Aerial spraying trial set for area south of Inverness

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Forestry Commission Scotland is to step up the fight against tree pests and diseases – by quantifying drift patterns by spraying a common food colouring from a helicopter.

Commission staff will undertake an aerial spraying trial – which will not involve the use of any pesticides – to improve their understanding should this technique ever need to be used.

The trial will take place near Meall Mor approximately 10km south of Inverness and, subject to weather conditions, is scheduled within a ten day window from the 1st to the 10th of August.

Regarded as a last resort in combating virulent, fast spreading tree pests and diseases, this small trial follows two others on the national forest estate in recent years.

Anna Brown, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Head of Tree Health, said;

“Forestry contributes almost £1 billion to the Scottish economy each year, as well as providing a huge range of environmental and social benefits, so tackling tree health threats is a top priority for the Scottish Government.

“As we all know, the globalisation of trade and travel makes this very challenging, as is evident from the succession of new pests and diseases landing in the UK over the past 20 years, some of which have been extremely virulent and fast-spreading. Coupled with significant advances in surveillance and biosecurity, Scotland, like the rest of the UK, must therefore remain on guard and be able to act quickly if new tree health threats arise. 

“Currently, dealing with a major outbreak of a damaging pest or disease is dealt with largely through sanitation felling, a measure not without its downsides in terms of environmental and economic impact. We are therefore examining other potential ‘safety nets’ , such as the targeted aerial spraying of chemical or biological control products that could be deployed as a last resort."

The trial will be managed by Forest Research and will focus on the more technical aspects of drift management in Scottish conditions. This will enable the Commission to verify drift models and continue to help build the necessary competence and capacity to safely deploy aerial spraying if the need arises.

The spray mix - water, a food dye and an agent to prevent evaporation - poses no risk to the environment or to human and animal health, but a small area of the forest will be closed to ensure the helicopter can work safely.

It is anticipated that during the 10-day window the site will only be closed for a few hours on each of 2 or 3 days.  

Signage will be erected forewarning forest users about the temporary closures and the site will reopen once flying is completed.

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.
  2. Forest Enterprise Scotland is an agency of the Forestry Commission and manages the National Forest Estate on behalf of Scottish Ministers.
  3. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Tha e an urra ri riaghladh agus cumail maoineachadh is comhairle ri coilltearachd ann an Alba. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta.
  4. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6507 / 07785 527590 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.