Thursday, 27 August 2009

Scotland - Wildlife & Natural Environment Bill Consultation

The full consultation and details of how to submit a response is available to download from the Scottish Government's website .

I will be responding to several sections of this consultation before the closing date of 4 Sep 09. The section that covers Muirburn is of most relevance to our activities and a first draft is available for anyone to use as a basis for their own response. Please contact Alison Young ( if you would like a copy. The response will be made available to download from the website in the next few days.

If time is short it would do no harm to submit a written response commenting on one particular issue, or you could offer support for the whole of the Trust's submission. The analysis of the Consultation Responses is very much a numbers game and more support for the Trust's views would be helpful.

Please contact me if I can help with your response or if you want to tackle me about anything in my draft response.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae

Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae are exotic plant pathogens that have been identified in UK recently: P. ramorum in 2002, and P. kernoviae in 2003. It is not a name that rolls off the tongue easily and for those struggling with pronunciation try – ‘fy-toff-thora’!

Both species represent a threat to ornamental and wild shrubs, and trees, but of more interest to the Trust is that Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus has been found the be severely infected by both pathogens. Other heathland species and their wider ecosystsems may also be under threat.

A Defra-funded Phytophthora spp Disease Management Programme has been approved, beginning on 1st April 2009 with funding of £25m over 5 years. The programme will address the problem through three workstreams: disease management, awareness and behavioural change, and research.

In England and Wales, there have been over 250 outbreaks of P. ramorum or P. kernoviae outside of nurseries of which about a quarter have been eradicated so far. In May 2009, outbreaks in Scotland were reported to be 29 largely centred around the west coast heritage gardens and nurseries from Portpatrick to Poolewe, but there have been 25 outbreaks in other areas.

The principal leaf host is Rhododendron R. ponticum which appears to drive epidemics. Research to date has shown that the eradication of rhododendron is the single most effective control measure to reduce pathogen and disease spread in the wider environment (woodland, heathland, gardens and parks) and protect vulnerable trees and heathland plants.

For more information and photographs see the guidance available on the Defra website.

Defra appears to have adopted a sensible approach to the Phytophthora problem, but in this season of heightened awareness about heather beetle, the effort being put in place to combat Phytophthora spp serves to highlight the apparent complacency about the damage that heather beetle can cause to moorland and heathland. Am I missing something?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Farm Practices Survey 2009

For those in need of some light reading, here are some statistics for you!

The 2009 Farm Practices Survey of uplands and other Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) in England was released by Defra on 30 June 2009. This release shows the attitudes and intentions of upland farmers. The key results are:
  • 60% of upland farmers classify their farms as full time commercial businesses
  • Almost two thirds of farms (64%) were long established family farms and 25% were first generation family farms.
  • Diversification: 25% of upland farms have some form of on-farm and 48% have some form of off farm diversification or other income.
  • Approximately half of upland farmers are debt free.
  • 71% of upland farmers currently have land within environmental schemes.
  • A quarter of upland farmers not currently in ELS would like to join the scheme. 30% of farmers not currently in HLS would like to join the scheme. 50% of farmers with land in Severely Disadvantaged Areas (SDA) expressed a wish to join the new Uplands Entry Level Scheme, covering some 63% of land.
  • 27% of upland farms graze moorland.
The full report can be found here on the Defra website

Monday, 10 August 2009

Heather Beetle Press coverage

I have been taking the message into the public domain. To see some of the press coverage follow the links below:

Sunday Telegraph
Scotland on Sunday
Scottish Daily Express (the photo is not a heather beetle - is there an entomologist out there who would like to identify it?!)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Heather Trust's 25th Annual Report

This year's Annual Report will be sent to members and the carefully selected circulation list on Monday, 10 Aug 09. As ever, I hope it will be an interesting read in addition to bringing Members and supporters up to date with goings on at the Trust.

I will be delighted to receive any feedback about the format and contact of the Report or the views I have expressed in it. Like this Blog, I would like to develop a two (or more) way flow of ideas and information.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Heather Beetle (again)

The visit to Langholm showed the heather beetle attack to be most impressive. This is an attack that has affected almost all the heather on the moor, the exception appears to be the very young heather regenerating from stems or seed following fires earlier this year.

At the same time, I have started to pick up reports from south of the border that are beginning to indicate that this might be a bad year for heather beetle. To take 'advantage' of this to raise the profile of the risk to heather posed by this beetle, I need more information. If you have seen a heather beetle attack please could you let us have details so that we can get some idea of the scale of the attack this year.