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People urged to help fight fireblight tree disease

Eastbourne Borough Council is encouraging local people to report cases of a disease which ravages various trees and plant life, in order to prevent any potential spread.

Fireblight is a bacterial disease that kills the shoots of apples, pears and related ornamental trees, giving them the appearance of having been scorched by fire.

Councillor Peter Diplock, who is helping to spread awareness of fireblight, said: “It is important that examples of this disease are reported to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) so its effect can be monitored, ensuring there is early warning of any spread of concentration of the problem.”

  • Caused by the bacteria Erwinia amylovora, infected trees show symptoms from late spring until autumn. These symptoms include:
  • Blossoms wilting and dying at flowering time
  • A slimy white liquid exuding from infections in wet weather
  • Shoots shrivelling and dying as the infection spreads down the inner bark
  • During the short period of active spread, the outer wood being stained a foxy reddish-brown colour when the infected bark is peeled back
  • Cankers (areas of dead, sunken bark) on branches, especially where infected shoots join larger branches

Much like trees infected by Ash Dieback, which is caused by a fungus, there is no cure and has the potential to eventually kill them. The most effective way to manage the problem is the gradual replacement of infected trees with resistant species.

Councillor Jonathan Dow, Cabinet member for Place Services, said: “We ensure that any infections on trees owned by Eastbourne Borough Council are dealt with swiftly. This is part of the environmental management we undertake across the town, which also includes the goal of reducing glyphosate and related pesticides wherever practicable. A new pesticide and pollinator strategy is being drafted for publication later this year, and we continue to plant new disease-resistant trees.”

If you believe fireblight may be on your premises you should immediately contact the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA’s) Fera Plant Health and Seed Inspectors Division on 01904 465 625 or email them at planthealth.info@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

For more details visit www.rhs.org.uk and search for fireblight disease.

Published 25 June 2019