Ash dieback disease in a nutshell
Ash dieback disease, also known as chalara, is caused by the Hymenoscyphus fraxineus fungus. This micro-organism penetrates an ash tree through its leaves and then grows within the tree’s transport system, cutting off or disrupting the supply of nutrients. Young and coppiced trees are particularly at risk and can be quickly killed by ash dieback. Older trees become severely weakened and often pick up further diseases, shortening their lifespans.
Ash dieback is spreading slowly but relentlessly through the UK’s ash population. While some trees have shown tolerance to the disease, most are unable to fight it off, and there are currently no chemical or physical treatments available for infected trees.
How to prevent ash dieback: three keys
In the absence of a cure, gardeners, landowners and forestry site managers must do whatever they can to prevent the spread of this disease, both on their own land and within the local community.
Here are the three keys for how to prevent ash dieback:
Key 1: Responsible sourcing
The first key for how to prevent ash dieback is ensuring any ash saplings you plant are bought from reputable UK or Ireland based sources. Importing ash saplings from Europe is currently banned, and buying from legitimate outlets will prevent you from accidentally bringing an infected plant into your area.
Arborcure can help you choose and source any plants you need.
Key 2: Vigilance
The second key for how to prevent ash dieback is remaining vigilant for signs of the disease. The spores that spread the fungus can travel for tens of miles on the wind, so wherever you are in your region, be on the lookout for the symptoms below:
- Black patches on the base and midrib of leaves
- Leaves turning black and withering
- Dieback of the crown during summer
- Dark diamond or lens-shaped patches where branches meet the trunk
- Brown-grey discolouration of the inner bark
- Cankers surrounding stems
Make sure you clean your shoes and wash tyres when leaving the scene of an ash dieback outbreak.
Key 3: Fast, thorough action
The third key for how to prevent ash dieback is acting quickly to prevent its spread to other ash tree populations. Ash dieback is a notifiable disease. This means that new infections must be reported to the relevant authorities. These are the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) or the Forestry Commission.
The easiest way to file a report is to use the online Tree Alert service. Anyone can report a diseased tree in this way. This will ensure the infection is tackled in the best way possible to prevent its spread. If you are not the landowner or manager, make them aware of the situation.
If you are the landowner, or someone responsible for managing the affected trees, we recommend you contact a tree and landscape specialist like Kneebone Trees. We can carry out a survey to confirm ash dieback disease and assist you in managing the problem.
In the meantime, we recommend you burn any leaf litter or bury it under either four inches of soil or twelve inches of compost or other organic material. The fungus responsible for ash dieback overwinters on fallen ash leaf stalks before releasing spores from small white fruiting bodies in the late summer. Burning or burying the leaves will disrupt this lifecycle, minimising the chance of spores making their ways to other ash trees.
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