Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Questions (20)

Richard Boyd Barrett


20. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide a detailed report on the disease discovered in Gougane Barra Forest Park, County Cork and the subsequent felling of trees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13944/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Gougane Barra Forest Park, County Cork is managed by Coillte Teoranta. Day-to-day operational matters, such as the management of their forest estate, are the responsibility of the company.

In relation to this matter, the company has advised that on Friday 3rd of January 2014, Phytophthora ramorum had been confirmed on Japanese larch trees in Gougane Barra Forest Park, County Cork. Samples were taken from different suspected larch areas in the park which were confirmed as positive from two separate laboratories on both a morphological and molecular basis. To prevent the further spread of the disease, control measures were implemented in accordance with Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine protocols.

Felling the infected trees is the appropriate measure with the aim of preventing further spread by limiting spore production. If no action is taken, the larch within the park would succumb to the disease over a short number of years and act as a source for further infection. Once the larch is cleared, Coillte will commence replanting with a range of different tree species including species such as Scots pine and oak.

Harvesting, which started in January is progressing with approximately 70% of the felling complete. There has been some storm damage in Gougane that will have to be cleared up but it is expected the park will remain closed for six months from when the operations began until its completion. Coillte estimate that up to 16,000 trees, primarily Japanese larch will be felled and removed under licence from the site for processing at approved facilities.

Phytophthora ramorum is a fungus like disease that can affect a range of tree and other plant species with Japanese larch particularly susceptible. Coillte have been working closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to detect and prevent the spread of this disease and has carried out all its operations in accordance with and subject to the protocols established by the Department. Regrettably, Gougane Barra is one of 20 Coillte forests where the disease has been confirmed in Japanese larch since first detected on the species in 2010.

In late 2002 the EU introduced Emergency Measures to reduce the risk of further introductions and spread of Phytophthora ramorum into the EU. Under the legislation surveys have been conducted annually by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Prior to 2010 the disease had been detected only on 'wild' Rhododendron bushes growing in woodlands in this country. Also prior to 2010, it has been detected in this country on imported commercial Rhododendron and other ornamental nursery stock.

Pure Japanese larch stands make up less than 2% of the Coillte forest estate and to date Coillte have carried out felling on 150 hectares of forest in an effort to contain and prevent the spread of this disease. Infected sites can range from recently planted areas to mature forests. Timber from infected Japanese larch can still be used, so after felling and having put in place the appropriate biosecurity precautions, the logs can be taken under licence to authorised processing facilities under Departmental approval.