Global Agriculture

Forestry Commission lifts Phytophthora pluvialis restrictions on timber industry

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17 January 2023, UK: Restrictions on the felling and movement of timber in six demarcated areas in England impacted by the tree disease Phytophthora pluvialis will be lifted, the Forestry Commission announced today.

The UK Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence has confirmed the changes following updated research which shows that the risk of the disease spreading via the movement of timber and wood materials into wider sites is low.  A Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) has been carried out and updated following consultations and latest research findings.

Phytophthora pluvialis is a fungus-like pathogen known to affect a variety of tree species, including western hemlock, Douglas fir, tanoak and several pine species (in particular radiata pine). It is reported to cause needle cast (where needles turn brown and fall off), shoot dieback, and lesions on the stem, branches, and roots.

Current restrictions in England on the affected sites in Cornwall & Devon, Cumbria, Herefordshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, and Shropshire restrict the felling and movement of susceptible timber and wood materials (wood, bark and trees), as well as plants for planting, which originate within the demarcated areas. The new demarcated area notices will no longer restrict the felling and movement of susceptible timber and wood material but will continue to restrict the movement of plants for planting.

We continue to research and monitor the level of risk and likelihood of entry of the disease into the wider environment and will keep the revised demarcated area restrictions under review. This revised approach will the forestry sector return to more typical operating conditions within the demarcated areas. Authorisation through your local APHA inspector is still required for any movement of plants for planting within the demarcated area. Additionally, susceptible material from known infected sites within the demarcated areas continues to be restricted and can only be received by authorised businesses, more details can be found on GOV.UK.

UK Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence said:

Following findings of Phytophthora Pluvialis, swift, robust and precautionary action was taken at the affected sites to limit the spread of this potentially harmful pathogen into wider areas. Some of these restrictions are now being lifted, in line with the latest science which shows the risk of the disease spreading via timber movement pathways is low. We are confident that this move strikes the right balance between stringent biosecurity and supporting forestry sector trade.

I urge all sectors to continue to be vigilant for signs of Phytophthora pluvialis by checking the health of western hemlock and Douglas-fir trees. Key symptoms to look out for are lesions on the stem, branch or roots. Any sightings should be reported to the Forestry Commission via its TreeAlert online portal.

Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Forestry’s Operations Manager Andy Hall said:

Based on current research which shows the risk of P. pluvialis spreading via timber movement pathways is low, we have revoked some restrictions in the demarcated areas in Cornwall & Devon, Cumbria, Herefordshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, and Shropshire.

Any material from uninfected sites will no longer have restrictions on movement and processing and does not have to be inspected and moved to authorised processors only. Restrictions do however remain in place on movement of plants for planting and materials arising from infected sites within these areas.

Research and monitoring of the level of risk and likelihood of entry of the disease into the wider environment continues and we will keep the demarcated area approach under review.

Phytophthora Pluvialis was first identified in Great Britain in August 2021 on a stand of western hemlock in Cornwall. Following further findings, fourteen demarcated areas have been implemented around outbreak sites across Great Britain, with six in England. Corresponding plant health requirements restricting the felling and movement of susceptible timber and wood materials (wood, bark and trees), as well as plants for planting, were based on the pathogen’s behaviour observed in other countries. Forestry Commission, Forest Research and the Animal and Plant Health Agency have conducted further surveillance and diagnostic analysis to understand more about the pathogen and ensure that any required control measures were swiftly undertaken to stop its spread. This included extensive ground and aerial surveillance as part of a UK-wide survey, and comprehensive research and modelling to explore factors such as climatic and potential species susceptibility to inform the management response.

Our well-established biosecurity protocol for tree pests and diseases is under constant review to ensure our policy approaches are appropriate to the level of risk. This approach will continue based on further research and continued monitoring of the pathogen.

Further information:

  • The demarcated area notices have been revoked in part in line with regulation 17(3) of the Official Control (Plant Health and Genetically Modified Organisms) (England) Regulations 2019, which allows for the revocation of a notice in whole or in part by way of issuing a further notice. New notices will be re-issued under regulation 17 (2) in relation to the presence of a controlled plant pest.
  • For behind-the-scenes insight into the ongoing science, surveillance and eradication efforts controlling the spread of Phytophthora pluvialis, read this blog.
  • Further information on tree pests and diseases, and how to identify them, is available here.
  • Landowners are asked to report any suspect trees via TreeAlert.
  • Trees are at the forefront of the government’s plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, to help to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, improve the environment and to create thousands of green jobs while better connecting people with nature.
  • The England Trees Action Plan, supported by circa £750 million from the Nature for Climate Fund, is a once-in-a-generation plan to help achieve this vision. We will see an unprecedented number of trees planted, protected and managed to deliver more for society, nature, the climate and the economy, setting us on a path to realise our longer-term ambitions for increased tree cover.

Also Read: Union Bank sanctions loans for 150 Garuda Kisan drones under Kisan Pushpak scheme

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