Dothistroma needle blight threat to Scottish pine forests

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URGENT action is needed to halt the spread of a devastating tree disease which could threaten Scotland’s pine forests, it has been claimed.

The disease, known as dothistroma needle blight, is one of the most significant diseases threatening coniferous trees throughout Britain and has already spread throughout Scotland, notably in the north and north-east. It causes needle loss and tree deaths in Corsican pine, lodgepole pine and Scots pine.

Trials of aerial spraying are due to begin next year in a bid to prevent the further spread of the blight. But Alison Johnstone, the Green MSP for Lothian, said more must be done to prevent the spread of a disease which is putting Scotland’s important forestry economy at risk.

She said: “The Scottish forestry sector supports over 13,000 jobs and is worth almost half a billion pounds to the economy, so the threat posed by needle blight must be taken seriously. Woodlands are an important part of our natural and cultural heritage, and are vital public spaces that promote wellbeing and exercise.”

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission Scotland said the blight had first been recorded in Dorset in 1954 and had spread to Scotland by 2010. He continued: “Since then, annual surveys in Scotland have revealed the disease to be present on numerous stands of lodgepole and Scots pine.

“This year’s annual assessment for the presence of dothistroma needle blight on the national forest estate is still in progress.”