Resumption of aerial application of fungicide trial in Millbuie forest, Black Isle

Forestry Commission Scotland is to resume its assessment trials of an aerial application technique to help reduce the impacts of a serious fungal disease of pine woodlands.

A 14 hectare area on the national forest estate within the 2,500 hectare Millbuie Forest on the Black Isle will be treated with a fungicide that has had a long history of use in agriculture to see if the technique could potentially mitigate the impact of Dothistroma needle blight.

Weather conditions permitting, the trial is expected to take place over one hour, on one day, between 11 June and 5 July, with initial monitoring work by Forest Research being completed the same day.

It follows from a similar test in 2013 on a 5 hectare Scots pine site in Monaughty forest near Elgin. The planned 2014 trial was postponed due mainly to unsuitable weather conditions during the application ‘window’.

Hugh Clayden, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Tree Health Policy Adviser, said:

“Scotland’s forests, including our precious Caledonian pinewoods, are an intrinsic, vitally important economic and environmental asset. Limiting significant damage to them from tree pests and diseases is a continuing challenge and we need to consider all options when looking at the most effective way of managing these threats. 

“One disease in particular - Dothistroma needle blight – is already widespread and could pose an increasing threat to these woodlands. These trials will help us determine whether this aerial application technique has a place in future disease management strategies.

"We will assess whether there is any significant impact on non-target species - such as fungi, lichens, insects and plants - and we are also looking to see if there are other, more effective fungicide products that could be considered for aerial application.”

The copper fungicide being applied in the tests poses no risk to human or animal health and has long been used on cereal and potato crops. It has also been used successfully in forest applications in New Zealand over several decades. 

Hugh added;

“If this proves to be an effective and environmentally acceptable ‘safety net’ it could help reduce the wider impacts of the disease and buy us time to build longer-term resilience in our forests. This could be through finding and using durable, less susceptible pine, greater use of alternative tree species, exploring other, potentially more efficient chemical and biological control methods, or using silvicultural techniques to create conditions less favoured by fungal pathogens.”

A small area around the trial site will be closed on the day that the aerial application takes place and diversions will be in operation until the active work has been completed.

Members of the public will be informed when the forest is closed through Forestry Commission Scotland’s Facebook page  and through Twitter

Notes to editors

1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate

2. Permission for three trials over three years was granted in 2013 by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate of the Health and Safety Executive.  The Monaughty trial in 2013 was the first aerial application of a fungicide in a GB forest and, prior to 2013, the last aerial application of any pesticide in GB forests was in the early 1990s.

3. The Chemicals Regulation Directorate has approved the aerial application of a fungicide (copper oxychloride) to a maximum of 20 ha of woodland in each of three years (starting in 2013). The results from the 2013 Monaughty trial, carried out by Forest Research (an agency of the Forestry Commission) indicate that over 95% of the fungicide was captured within the forest canopy. No significant impacts on the local ecosystem have been detected but monitoring will continue over the next few years.

4. The initial evaluation and trials have been discussed with SNH and SEPA as well as wider stakeholders in the Scottish Tree Health Advisory Group, all of whom will continue to be kept informed of the results of these trials.

5. Aerial application will only be considered where there is low risk in terms of water and nature conservation interests and these forest trials will begin to assess how often copper fungicide might need to be applied in forest conditions.
6. Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde.

7. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0300 067 6507.