COUNTY NEWS: Vaccination programme to save Sussex elm trees

A new chapter in the fight against the scourge of Dutch Elm Disease is about to begin ... in Sussex.

Friday, 20th May 2016, 1:00 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:47 am
An elm tree is injected with the Dutch Trig vaccine
An elm tree is injected with the Dutch Trig vaccine

Trials get under way next week of a biological vaccine which it is hoped will halt the decimation of the iconic British tree since the beetle-spread killer began to stalk the land in the 1970s.

Injections of Dutch Trig will take place in Seaford on Wednesday, May 25.

Developed by Dutch company Bomendienst, it will be the first time the vaccine has been used in the UK although it has been deployed successfully to combat Dutch Elm Disease in the Netherlands since 1992. Injections have also been carried out in Sweden, Germany, the USA and Canada.

The initiative is a collaboration between The Conservation Foundation and East Sussex County Council.

One of the last bastions of the elm, the Sussex coast landscape was the focus of the Ulmus Maritime project, which was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This included a felling programme to prevent healthy trees from infection, allowing thousands of mature elms to survive, plantings and an elm symposium in Brighton where experts and enthusiasts from around Europe were shown the latest Dutch Trig technology by Bomendienst’s Ron Schraven.

“It’s important we preserve our natural heritage for generations to come,” said Anthony Becvar, Dutch Elm Disease Officer for East Sussex County Council. “Currently that means felling diseased trees to save others from becoming infected.

“The close proximity of the English Channel results in cold winds from the sea making it a difficult area for the elm bark beetle to reach. These conditions, and our continued control programme, have resulted in one of the largest populations of elms in the country.”

The licence to trial Dutch Trig in the UK has been welcomed by The Conservation Foundation. “We are hoping Dutch Trig may bring a new tool for managing Britain’s elm trees,” said the Foundation’s James Coleman. “Until now, elm protection programmes have mostly relied on sanitation felling to help control beetle populations, but these are curative instead of preventative. Dutch Trig offers a real chance to protect the elms from Dutch Elm Disease, so we’re keen to trial the vaccine in Sussex.”

David Shreeve, Director of The Conservation Foundation, said, “The elm has been a cherished feature of our life and landscape for centuries. Many have disappeared over recent years but this vaccine offers real hope for these magnificent trees which still remain and an opportunity to help protect the elm landscape of the Sussex coast and elsewhere for future generations to enjoy.”

Bomendienst’s Ron Schraven said, “Dutch Trig triggers a reaction of the immune system and activates the natural defence mechanism of the tree. Because of this the tree recognises Dutch Elm Disease quicker and can react to it in time, thus helping it to survive. It is a safe, easy and organic way of protecting elms.”

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