Larch tree disease found in Galloway

An infected larch tree north of Newton Stewart
An infected larch tree north of Newton Stewart

AN outbreak of a tree-killing disease has been confirmed in woodland north of Newton stewart.

The fungus-like disease, called Ramorum, was discovered after a recent aerial survey of the west of Scotland and is the third on Japanese larch in Scotland, the first two being found earlier this year on the Craignish peninsula and on the island of Mull.

On larch trees, the disease first causes crown and branch dieback with retained dead needles and resinous lesions. Tree needles wilt, turning grey or blackish before dying.

Tree death can follow within a matter of months and the only way to contain the disease is to fell the area and surrounding trees and host plants.

Hugh Clayden, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Tree Health Policy Adviser said: “The area affected currently appears to be some 15-20 hectares in size and we are working with the land managers to confirm the extent of the infections and the measures required to deal with them.

“It is unclear at this stage how the disease arrived here but our site investigations may help provide the necessary clues. The spread of the disease is a serious concern to those in the forestry sector and we need to continue to monitor the situation very closely.

”The relevant forestry associations have been informed and we ask woodland owners to remain vigilant and to report any suspected signs of tree disease to the Commission.”

Interim measures will be put in place as a precaution pending further surveys this autumn and next spring/summer. These are likely to include restrictions on the planting of further larch in this area and controls on the movement of larch timber from sites that may have become infected.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “The Ramorum disease has already resulted in more than two million trees being felled around the UK as the Forestry Commission tries to stop its spread. Our area is known for its woodland and forests, and I’m deeply concerned by the news of an outbreak of this disease in Dumfries and Galloway.

“We’re in autumn when trees are giving off spores, which means this disease could quickly spread. The key to tackling this outbreak near Newton Stewart is to find any other areas that have been contaminated and deal with them quickly.”