Issue 9
February 2017

Welcome to the latest issue of Tree Health News.

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News in brief

In depth


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News in brief

Keep it Clean – Tell us what you think!

We’d like to hear what you think of our Keep it Clean biosecurity campaign. We’re all ears as to how we can help get the message out further to remind professionals of the simple steps they can take day-to-day to help minimise the spread of pests and diseases.
Please complete our survey and let us know your thoughts by 12 February.

Oak Processionary Moth (OPM)

An operational report summarising activity during 2016 is now available on This report includes details of locations and density of OPM findings during the 2016 season, as well as outlining the impact of OPM on human, tree and animal health over the past year.

In depth

New notification scheme for firewood imports

A scheme to help protect against threats to tree health from imported firewood came into force on 1 January 2017.

The Statutory Notification Scheme for importing solid woodfuel (firewood) requires importers bringing certain types of firewood into England and Scotland from outside the UK to provide prior notice of its arrival to the Forestry Commission. At least three days’ prior notification is required if the shipment is coming by sea, road or rail, and four hours’ notice if it is arriving by air.
The regulation covers solid wood fuel (firewood) in the form of logs, billets, twigs, faggots and similar forms. All relevant consignments, irrespective of size or weight, must be notified.
The scheme enables the Forestry Commission to gather information about the firewood importing trade, and to carry out risk-based and random inspections of a selection of imports, mainly at importers’ premises. This will help to ensure that the firewood or its associated wooden packaging, such as pallets and crates, meets British plant health landing requirements.
The move follows an industry consultation in which the majority of respondents supported the introduction of such a scheme.
The notification system requires initial enrolment, followed by completion and submission of a notification form for each consignment of firewood being imported. Notification forms are available in downloadable and on-line versions.
Firewood importers wanting more information, and/or to request a visit from a Forestry Commission officer to help them get started, can contact its Plant Health Service at or 0300 067 5155.

Plant Health Portal

A new website to improve access to information about plant pests and diseases has been launched by Defra.

The Plant Health Portal is already making it easier for plant health professionals to share and use vital information on plant pests and diseases, unlocking the power of data to better assess threats and determine action to tackle them.

Professor Nicola Spence, the Chief Plant Health Officer, welcomed the launch, saying:

“The portal is an important tool in our efforts to ensure good biosecurity, and is part of the £37 million we are investing in plant and tree health from 2012 to 2019 to build the resilience of our trees and plants. Although we cannot eliminate all risks, we have stringent plans to deal with threats which are detected, and the portal will help ensure that the information about them is up to date, well informed and effective.”
The site is still under development, and has been launched in ‘beta’ form to enable users to give feedback to inform further improvements. There are plans to add more data and introduce further refinements to the site’s search functions during this second phase. Users are encouraged to send feedback on the site to Defra at

Call for vigilance for chestnut disease

We and our colleagues at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are reminding woodland managers, tree professionals and the plant trade to be vigilant over the coming months for sweet chestnut blight, caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica.

The appeal follows confirmation of the disease in sweet chestnut trees in woodland in Devon.
Andy Hall, Forestry Commission England’s Tree Health Team leader, said:
We are committed to doing all we can to prevent plant diseases crossing our borders. We work collaboratively with the international community, industry, NGOs, landowners and the public to reduce the risks of pests and diseases entering the country, and to mitigate the impact of newly established ones.”
Mr Hall appealed to tree and woodland owners, plant traders and tree professionals everywhere to inspect their sweet chestnut trees regularly and report any suspicious symptoms.
Suspected cases in trees and woodland should be reported to the Commission
with Tree Alert. Suspected cases in chestnut plants moving in trade, such as in garden centres and nurseries, must be reported to APHA’s Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) on 01904 405138 or
Owners of premises handling sweet chestnut and oak material within 5km of the infected trees are receiving Statutory Plant Health Notices (SPHNs) requiring them not to move oak or sweet chestnut material off their premises until further notice. Oak trees can be infected if they are standing close to infected chestnut trees. And although the fungus does only superficial damage to oaks, it can be spread from them, which is why oak material is included in the restriction.
Mr Hall said:

“We understand that this restriction will cause inconvenience and disruption to some local businesses, and we want to minimise this. We will keep it under review in light of the results of our ongoing investigation, with the aim of ensuring that it remains in place only for as long as necessary.”

Businesses or woodland owners needing further information about the movement restriction may contact the Forestry Commission’s South West England Area office on 0300 067 4960.

Sweet chestnut blight does not pose any risk to people, pets or livestock, and is only known to seriously affect sweet chestnut (Castanea) species. It does not affect horse chestnut (Aesculus) species.
Full information about the disease, including pictorial guides to the symptoms, is available on the Forestry Commission website.

New pest and disease information

We have added two new pages to our website’s suite of information about pests and diseases which are not known to be in the UK, but which could be accidentally imported. This follows their identification by the Plant Health Risk Group as risks requiring contingency planning and vigilance.

One is oak wilt, a disease of oak trees in North America caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum.

The other is about four species of North American budworm, which are the larval stages of particular types of moth. The four species between them can damage a range of conifer species, some of which are grown in the UK.

The contingency plans which would be activated in the event of an outbreak in England are also available from links on the pages.

Andy Hall said:

“The protections against these pests getting in are stringent, but we cannot afford to be complacent. I therefore encourage everyone who works with trees and timber to familiarise themselves with the information about these threats, to remain vigilant for any sign of them, and to immediately report any cases they suspect.”


Forestry Commission England Area tree health events

Until March 2017

We are once again hosting a series of regional tree health events. These popular sessions run throughout the year, and typically include speakers from Forestry Commission England, Forest Research, APHA and industry. Topics often include local tree health updates, biosecurity, tree planting and resilience, and updates on the latest tree health guidance and legislation.
These events are often over-subscribed, so readers who are keen to find out more about their local events should contact their local Area team to check dates, locations and availability of places.

Innovation in plant biosecurity conference

15 & 16 March 2017

This major conference will bring together plant health professionals and invasive species experts from around the world to discuss novel strategies for improving plant biosecurity and establishing a sustainable knowledge exchange.
Early bird tickets are now on sale from the Fera website.

Trees, People and the Built Environment 3

5-6 April, University of Birmingham

Greater integration of trees into our transport systems and the benefits trees have on human health are some of the subjects that will be discussed at the Trees, People and the Built Environment conference this spring. Experts from around the world, among them arboriculturists, urban foresters, health officials, ecologists, academics, planners and engineers, will offer new research and practice on the environmental, social and economic benefits of urban trees.

The conference is a vital platform for pan-industry collaboration between professionals working across the spectrum of greenspace topics. Forestry Commission England and Forest Research are supporting this conference, and will be exhibiting.

Tickets and further information about speakers are available on the conference website.

For a wealth of tree health resources, visit
the Forestry Commission’s dedicated web pages.

If you have any questions please email us.

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