The forestry sector in south west Scotland has been working flat out to help Forestry Commission Scotland’s effort to combat the impact of the deadly larch disease, P ramorum.
Harvesters and processors have been working with Forestry Commission Scotland since August to fell infected and dead trees, both in a bid to slow its spread further east and north and to salvage as much marketable timber as possible.
John Dougan, The Commission’s South Scotland Conservator is co-ordinating the industry-wide response to the disease. He said: “This is going to be a long, demanding and challenging job but we are working flat-out on responding to this and working closely with our existing customer base we have secured the necessary resource to have fifteen operational harvesting teams working on larch across Galloway.
“So far they have cleared around 700ha of larch - that’s about 700 international rugby pitches - which is a 300% increase on pre-disease levels. The focus has been on the eastern and northern parts of the District – the two fronts if you like – where essentially we’ve been trying to widen the gap between diseased trees and healthy trees, making it more difficult for the disease to spread.”
The Commission’s response to the disease, which affects as much as 5,000ha of larch, is likely to require at least two years to complete and involves felling infected trees and any larch within 250m. It will mean that the annual over-all harvest in Galloway will increase from the usual 720,000 m3 mark to over 1M m3.
Forest District Manager for Galloway Rob Soutar added: “Thanks to the very good response from local processing companies we have also secured market outlets for this additional material. Their readiness to adapt their work programmes to help deal with some of this timber has been very welcome and a great advert for the area.
“It’s required a lot of juggling and shifting our plans around to get this underway but we’ve made a good start. We’re striving to get as much done as we can before next spring, when any further spread of the disease will become apparent.”
Over the winter months the harvesting teams will also be working in main recreation areas of the forest, such as Kirroughtree, to try and minimise the impact on the tourism trade at the start of the season.
More information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorumscotland
The disease poses no threat to human or animal health.