County urges public to help fight tree disease

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IF YOU are going out to explore the East Sussex countryside this summer, you can help fight Dutch elm disease by keeping an eye out for sick trees and reporting them to the county council.

East Sussex now contains the only population of mature English elms in the world and the Dutch elm disease control area established in 1973 has helped to protect them.

The area extends from Eastbourne to Brighton, roughly south of the Lewes-Polegate railway to the sea.

The county council is asking walkers, cyclists and horseriders to alert them if they see trees affected by the disease.

They can be identified by the brown and yellow wilting leaves at the tips of the branches.

These gradually spread throughout the canopy as the tree shuts off its water supply, hoping to trap the fungus in the infected limb.

Dutch elm disease has killed millions of trees in the UK since its arrival in 1971 and the only way to reduce the spread of the disease is to fell and burn those infected.

On April 1 this year, the county council took back the management of Dutch elm disease within the East Sussex control area. This role had previously been the responsibility of the South Downs Joint Committee which was disbanded with the creation of the new South Downs National Park.

A county council spokesperson said, “We now have a full-time specialist Dutch elm disease officer working with an enthusiastic team of 26 elm protection volunteers. Since April, we have received sightings of hundreds of infected trees.

“You can report any sightings of diseased trees by telephone, email or through our online “Report A Fault” system.

“Our website also has helpful hints on how to spot the disease and what to look out for. See www.eastsussex.gov.uk/reportafault, email dutchelmdisease@eastsussex.gov.uk or call 0345 60 80 193.