A devastating disease has been found on ash trees in Ireland which had been imported from mainland Europe. The Department of Agriculture has belatedly banned the import of ash transplants. Ash dieback or Chalara fraxinea is reported to have killed 90% of the ash in Denmark. A great number of ash transplants planted by the farming community in recent years were imported. It is believed that ash trees in England have been contaminated by fungal spores air borne from as far away as Holland so it is unlikely that Ireland’s ash population will not be affected. While the traditional methods of selecting seed from the best local tree and sowing and growing our own ash rather than relying on cheap imports may not have saved us from the disease it would surely have contributed more to the survival of our own truly native trees.
This is the most recent update on the spread of the disease from the Department Of Agriculture and Food Dept of Agriculture
Over the course of the first seven months of 2017, i.e. from 1st January to 31st July, findings of Ash Dieback Disease have been confirmed in a further 62 forestry plantations. These findings bring the current total of findings in forestry plantations to 384. All the new forestry plantation findings to date in 2017 are in counties where there have previously been confirmed findings in forestry plantations and as so, the number of counties with forests affected by Ash Dieback Disease remains unchanged at 24. Notable increases in the frequency of findings in forestry plantations were recorded in Counties Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford, Kildare, Meath, Cavan, and Clare.
Current government policy is to live with the disease. In practice, remove the damaged and unsafe trees and see if good plants will fight off the disease and continue to grow. Many Government and educational/research bodies have come together to try and find resistant trees and propagate these vegetatively, so that Irish ash can continue to be planted in Ireland.
In December 2012 the Department delisted ash as a tree species approved under the afforestation grant schemes and shortly thereafter delisted ash from the trees species approved under the agri-environment options scheme (AEOS, now GLAS). In 2013 the European Commission approved the Department’s application to allow farmers participating in the current agri-environment schemes, who had concerns regarding ash plants planted under the schemes showing symptoms of Ash Dieback, to apply to remove the ash plants under force majeure. The National Roads Authority also agreed in 2013 to suspend the use of ash in any roadside/motorway plantings and since then it uses alternative species. Coillte also made a policy decision not to replant with ash.