Doyle announces review of national response to Ash Dieback Disease, more options to be introduced for landowners

ash dieback fungus (hymenoscyphus fraxineus) on european ash. symptoms of ascomycete pathogenic fungus causing leaf loss on common ash tree (fraxinus excelsior)
Copyright: ianredding / 123RF Stock Photo

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle TD recently announced a review of the national response to the Ash Dieback disease. This includes a review of the Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme and the All Ireland Chalara Control Strategy (2013). The review comes after high-level stakeholder meeting in Dublin which received updated scientific advice on the prevalence of the disease in ash plantations in Ireland.

Following the meeting with Stakeholders, Minister Doyle stated “It is time for a new approach in Ireland to Ash Dieback. It is clear from the latest scientific advice that eradication here is no longer considered feasible. Given this updated advice, our policy response must also change.I am announcing today a detailed public consultation period on the policy response to the disease. The Reconstitution Ash Dieback scheme will be reviewed to ensure its continued relevance and value for money, and to ensure that the forest owner is provided with a broader range of silvicultural and management options.

The stakeholder meeting received updates from DAFM and Teagasc forestry experts on the latest international scientific advice and experience of dealing with the disease as well as updates from the Forest Service of Northern Ireland on their policy response to the disease. To help inform the public consultation, the presentations have been published on the DAFM website (details below).

The Minister continued “For farmers, this new policy response will mean more options if their forests are affected by the disease and we will continue to inform and support them if they have ash dieback. I believe many farmers with ash dieback on larger trees would like the opportunity to grow the forest on and produce a crop of ash timber without the fear of their annual premiums being stopped. As a first step, I am announcing with immediate effect that we will no longer be ending premium payments to farmers who wish to continue with cultivating their ash plantation where the prevalence of the disease is low”.

Since the first finding of Chalara or Ash Dieback disease caused by the fungus  Hymenoscyphus fraxineus in 2012, there are now over 560 plantations that have been confirmed with the disease in addition to other findings in nurseries, roadsides, gardens, farms and hedgerows. The Department currently run two schemes that assist landowners with Ash Dieback disease. The Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme and the Woodland Improvement Scheme – Tending and Thinning. The Minister confirmed that any existing applications already received for the Reconstitution scheme by the Department will be honoured in full and that any new applications received since last Friday will be assessed under the new Scheme.

Since 2013 the Department has partnered with Forestry Commission in the UK in efforts to breed for resistance. The Department is also funding Teagasc to carry out additional work in this area. On breeding for resistance the Minister stated “I am delighted to see the work being carried out by the Department and Teagasc on breeding ash trees for resistance to ash dieback  and understand results so far from trials laid down show that some Irish trees show strong resistance to the disease and we can breed from these trees and we hope to get back planting ash in the future.

The Minister concluded “this Review recognises that living with the disease and managing forests accordingly will become a reality for most forest owners particularly those with older ash stands. I am encouraging anybody with an interest in this subject to make known their views as part of our consultation and full details can be found on my Department’s website on how to make a submission by the closing date of 18 May”.