A new tree disease has been discovered in Britain

Imported trees from the Netherlands are to be destroyed following the discovery of ash dieback disease.

The serious fungal disease ash dieback has hit the UK for the first time after 2,000 imported trees from the Netherlands were sold by mail order from a southern nursery.

Chalara fraxinea pseudo albidus-infected specimens were bought by 90 customers who received a notice to destroy from the Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) last month.

FERA principal plant health and seeds inspector Derek McCann said the disease is “a serious concern”. It has been in continental Europe for 30 years and causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees and it may lead to tree death. Up to 90 per cent of ash trees on the continent have been affected.

The 1m and 1.5m ashes were supplied by a Dutch trading company but sourced from overseas nurseries that FERA is still trying to identify. The new tree disease is not an EU regulated pest.

McCann said he was confident that all 2,000 specimens would be destroyed. “Because they were sold mail order, we have accurate lists of who bought them. The legal requirement is for destruction. That means taking them out of the ground, chopping up, double-bagging and taking to landfill. Burning could fall foul of Environment Agency regulations.”

He added that plant health inspectors were more aware of the disease and would be on the lookout for it on regular inspections, but would not be making special visits to nurseries.

Ash is not regulated by plant passports but McCann said FERA would do as much as it can to eradicate the pest and ensure the infected batch “will have been destroyed”.

A Forestry Commission risk assessment on the level of threat is said to be imminent and will be published for consultation.

Exotic pest alert

Forest Research has produced a pest alert. See https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/research/ash-dieback-disease-pest-alert/. Report suspected cases to its Tree Health Diagnostic & Advisory Service.