Felling of Japanese and hybrid larches in south-west England is running into the “high hundreds” of hectares as the Forestry Commission fights back against tree disease Phytophthora ramorum.

A Forestry Commission spokesperson gave TTJ the estimation for the level of larch felling where statutory felling orders had already been made.

The total woodland area (including other species) where felling is taking place in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset is 1,472ha. One single large-scale example of larch felling is at Glyn Valley, where 99ha of the species is being removed.

The spokesperson said timber from the felled trees has been examined and so far has proved to be useable and saleable. He confirmed the level of larch timber which will come onto the market will be above average but that it was impossible to say whether it was significant or not.

“No-one, least of all the Forestry Commission, wants to see trees and woodland cut down unnecessarily – ahead of their natural time for harvesting – and leaving exposed bare landscapes on a scale greater than through routine, planned rotations,” said Chris Marrow, forest management director of the commission’s Peninsula district.

“Unfortunately, our scientific advice is that felling infected trees is the best method for controlling this disease and so preventing further damage,” he said.

The commission is working with sawmills to accept timber from infected mature trees, with biosecurity measures introduced.