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Tree infections doubled

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 11, 2012

An infected ash

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A DEADLY tree fungus has been detected in Cornwall for the first time as the number of infected sites nationwide doubled in the past month to almost 300.

The confirmed case of ash dieback was found in a recently-planted site near Camborne, the Forestry Commission has revealed.

The disease, which it is predicted will wipe out 90 per cent of the species, is now present in Devon and Cornwall.

Government figures released last week showed a steep rise in detected cases, though the region has been less badly affected than the South East, where wind-blown spores are said to have worsened the spread.

David Rickwood, site manager for the Woodland Trust in Devon, has predicted the fungus will effect widespread "landscape change" across the region.

He said a handful of fresh cases had been identified as part of last month's audit, all of them in new plantings.

However, he claimed this was the result of a huge audit rather than evidence that the disease was spreading in the countryside, adding that prevailing westerly winds might help prevent stem its rapid movement in the wild.

"We are in a much better position than the rest of the country," he said.

Dartmoor National Park is anticipating having to rip out and burn the 10 per cent of its woodland accounted for by ash, which is concentrated in areas such as Belstone Cleave.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, has set out plans aimed at controlling the disease, including keeping the ban on the import or movement of ash trees in place.

His department is also considering appointing a "tree tsar" – a chief plant health officer who leads the response to animal disease threats.

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