Two serious plant health issues have emerged this year, one affecting the west coast of the country, the other focused on the east coast.

There have been significant outbreaks of Phytophthora ramorum in the south-west of England and south Wales, with incidents in north Wales and in Northern Ireland. Aerial surveys are being conducted in Scotland to detect its presence there.

Phytophthora is a tree-killer and is currently affecting larch. An extensive sanitation felling programme is under way and the hope is to complete it before next spring’s bud burst.

The timber is useable but there are concerns that the sanitation felling programme could cause local markets to flood with the species. And there are controls on the use and movement of bark from infected trees. “You can burn it at the sawmill, which would be a crying shame, or you can sell it to licensed processors who aren’t allowed to sell it on to the agricultural or horticultural sectors but can sell it to power stations for burning,” said the UKFPA spokesperson.

“It could hold up activity at the mills when they are finding markets for their co-products and that would feed back to their ability to pay for raw material,” added ConFor. “There is a lot of work to be done on researching how to eradicate it without affecting the harvesting capacity, the milling capacity and undermining local markets.”

Meanwhile East Anglia is suffering from outbreaks of red band needle blight, which affects pine. While this doesn’t kill the tree, it prevents it from flourishing. There are no movement controls on affected timber – which, again, is useable – but the same concerns exist over the impact on local markets.

In addition, there is no requirement to replant areas affected by either disease, which could have a long-term impact on commercial volumes. And there is concern that Phytophthora could spread to other species.