Action against the deadly fungus threatening the UK’s ash trees was delayed by a lack of qualified plant pathologists, MPs were told on Tuesday. Government scientists being questioned by parliament’s environment committee also said border controls against the rising number of invasive plant pests were not working, while committee chair Anne McIntosh said it was “staggering” that the amount of imported firewood – a potential infection risk – was unknown.

The Forestry Commission recommended in July 2011 that ash trees should only be imported from areas free of the Chalara fraxinea fungus, but an import ban was only imposed in October 2012. At least 136 of the 291 infected sites now identified in the UK resulted from imported trees.

In November, Prof James Brown, president of the British Society of Plant Pathology, told the Guardian the job losses in plant science were “severe”. He said: “Britain is not producing graduates with the expertise needed to identify and control plant diseases in our farms and woodlands.”

a key measure put forward in the action plan – developing strains of ash trees that are naturally resistant to Chalara – would take 10 years or more to bear fruit.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/11/ash-dieback-plant-scientists-environment-committee

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