Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Questions (193)

Seán Kyne


193. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide an update on the progress of measures introduced to combat the effects of the ash die-back disease. [21866/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Since the first confirmed finding of Chalara Ash Dieback disease in October 2012 at a forest site planted in 2009 with saplings from a consignment of imported plants, my Department has been carrying out a nationwide survey of ash forests which are known to have been planted in recent years with imported saplings. This survey since been extended to cover ash plantations established since 1992 as well as trees planted under AEOS and REPS.

In order to mitigate the risk of further infected ash stock entering the country and causing further outbreaks of the disease, the Department introduced legislation on 26th October 2012 to prohibit the importation of plant material from areas known to be infected with the disease. On 6th November 2012, further legislation was introduced to limit the movement of ash wood into the country.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Northern Ireland in order to implement an all-island approach to tackling the disease.

My Department is liaising closely with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and Great Britain to update the Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) for Chalara fraxinea. This document will address the issue of wood as a possible pathway for the disease and examine the appropriateness of the current legislation. The PRA is currently undergoing external peer review. In addition, the two Departments are working to finalise an all-island Chalara Control Strategy.

To date, 36 forestry plantations have tested positive for the disease at various locations across the country. The disease has also been confirmed at 15 horticultural nurseries, 8 roadside landscaping projects, 3 garden centres, 2 private gardens and 10 farms. All findings to date have been associated with imported plants.

Arrangements have been put in place to remove all ash trees from sites where the disease has been confirmed and from associated sites where trees from the same infected batch has also been planted. Approximately 535 hectares of ash woodlands have been identified for removal so far.

A grant scheme has been introduced to support forest owners in the removal and destruction of infected, and potentially infected, trees and to replant with alternative species.

In the coming weeks our efforts from an awareness point of view will be focussed on the relevant Divisions within my Department working closely with Teagasc to deliver a series of Chalara Information Meetings around the country. The Department will send a text alert out to 90,000 farmers about the events.

These 22 meetings will focus on the background to Ash Dieback, how to recognise the ash tree and ash leaves, how to recognise symptoms of ash dieback and to give farmers information on what steps they should take if they spot the disease as part of their young forestry plantation or AEOS planting. This is all in an effort to seek out and eradicate the disease.