Ralph Underhill cartoon

 

Ralph Underhill: http://orangejam.boldlight.co.uk/

 

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14 Replies to “Ralph Underhill cartoon”

  1. And I thought vegetarian DEFRA minister Hilary Benn was simply hostile to livestock farming and preferred a diseased nationwide badger population to a healthy meat industry.

    It appears Hilary also missed the Ash Tree pathogen – but not to worry - even vegetarians don’t eat ash trees. So no probs - just another ‘apathogenetic’ blind spot for our incompetent Hilary.

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    1. Trimbush, if we're going to apportion blame, then perhaps we should all get off the "political blame game", after all what exactly did Caroline Spelman do in regards to the disease. Check parliamentary records, there's no mention of the disease until October 2012. Both Labour and Conservative have slipped up big time. Under Caroline Spelman the Forest Commision asked for help in confirming the arrival of diseased trees arriving from Holland (asking for more staff to help), trees that weirdly started off as seeds in this country, exported to an infected country then imported back, WHY? Ireland banned all imports of Ash trees from infected countries a long time ago.Was both Labour and Conservative governments scared of upsetting our EU friends? Mad Cow disease and foot mouth our beef products were banned within 48 hours, it's taken the UK nearly 4 years to ban the import of Ash trees from known infected trees. I don't think even Owen Patterson can be blamed on this issue, can't believe I just typed that.

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  2. Gummer, Shepherd, Waldegrave, Hogg, Cunningham, Brown, Beckett, Miliband, Benn, Spelman - have done nothing since 1992 when ash dieback was first noticed in Poland.

    Paterson is a Johnny-come-lately.

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  3. DEFRA Plant healths principle aim has always been to protect the commercial interests of the importers and nursery busineses. They knew about the risks but burried their heads in the sand by relying on inadequate quarantine measures which were largely policed by the industry itself.
    When outbreaks occurr they are kept secret to protect the commercial interests of the importers. So the polluter gets annonimity and only has to pay if the disease is actually found on their on premises. I would be willing to bet a fiver that the forestry commission is paying for the removal and destruction of the infected trees rather than the nursery that supplied the infected stock.

    This is the "business model" which allowed multiple imports of sudden oak death.

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  4. Probably the only people with no responsibility in all this are the commentators - always nice to be on the sideline throwing bricks. For those involved, foresters and conservationists (the Woodland Trust to their credit plant more than anyone else in England - but have also been at the centre of Ash imports) I'd remember bricks & glass houses - I don't know whether I was personally responsible for importing Ash for FC planting but I do know that I've been aware of the amount of imports for a very long time - back to concerns about 'minor species' shrubs etc which, in contrast to species like Oak and Beech where imports of planting stock stretch back to the 1700s, you'd expect to be genetically pretty pure - we knew they were coming from Hungarian & Romanian seed via Holland !

    There really isn't time to play blame games however much fun they may be for the media - every effort, and especially the very scarce resource of FC staff and most especially their gold dust plant pathologists needs to be focussed on what we can do about this. I'm concerned that quite a number of knowledgeable people are throwing in the towel and talking about 'nature taking its course'. For me, I would simply not accept this point of view until there is absolute proof positive that no possible option can do any good. Looking at the (incomplete) knowledge we currently have I'm far from convinced that is the case - if the disease has got here naturally as well as on planting stock it doesn't seem to have spread at 'over 30km a year' and that it is mainly in East Anglia, with its low density of woodland (except Thetford forest where the broadleaves are almost all beech and oak) surely must mean its worth a try. It may be that the thousands of citizen surveyors who'll be mobilised by next spring find its actually spread much further and a U turn to accepting it cannot be eliminated will be the right decision.

    If Chalara does take hold I fear we'll be hearing a very different story about 'why didn't the Government do more' in 4 or 5 years time. Go and stand on New Fancy (the Goshawk watch point) in the Forest of Dean. The Dean is just 10,000 hectares. Thetford is 20,000 and Kielder 50,000. There are over 100,000 hectares of Ash in England, more that all these, our biggest forests, put together.

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  5. Roderick, the FC went to Caroline Spelman asking for more staff to help id and confirm the existence of the disease at the point of entry in the UK for the imported trees, it's in the parlaimentary records! So the FC were aware and acting (hats off) but had been let down buy those in parliament. Let's be honest if politicians managed and halted the disease and spent alot of money in doing so, would've it been a vote winner? Has anyone mentioned the disease (politicians,people standing on the sidelines,defra,FC,BLOGGERS and even above mentioned cartoonists) effecting our oak trees, so far to date it's just been Zac Goldsmith!!!!

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  6. Douglas, OK, I can't help but sympathise with what you are saying - I've been there right at the heart of lobbying for forestry and its always been a very small priority within agriculture-focussed Defra. But if there is still appetite for a post mortem lets have it after we've thrown everything at trying to stop this disaster in its tracks.

    In April 2012, writing about the future of FC in Forestry Journal I did say "No Secretary of State can hold back the spread of disease, but they can be seen to be doing their best. Imagine the public outrage if, for example, our native oaks were to succumb while the vital research resource is entangled in a drawn out and uneccessary reorganisation: it would make the sales fiasco look like a walk in the park."

