GROWERS in Suffolk are urging people not to confuse a mysterious fungal condition affecting fir trees with the devastating ash dieback disease.

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Fears have emerged that the condition known as current season needle necrosis or CSNN – which makes the needles of Nordmann fir trees turn brown and drop off – could jeopardise the future of the Christmas tree as Britain’s favourite festive decoration.

About 150 members of the British Christmas Tree Growers Associations reported their stock had been affected, with all of the cases in the east and south of England. But the association’s Harry Brightwell, from Tuddenham St Martin near Ipswich, said the disease did not act in the same way as the deadly chalara fraxinea ash dieback disease, and that the situation was nowhere near as concerning.

He said: “People are trying to link the two diseases and there’s no link there at all. CSNN has only affected between 1% and 3% of trees in the UK so far.

“However, as an association we have developed a strategy for dealing with CSNN and we are currently involved in trials to help combat it.”

Mr Brightwell said the public should be reassured when buying a Christmas tree this year, adding: “If a tree has needle necrosis, it will be going brown in August so it will not have been harvested.

“From the consumers’ point of view, if a tree looks green and healthy then it hasn’t got the disease.”

Adviser to the association, Colin Palmer, is heading a field trial aimed at tracing the progress of the disease.

He said: “The difference between ash dieback and CSNN is that all fir trees are young, which gives us an opportunity to resolve the problem, where it would be impossible to sort out a 100-year-old ash tree.”

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