Act now to minimise tree disease risk urge experts

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Scotland’s foresters and land managers are being urged to take action to minimise the economic impact of a virulent tree disease which is sweeping through Scotland’s pine woodlands.

Dothistroma needle blight (DNB) causes premature needle loss, a reduction in timber yield and, in severe cases, tree death.

The disease has increased dramatically over the past ten years in Corsican pine, lodgepole and, more recently, Scots pine and is particularly prevalent in Moray, Aberdeenshire and the north Highlands.

But it has been found in all Forestry Commission districts and the commission say the disease is now endemic in Scotland. Scots pine is more susceptible than was at first thought and last year accounted for almost half of all infections in the national forest estate.

Alastair Macmillan, Strutt & Parker’s Inverness-based forestry specialist, says the disease cannot be eradicated and the challenge lies in working out how to live with it.

“Although we can never get rid of it, careful management can help lessen its negative impact on the health of our forests and the quality and quantity of our timber,” said Macmillan.

“It is very important to put strategies in place to reduce the impact of DNB and now is the time for action if we are going to prevent significant damage to our native pinewoods, support the future of Scottish forestry and minimise the economic impact.”

High levels of spring and summer rainfall have helped the disease to spread.

Signs of infection are typically yellow and tan spots and bands on needles which turn red. The needle ends turn reddish-brown while the needle base remains green. The disease is most obvious in June and July.