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Ash tree disease – crisis deepens

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 03, 2012

Ash trees
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A chronic shortage of plant experts risks making it almost impossible to control the disease threatening up to one million ash trees in the Westcountry.

As the Government's crisis committee Cobra met yesterday to discuss the disease threatening woodland, the Western Morning News learned that the country now has fewer than ten experts qualified to deal with infections in trees.

The British Society for Plant Pathology claims the subject has been either cancelled completely or greatly reduced at universities and colleges.

The increase in imported tree diseases – matched by a national decrease in the number of plant pathologists – has been described as "the perfect storm" by a leading Westcountry professor.

Yesterday's Cobra meeting heard how 100,000 British trees have already been destroyed in a bid to prevent ash-dieback disease spreading – but at the same time Exeter University's Professor Murray Grant warned that courses in plant pathology had almost disappeared and the number of experts qualified to identify complex diseases in trees had reduced to single figures.

"We're not training people – which means it is a perfect storm," said professor Grant, who heads the university's plant molecular biology unit.

"We are getting a large number of diseases coming into this country as the global economy increases, but at the same time there are far fewer people being trained in the subject."

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 04 2012, 1:11PM

    Why can't we grow our own ash trees here instead of importing them? We can and do grow our own trees, and people have the option to specify British-grown trees and plants if they wish. We strongly advise tree and plant buyers to be very careful to specify healthy stock from reputable suppliers, to practise good plant hygiene and biosecurity in their own gardens and woodlands etc to prevent accidental spread of plant diseases, and to report any plant diseases. Buyers should also be aware that seed gathered from British trees is sometimes sent to nurseries in continental Europe to be cultivated before being reimported as seedlings.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 04 2012, 1:04PM

    Why have FC/Fera not acted before now? This has been an evolving situation. The organism which was at one time thought to be causing this disease has been present in Great Britain since the 1800s and is already widespread, so legislative action against it would not have been appropriate. But with better scientific techniques we now know that a different organism is responsible. The origins of this organism are not known.

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  • kernewekonan  |  November 04 2012, 12:18PM

    i agree tuftyaurelius with all you say. as usual this shower in power cannot see a foot in front of their noses. they have known about this for a long time yet only now have the stopped the import of these trees and why is there a need to import them anyway? i have a large area of garden and there is no shortage of ash saplings.

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  • tuftyaurelius  |  November 03 2012, 11:13PM

    Ignorance, stupidity and non-funding of subjects like Botany, Plant Pathology and Physiology by this wretched Government has allowed this to happen and this disease to go unchecked! All those dimwit, excessively paid ministers and bureacrats should all be sacked!

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