Bishop of St Albans asks about control of diseases effecting trees

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 21st March 2022:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to limit the spread of Phytophthora ramorum in trees in England.

Lord Benyon (Con): Phytophthora ramorum is primarily distributed across the western regions of GB affecting larch plantations. For over twelve years we have had a robust management programme in place, including aerial and ground-based surveillance and risk-based inspections at nurseries and retail sites. Scotland and Wales have their own management programmes.

Where it is found, given the economic impact of the disease to the forestry industry, Statutory Plant Health Notices are served requiring the destruction of infected trees and those nearby. Specific measures are taken related to the handling, movement and processing of larch infected with P. ramorum, to prevent the spread through the trade in timber and related products.

Government guidance and grants are available through Countryside Stewardship for restocking woodland post P. ramorum infection, and for the removal of immature larch and rhododendron. Further financial support is available through the tree health pilot, which aims to test further support for land managers, including farmers, so they can act against tree pests and diseases which attack our trees, woods, and forests.


The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to limit the spread of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus causing ash dieback in England.

Lord Benyon (Con): Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the fungus responsible for ash dieback disease, is spread via spores in the air/wind. The spores are produced in the leaf litter and can spread for considerable distances before infecting another ash tree. It is not possible to limit the spread of the disease at a national level, and it is now present in all counties.

The severity and impact of the disease at a local level varies by tree age and condition, climate, the presence of secondary pathogens and other environmental factors. Removal of leaf litter may be an effective way to reduce the level of inoculum in certain conditions, for example around high value trees in urban environments. Government grants are available for private landowners, to help with costs associated with ecological surveys and felling roadside ash, and also to restock with alternative species. Local authorities can also apply for funds to restore landscapes ecologically degraded by ash dieback.

The Government has invested more than £8 million to advance our scientific understanding of this disease since it was first detected, including into the development of resistant ash trees. We have conducted the world’s largest screening trials for tolerant trees and have planted over 3000 trees of 1000 genotypes in the first UK archive of tolerant ash. They have been drawn from a wide geographic spread to maximise the genetic diversity in the collection and facilitate the possibility of a future breeding programme of resilient ash.


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