Hurley-makers fear of ash disease
By John Martin
HURLEY-makers up and down the country have expressed their concerns this week over the discovery of ash dieback disease, and the subsequent banning of imports of ash trees, but what exactly is it and will it really threaten the clash of the ash being heard on hurling fields up and down the country?
As Gaelic Life went to print yesterday, Loughgiel-based hurley maker Michael Scullion was attending a stakeholder meeting in Armagh, and although he was unable to predict what would come out of the gathering of officials and other interested parties, he hoped that some kind of concrete plan could be put in place.
“I don’t know exactly what we are going to be told or what plans can be put in place but hopefully there’ll be some sort of measures that can be taken to protect the native stock and put some sort of timescale on the ban of imports,” said Scullion.
The current measures to stem the disease are unsuccessful, then the ban on imports may extend to treated word, which would then cause a problem for hurley-makers. Scullions mostly use homegrown ash from their own stock and also import some ash from England, however over 70 per cent of the 350,000 sticks used in Ireland every year are made from imported timber.
“There is always the option of trying to source ash from further afield but with that comes added cost and as we also wouldn’t know if the quality was comparable to Irish ash,” added Scullion.
Ash dieback – a quick Q&A
What is the threat, and where has it come from?
Chalara fraxinea – or ash dieback to give it its common name – was discovered in Poland in 1992 and has since spread to other European countries.
Denmark is one of the hardest hit countries. Since its discovery there in 2005, more than 90 per cent of its ash trees have been destroyed.
How does the disease spread?
Although there is no clear scientific evidence yet, it is understood that fungus spores are spread by wind – as far as 10 miles by strong gusts.
When were the first Irish and British cases reported?
The disease was confirmed at a site in Leitrim two weeks ago where 5,000 imported ash saplings were planted in 2009. They were part of a consignment of 35,000 saplings imported at that time.
Following the discovery, officials have now tracked down the surviving saplings from that consignment planted at 10 other Irish sites and in all 33,400 young trees from the imported batch have now been destroyed, regardless of whether they were symptomatic or not. The young trees were chopped down and burned.
In England, a Buckinghamshire nursery was the site of the first ash dieback discovery in February 2012 – it was found in saplings it had imported from the Netherlands.
Since then, more than 20 different woodland sites have reported cases. It has also been sighted in mature trees for the first time, in separate sites in Suffolk and Norfolk.
What is being done to stop the problem?
Imports of ash trees were banned from Monday in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. Officials at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the south have recently met with their Stormont counterparts in order to co-ordinate an all-island approach to tackling the disease.