At the start of this year, lab tests confirmed that there had been an outbreak of sweet chestnut blight in the south-west near Exeter, with tree and woodland owners, tree professionals and plant traders called on to check their trees frequently and report any possible symptoms to the Forestry Commission England.
Following this outbreak, plant health authorities imposed a prohibition on the movement of tree material including logs, plants, foliage, branches and firewood out of or within six zones, five in Devon and one in Dorset.
But unless you’re particularly familiar with this disease, you might well miss it so learning about it and being able to recognise the symptoms would certainly be a good idea.
It’s caused by a fungus that is only known to affect sweet chestnut species, not posing any risk to pets, people or livestock. Oak trees can be affected if they stand nearby very heavily infected sweet chestnuts, but little damage is done. Remember as well that horse chestnut species aren’t affected.
Symptoms of the disease always occur above ground, with the parasite attacking the bark of the tree and entering through fissures in the wood. On grafted trees, you’ll typically find infections in the region of the graft, but in orchards or coppices the infection can be located at the base of the stem.
You can use the Forestry Commission Tree Alert service if you do think your trees have been affected by sweet chestnut blight but always check the symptoms first before submitting a report. You can also submit a diagnosis request of a pest or disease problem if you own or manage woodland.
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