    I came back from holiday on 28th October to find the mood of Defra's response to the panel increasingly focussed on the triennial review of NE & EA and a very clear message that FC was once again up for grabs. on 31st October I made an impassioned case at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry for a task force approach to bringing our woods back into management with a tight focussed FC. combining the estate, the Forestry Authority and research into a powerful delivery body based on a new partnership with NGOs and the forestry private sector.

    Now we do have a COBR led task force approach, sadly tackling the negative of disease not the positive of more woodland into management - but perhaps the point about the value of trees and FC's role in looking after them for all of us may just have been made ?

    A week is indeed a long time in politics.

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  7. And the point of asking the UK population to wash their (and pooches') feet after a pleasant walk in the woods is?

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  8. Throw everything at trying to stop this disaster in its tracks? We rightly should do so but the recent Defra response is too gently-gently.

    The Plant Health (Forestry) (Amendment) Order 2012: A quick scan through SI 2707 reveals this: "... the trees shall be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate which has been issued by the national plant protection organisation of the country from which the trees originate and which includes under the heading “Additional Declaration” an official statement that the trees have been grown throughout their life in an area which has been established and is maintained as an area free from Chalara fraxinea T. Kowalski (including its teleomorph Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus) in accordance with ISPM No 4 (which is International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures No 4 (1995) "Requirements for the establishment of pest free areas"). The latter sets out what it says on the can, but a cynic might say that it merely facilitates business as usual - with the appropriate certification, naturally.

    If we need a cordon sanitaire, lets have one, not a leaky compromise designed to allow the import trade in growing trees to continue.

    Regarding the apparent increase in the number of significant tree disease since the early 90s, would the use of meristem culture for mass clonal propagation of fast-growing tree selections have anything to do with it? This would create a risk of planting susceptible genotypes in pure stands, which propagation by seed from out-pollinated populations would not cause. I have no evidence, just sayin', like ...

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    1. Filbert - I think Oliver Rackham said something similar about Elm Disease, that past generations had unwittingly paved the way for it by promoting English Elm as a 'supertree' which proved disastrously susceptible. East Anglian and other Elm varieties were more resistant, but were overwhelmed by the millions of diseased English Elms (and the therefore superabundant beetle vectors of the fungus) surrounding them. Wych elms survived longer due to their isolation as reproducing by seed rather than suckering, but prove highly susceptible once the beetles find them, (the final chapter of the tragedy that started in the English lowlands is now I think being played out in Eastern Scotland).
      Of course this is an oversimplification of the great man's words - all elm clones are unique and 'resistance' is a complex and uncertain thing depending on attractiveness to beetle vectors, resistance to the fungus and the fungus itself being parasited by a virus. Thus the disease waxes and wanes and elm survives as a small tree never to reach maturity over it's former extent (with the very occasional mature tree that has somehow escaped).
      One of the truly terrible things about Chalara is that being spread by windborne spores it doesn't need a vector and so will presumably keep on killing young trees as soon as they germinate. So unlike elm I would think the ash does actually face the prospect of (almost) being wiped out?
      I've just read an abstract of a paper on t'internet which if I understood it correctly suggested most Common Ash in the UK was thought to be genetically very similar, and part of a 'metapopulation' found in much of central and NW Europe, but that there was a marked variation in western and northern parts of the British Isles. So if Chalara becomes widely established presumably the majority of trees will be highly susceptible aside from the odd one which is mysteriously resistant as in continental Europe - and perhaps the upland Ash woods will be able to offer a bit more resistance (who knows?) which may alleviate a little the likely devastation in those precious habitats.
      Given the adundance of self sown trees over planted I'm not sure that recent plantings will make a decisive difference in the case of ash. However, I'm sure you're right that planting monocultures can only make things worse, especially given that young ash is so susceptible, and it may be more decisive in other diseases. Again, who knows? How many more threats lurk as yet undetected from our 'coals to Newcastle' global trade in timber and exotic plants?

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  9. Mark - so much that I could write about the Chalara threat to Ash (and indeed the frightening threats to other species referred to by contributors above). Are you planning to cover this?

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  10. Filbert - both Willow & Poplar clones advocated for high productivity energy crops have gone down to, I think, viruses - really rather to be expected, as your comments suggest. This isn't the case for other species - and there is still the chance that genetic diversity may save a proportion of the Ash trees. Which is why some serious scientists get very jumpy over things like GM.

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  11. It's ironic that much of the effort that went into developing meristem culture in the 60s and 70s was directed at the production of virus-free stocks, especially soft and hard fruit like blackcurrant, apple - and rhubarb! Freed of its usual latent viruses its leaves are smooth.

    Trouble is, the meristem "soups" created using the technique lent themselves to the rapid multiplication of commercially attractive clones of - for instance - conifers in Sweden. Such techniques do not allow, for logistical reasons, the genetic diversity in plantings afforded by seed propagation of open-pollinated species, so when a virulent pathogen happens upon a susceptible clone in the right weather - all fall down. Paradoxically, we may now need the Chalara disease to develop for resitant ash to be identified in our natural populations. Or maybe it is already there to a far greater extent than we know about - yet.

    On that cheery note - don't forget that we are always only a mutation away from starvation. Fortunately our Green and Pleasant is nice and cold and miserable in summer so wheat stem rust is rarely seen - which is a Good Thing as ug99 is spreading fast.

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