Larch tree-killing disease found near Newcastleton

Larch trees affected by Phytophthora ramorum
Larch trees affected by Phytophthora ramorum
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A larch tree-killing disease, which wiped out many in Dumfries and Galloway, has spread to the Borders, The Southern has learned.

This week Forestry Commission Scotland (FSC) confirmed the disease had been found in privately-owned woods near Newcastleton.

An FCS spokesman said: “Phytophthora ramorum is a serious plant disease and, although it can affect a number of tree species, the current main threat to forestry is its impact on larch trees, which usually die once infected.”

The fungus-like pathogen, spread by air, water or by contact from the likes of boots or tools, was first found in Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway in 2010. FCS have been monitoring it by aerial surveys since.

The spokesman continued: “This year it has become clear that the disease on larch had considerably increased its range, and is badly affecting the south-west of Scotland after the exceptionally wet and windy conditions in that area during 2012.”

Trained surveyors are checking sites further afield that are deemed suspicious. “One of the sites was near Newcastleton and field tests have confirmed recently that the disease is present,“ said the spokesman.

“The site has just been served with an initial Statutory Plant Health Notice and this now requires the infected larch and other larch adjacent to the site to be felled, amounting to some 2.4 ha of felling before the end of September.”

He said there was no hope of eradicating the disease now, but that FCS was working closely with private foresters to slow its spread and severity outside south-west Scotland.

Meanwhile the public is urged to clean off mud and plant material from clothes, boots, tyres and dogs before and after visiting woodlands. “This is particularly important if you are going on to visit other woodlands, plant collections and parks or gardens,” said the spokesman.