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Killer disease found in sitka spruce trees; FOREST CONCERN.

A deadly tree disease has been discovered in Dumfries and Galloway's most valuable timber crop.

Forestry Commission Scotland said sitka spruce trees at a single Galloway site were infected.

A single tree near Ae village was also found with the fungal pathogen phytophthora ramorum.

All affected trees have been felled as a precautionary measure, FCS said.

It says the outbreak has been contained because sitka has high resistance to the fungus, which rots shoots and damages bark.

Around 5000 hectares of larch in Galloway Forest Park, which FCS runs, have already been killed, damaged or felled.

Environmental groups say the outbreak should sound alarm bells for Scotland's PS1bn forestry industry.

Woodlands Trust Scotland spokesman George Anderson said: "A lot of people are downplaying this. We are not against what FCS is saying but we should not be complacent about the potential for something bad to happen and we need to guard against that.

"There is no sign yet of this thing being as calamitous for sitka spruce as it had been for larch.

"But with climate change that may not remain the case in future. It could be ranorum or another fungus or an imported pest.

"If anything does affect sitka then that is the entire industry broken. Should that happen, the forestry industry would not be able to react quickly enough.

"That is we why should not rely on a single species. Sitka might tick all the boxes but I would urge the planting of other trees.

"They may not be quite so ideal commercially but it would safeguard us in the long term."

An FCS spokesmansaid: "Findings of P. ramorum on sitka spruce are not new.

There have been a number of historical findings, none of which have shown signs of disease expansion in adjacent spruce crops. The incidents have been very small and tends to be found in trees that are already dead or dying.

"Scientific evidence shows that Sitka spruce is considered to be of very low susceptibility to P. ramorum and no negative impacts have been observed on the large areas of Sitka spruce adjacent to infected stands of larch in south-west Scotland."

He added: "We will, of course, continue to investigate the new cases and have initiated additional surveillance, but early indications and previous experience suggest that the impact on Sitka spruce is likely to be minimal."

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Publication:Dumfries and Galloway Standard (Dumfriesshire, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 23, 2018
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