MORE than 20,000 healthy Clare ash trees are currently being planted at various locations around England – in an effort to find a cure for ash dieback disease or chalara fraxinea.
Its is hoped that some of the native Clare tree could contain genetic components that might help them fight the disease or could even make them immune. If this proves successful, the Clare trees could eventually be used to restock much of the ash population in Northern Europe, which has been devastated by the ash dieback in recent years.
The Clare trees, as well as a number from Donegal, are being planted in various locations in the South East and South West of England – where the disease is already well established.
This was revealed in a draft strategy to combat the disease published jointly by the Irish and Northern Irish departments of agriculture yesterday.
The news that Clare trees could provide a possible solution to the ash-dieback crisis is cold comfort for foresters in the county. Two positive finds of the disease have already been identified in the west and east of the county and it is considered likely that more trees in the area are effected.
“We are basically waiting and holding our breath. There is noting else we can do. We are basically doing whatever the forestry services tell us at this point. We are not making any of the decisions, we are just doing what we are told,” said one Clare forester, who asked not to be identified.
“They [forestry services] are sending out letters and contacting foresters. Where the disease is found there is felling, and there is also felling at associated sites. At the moment this is mostly young trees, maybe two or three years old.
“The forestry services are now actively going around and checking sites off their on bat and they had put in place a tractability system to try and identify infected trees.”
There has been some criticism of the measure of the way in which the disease was allowed to enter Ireland. Before the disease was discovered in Ireland, no attempt was made to ban imports of ash saplings from counties where the disease was already present, because it was deemed to be against the EU fair trade rules.
However, now that the disease has reached Ireland, a ban on saplings from these locations has been implemented.