(L-R) Caleb Whymark, Ian Walker and Jack Lewis inspect an ash tree with lecturer Mike Hirst and Defra's Andrew Kirkwood

Students Learn More About Threat To Nation's Ash Trees

Thu, 20/12/2001 - 00:00

Students from East Durham College have been treated to a talk regarding ash dieback by a leading professional working on the problem.

Andrew Kirkwood, a Plant Health and Seeds Inspector for DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Public Affairs, visited the College’s Durham-based campus at Houghall to talk to students about the serious problem that could affect ash trees across the British Isles.

Chalara dieback of ash is a serious disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Chalara fraxinea. The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and usually leads to tree death.

The disease has been travelling across Europe over the last few years affecting a large amount of trees and in February of this year it was found in a consignment of infected trees sent from a nursery in the Netherlands to a nursery in Buckinghamshire, England.

Over the past few months hundreds of government officials have continued to survey over a thousand UK sites for the disease, with a total of 257 confirmed cases of the disease.

But more will be known about the level of infection across Britain next summer when the new batch of ash trees come through, Andrew though is keeping a positive head on the situation and believes people could be pleasantly surprised after next year’s survey.

Andrew said: “A rapid analysis across the country showed us that yes we have got the disease here, but it’s not widespread, it’s not everywhere and in the short term that’s good news.

“At the moment we can say that the disease is dormant in affect, nothing has been spread - so the next phase for us comes next spring, early summer time.

“We need to see if the wilted, infected leaves have travelled and if the disease has become fairly widespread, if so then yes maybe we have lost this fight but I have a feeling people will be pleasantly surprised and in most of the country the ash are going to look exactly like they did last year.

“I am still positive and confident we haven’t lost this fight.”

And Andrew hopes that from today’s talk to the horticulture and arboriculture students they will now understand more about the situation and how a major organisation such as DEFRA works through a national problem such as ash dieback.

Andrew added: “I think a lot of the students today had an idea before they came to the lecture about what was going on regarding the disease in this country.

“I hope I have given them a bit more information regarding the disease and also how we, the government and DEFRA, deal with a problem like this on such a large scale, helping them understand more of the behind-the-scenes of the story like the policies and legislations as well as the real statistics behind it.”

For more information on ash dieback please visit DEFRA’s website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/

If you are interested in enrolling on a full or part time course at the College’s Houghall Campus you can view our Houghall prospectus here or call 0191 375 4710.