The 'ash die-back' disease which has ravaged forests throughout continental Europe has reached County Cavan, The Anglo-Celt can reveal. The disease, also known as chalara fraxinea, was first identified in County Leitrim last October prompting Department of Agriculture officials on both sides of the Border to launch a combined effort to prevent its spread; most notably the passing of legislation in November banning the importation of ash.
However it appears that the action has failed to prevent the spread of the chalara fraxinea. Figures obtained from the Department of Agriculture show that in the south there has been 46 instances of chalara fraxinea identified. It has appeared in at least one forestry plantation in County Cavan. At the time of going to press the Department had not responded to requests from The Anglo-Celt for details on the number and locations of the disease.
In an article in the English 'Observer' newspaper, a Danish expert compared the disease, chalara fraxinea, to HIV in that the fungus weakens the immune system and enables a secondary disease to kill the tree. The disease is caused by a minuscule fungal spore found on leaf stalks, which strips ash trees of their foliage, thus the more common name, 'ash die-back'. Once the diseased leaf is shed the wind carries it to neighbouring trees, spreading the problem. In this way, Chalara fraxinea has destroyed 90% of Denmark's ash trees and caused havoc in Germany, Poland, Norway, Sweden and Austria. Danish experts hope that one per cent of ash there may prove resistant and survive.
Results from a survey released last Friday showed that ash die-back has also established a strong foothold in Britain's population of 80 million ash trees - of 469 sites visited the disease was present in 66.
PJ Fitzpatrick, resource, inventory and GIS teamleader, with Coillte is urging everyone to be vigilant for chalara fraxinea.
"Everyone should keep an eye for it," said PJ "if they do see a tree dying for some unknown reason."
PJ is hopeful that despite its appearance in a number of counties nationwide, that it can still be contained.
"I live in hope that it would [be contained]. We cannot be sure because this is something new that we haven't had before but I think because of the quick response last year to it - I would be hopeful that we would have it contained."