April 2013
A £1.5 MILLION project to find Chalara-resistantashtreeshas been announced by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
It will see250,000young ash trees planted in up to 25 sites, largely in East Anglia where the most cases occur.
The young trees will be exposed and monitored for resistance.
Mr Paterson said: “We know we can’t stop Chalara infecting our ash trees so we have to throw our resources into managing it and slowing the spread.
“A key part of that strategy will be identifying those trees which have a natural resistance to the disease so that we can re-stock our woodlands in the future.”
He said monitoring 250,000 young ash trees was unprecedented and meant the UK was leading the way in trying to find resistant strains.
Genetic resistance will also be explored in the laboratory.
The Government will also help landowners replace recently-planted infected young ash trees with others. It will buy existing stocks of ash saplings to plant in the East and South-East. Defra scientists and the Forestry Commission will work with landowners to monitor the trees for signs ofChalara,payingparticular attention to saplings which show resistance.
Chalara is an airborne disease blown from the continent andimpossible topreventfrom spreading. However, its impact and spread could be slowed over generations with proper strategies in place.
These include removing young infected ash saplings; continuing with the ban on the movement of ash trees; and monitoring established woods and forests. From April landowners will be able to apply for grants to plant other trees in areas where they would once have planted ash.
Owners of woodland in areas with lower levels of Chalara will be able to access funding to help remove infected ash saplings and replant with alternative trees.
Meanwhile, 14 chemical treatments will undergo laboratory testing to assess their effectiveness on live trees and leaf litter.
Dorothy Fairburn, North regional director of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) welcomed the plan.
“We are particularly pleased the Government has resisted the temptation to issue compulsory fellingnotices and chosento give landownershelp towards the costs of removing and replacing young infected ash trees.”
Confor, which represents 2,000 UK forest and wood using businesses, welcomed the announcement but questioned where additional resources would come from and their adequacy.
It said ten to 12 million ash trees have been planted over the past five years yet the Government expected replanting to be mainly completed next winter.
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