SIX fresh cases of the deadly ash dieback disease, which is threatening to wipe out the species, have been identified in Suffolk.

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App added to fight

A SMARTPHONE app has been launched to help curb the spread of the deadly ash disease.

Environmental specialists at the University of East Anglia have designed the app which will help monitor the spread of the disease and allow conservationists to target infected areas.

The free “Ashtag” will make it possible for people to take a photo of leaves, shoots or bark and send it to plant pathologists to identify whether or not the tree is infected as well as give a precise location of where the tree is.

People without a smartphone will also be able to join the campaign by uploading digital photos and location details to the Ashtag website. Visit www.ashtag.org for more information.

The Forestry Commission has confirmed the sites have the tree disease, which is caused by the chalara fraxinea fungus, after it was found in both mature and ancient woodland at Pound Farm, Great Glemham, last week.

Dozens of other sites are being investigated for presence of the fungus, including Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Hullback’s Grove reserve near Bures, where ash saplings have showed symptoms.

Will Cranstoun, the trust’s west Suffolk sites manager, said: “It is not confirmed at the moment but we went down to the site on Wednesday and took some samples and sent them off to the pathology laboratory with the Forestry Commission in Surrey.

“We are still awaiting the results but there’s up to 10 days’ waiting time. We’re also awaiting adequate guidance from the Forestry Commission and other bodies on what to do if it is a positive result.

“We may have to isolate the infected area and put it into quarantine.”

“Closing the site to the public was a possibility,” he said.

The fungus, which causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to ash tree death, has wiped out up to 90% of ash trees in some areas of Denmark and is becoming widespread throughout central Europe.

Yesterday, the Government announced a ban on importing ash trees and imposed tighter movement restrictions.

Despite the ban, there are concerns that the fungus, which is possibly arriving as airborne spores blown across the North Sea, will be hard to stop spreading.

Mr Cranstoun added: “All fungus produces spores as part of the reproduction and it’s those that can be transported from site to site and around the countryside.

“If it’s in the atmosphere it can be transported by wild animals and vehicles.”

So far some 100,000 ash trees have been felled across the country and the Forestry Commission is investigating numerous sites for the disease.

It is feared about 60 of the country’s rarest insect species could be at risk of being lost if the problem worsens.

Speaking of the confirmed diagnosis at Pound Farm, Michael Ryder, Woodland Trust site manager for East Anglia, said: “Laboratory test results have confirmed that the disease is present at Pound Farm – currently it is still open to the public and we will be putting posters up around the site.

“The best advice for visitors is to clean footwear before leaving the wood and also not to remove any plant material from the site.

“Both these measures should help restrict the potential spread of any disease.”

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