Friday, November 9, 2012
OWNERS of a long-established nursery have taken drastic action, burning hundreds of trees amid fears a fungal disease could take root.
Ash dieback – a disease killing ash trees – is spreading across the UK with more than 80 cases reported.
That has forced one nursery, King and Co, in Rayne, into taking a decision to destroy 200 trees this week as a preventative measure. Owner Paul King told the Broadcast the loss of trees would cost the business around £10,000.
“Our trees don’t have the disease, but we are removing them as a precaution,” he explained.
“We have cleared out all the other ash trees in the last two months and we are also clearing out our Beazley End nursery. We are pre-empting any problems with belt-and-braces action – it may seem drastic but it’s not when you have £250,000 of stock.”
Mr King, whose business has been established for 35 years, said that burning the healthy trees had been a depressing experience – one he blamed on a “reactive government”.
“It’s quite galling for us to have to do all this. Basically the government has missed the boat on preventing a serious outbreak of tree disease,” he said. “Bio-security in the UK is an absolute joke – the ban on imports should have been put in place a year ago.
“Successive governments, including this one, are just not prepared to spend funds on stopping lorries at the border. Anything could be coming in and until we start employing sufficient resources to tackle this issue on our borders, then it’ll just carry on.”
Scientists say the infection in native ash trees has been caused by a fungus, Chalara fraxinea, which is believed to have been carried on the wind from mainland Europe.
Cases of the fungus have been confirmed in ash trees in 14 nurseries, 36 planting sites and 32 forests and woodlands in the UK. A further case was spotted in Essex this week – the first in the wild outside Norfolk and Suffolk.
In the last six weeks, 100,000 ash trees have been destroyed and experts say it may be too late to stop the spread of the fungus. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was due to chair a summit on ash dieback on Wednesday.
In Uttlesford the National Trust, which owns the popular tourist venue at Hatfield Forest, is on alert for cases.
A spokesman said: “Our ranger teams have been out surveying their ash trees and are taking precautions when moving vehicles from one site to another and also hosing off boots.
“The countryside is very much open and scientific guidance is that the risk of spreading the fungus by foot or animal is very low.
“If a case were to arise we would follow guidance from the Forestry Commission.
“A containment notice would be issued and steps taken either to quarantine the area or destroy the affected tree.”