Forestry Commission Tree Research
It is all very well aiming to plant millions of new trees (see main article) but what species should we be planting? With climate change and devastating new diseases such as ash dieback, the Forestry Commission is looking at a wide range of species to ensure woods and forests survive into the future. Trials include Chinese mahogany and tulip at Alice Holt, Montpellier maple and Vietnamese golden cypress at Westonbirt and Serbian spruce and western red cedar at Thetford Forest. Eucalyptus might be grown to provide biomass for combined heat and power plants. However, stringent biosecurity will be needed to prevent new pests and diseases proliferating.
No Killing in Compassionate Conservation
Scientists have warned that compassionate conservation is a flawed concept. It precludes the killing of any animals allowing populations of wildlife to ebb and flow, but the scientists warn of mass extinctions unless predators are controlled, especially the culling of invasive species. Even Chris Packham has said that he approves of culling animals that pose a threat to species lower down the food chain when there are no natural predators. He cites overgrazing by deer of the understory or shrub layer in woodland that is driving the decline of nightingales. In the absence of apex predators, the bear, wolf and lynx, man has to control the deer population.
African Swine Fever
Veterinary authorities and pig farmers are very concerned that the epidemic of African Swine Fever that has been sweeping across the continent will soon arrive here. So the news that scientists in Spain have developed a vaccine that can be given to wild boar in feed is timely and welcome. There has been mass slaughter of wild boar in several countries, notably Germany, as they are thought to be one of the main vectors spreading the virus. Over 90% of boar immunised were resistant to the disease and this immunity could also be passed on. However, it was stressed that more research was needed before the vaccine could be made widely available.
Fodder Stocks Replenished
Livestock farmers will be relieved that the pressure on fodder stocks has diminished in a benign spring. First cut grass silage has now been taken with excellent yields following rapid growth in late April and early May. Forage maize has now been planted and is emerging well. There was a problem in this area with very dry seedbeds but the rain a couple of weeks ago came at just the right time. More rain is needed now both for the maize and for grass regrowth.