An update on pests and diseases and our plans for 2019

During 2018, Observatree added the elm zigzag sawfly to the list of priority pests and diseases, and hosted a webinar on Xylella fastidiosa to help raise awareness of this bacterium and the potential damage it can cause. We also included Xylella on our new watch list of additional pests and diseases of concern, although it is not one of our current priorities. 

Towards the end of the year, Forestry Commission inspectors identified a breeding population of the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) in Kent. This pest is of significant concern to the forest industry and so over the coming months Observatree will be working closely with those investigating the findings to ascertain how or when we may be able to provide appropriate support. 

All of the pests and diseases mentioned above emphasise the additional threats to our trees, the continued need for high levels of vigilance and the importance of a tree health early warning system. Observatree’s volunteer network continues to play an important part in this and in supporting professional inspectors and scientists. Last year, we saw the 5000th report submitted by our volunteers during the lifetime of the project. This is a great achievement and a credit to everyone involved with the project. It’s worth mentioning that not all of these reports related to suspected pests or diseases, and many were in fact of healthy trees. The latter information is very important as it can help us to track the progression of pests or diseases as and when they spread into new areas.

During 2018, we completed the set of pest and disease identification guides, our ‘Have you seen?’ posters and updated the digital learning. We also welcomed our new volunteer engagement officer, Charlotte, to the project, and we held another round of successful training events throughout Britain.

Many of our new volunteers are very enthusiastic and are busily submitting reports and participating in the online discussion forum where they can ask questions to project staff, share information and support each other. In the year ahead, we will help our volunteers to assist each other further by creating lead volunteer roles from those with more experience, where mentoring can be provided at a regional level. We have a limited number of places available within our volunteer network and recruitment is currently open. 

If you are interested in becoming one of our trained, specialist volunteers and have the time and dedication required to help, please find further information here.

Now, in 2019, we will continue to develop new tree health educational resources, update existing ones where necessary and facilitate their promotion and dissemination. We will continue to work with others to raise awareness of tree health and to promote the proactive steps that can be taken by monitoring and reporting, as well as supporting tree health professionals where possible. And we cannot forget  our volunteers, who are already working towards their next 5000 reports as they continue to be invaluable Observers of our Trees.

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