Moray forest to take part in fungicide trial

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SCOTTISH forests will be sprayed with fungicide in the first trial of its kind in the UK, aimed at saving the nation’s iconic Caledonian pinewoods from a deadly needle-blight disease.

Permission has been granted by the UK government’s chemicals regulation directorate for the aerial spraying of a copper fungicide to small areas of woodlands in Scotland, over the next three years, in an attempt to fight Dothistroma needle blight, which poses a serious threat to Scotland’s pine forests.

Copper oxychloride has long been used to combat fungal diseases in agriculture and is routinely used against needle blight in New Zealand.

The first UK trial is set to take place later this month in Monaughty Forest in Moray.

Though the fungicide is not considered harmful to humans and animals, unless swallowed or applied to the eyes, part of the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) trial will also assess its impact on non-target species such as lichens, insects and plants.

Hugh Clayden, tree health policy adviser for FCS, said: “We may soon reach a point where we need to consider the targeted aerial application of fungicide to some pine woodlands as part of a suite of wider measures.”