Friday, 2 November 2012

Ash Die Back disease

A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house  

Eighteen months ago, when Rachel Johnston and her acolytes where campaigning to 'Save our Forests' I wrote a blog saying that 'if they where really serious about 'Saving our Forests' they ought to campaign, not to stop the sale of the Public Forestry Estate to the private sector but to stop the importation of plants from abroad, as the biggest threat to our woodland was not a change of ownership of some woods but the bugs and diseases which where coming into this country via the plant trade.

Well there was - surprise surprise- a deafening silence on this matter from Rachel and her chums and sadly what I predicted then has come true far quicker than even I anticipated with the arrival of Chalara Fraxinea, or Ash die back as it is now popularly known, in East Anglia and Kent.

I wrote a letter to The Times on the topic the other day which they kindly printed. It went as follows: 

Dear Sir

The outbreak of Chalara Fraxinea fungus in ash trees was entirely predictable and thus entirely avoidable.  It has happened because DEFRA has totally failed in it's primary function of protecting the biodiversity of these islands. I and others have been warning of the inevitability of this tragedy for some time but successive governments have refused to ban the imports of trees and plants from foreign nurseries which are the source of not only Chalara Fraxinea in ash but of the Processionary Moth in oak trees and of P.Ramorum in Larch. the excuse successive governments ministers have given for their failure to implement a ban on the importation of all foreign plant materials is that would be contrary to our obligations under the EU Single market. furthermore when I recently questioned DEFRA officials as to why, when they knew Oak Processionary Moth had arrived in this country from Holland they were still allowing imports of oak trees from that source I received the amazing reply, that, as now the Oak Processionary Moth was in the UK we could no longer ban the importation of trees which might carry further infestation.

It is only by the banning of all plant imports into this country that we can protect our unique biodiversity and it is high time this was recognised by the government. 


  1. I hope that this view is taken on board. There has been too much distraction about the possibility of the disease coming from Europe by wind and far too much focus solely on Ash. As you correctly identify, the root cause is that we continue to import trees from Europe directly into our forests. My nursery has lost a lot of business over the years to rivals importing cheap trees and I hope that this is the time we all get onto an even footing and all the trees are grown in the UK. History will judge us very harshly if we destroy the nation's woodlands just to save a few pence on trees.

  2. The Australians banned any plants or even exports packed in wood around a decade ago cos' they knew their own plantlife would be threatened like this. So if they can do it and police it then why can't we ? Because people just can't be arsed about it and just don't care to admit that's the case.

  3. All the time it is only about money, we will continue to have these problems.
    I think Minkiesmum, the protection against imported materials has been going a lot loger than a decade. New Zealand is very careful about what is allowed to enter the country. Certainly no plant material and no unauthorised foodstuffs. Even chocolate bars were confiscated at the airport.