The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called for the establishment of a new taskforce to review the existing biosecurity measures in place for the great spruce bark beetle. This virulent pest has already made its way to southern Scotland and is gradually spreading northwards. Farmers in Ireland are deeply concerned about the potential risks posed by the importation of timber from Scotland, which could introduce the beetle to Irish forests. Jason Fleming, Chair of the IFA Farm Forestry Committee, has urged Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Pippa Hackett, to take immediate action in setting up a bark beetle taskforce.
Fleming emphasized the need for increased vigilance, stating, “Although there are already significant biosecurity measures in place, we must remain extra vigilant as great spruce bark beetles and other bark beetles can be spread over long distances through the movement of infested logs.” He urged the minister to bring together key stakeholders to review the current biosecurity procedures, particularly at ports, in order to minimize the risk of introducing these pests to Ireland. Fleming also suggested that all measures, including a complete cessation of imports from affected countries, should be considered.
The great spruce bark beetle is known to tunnel into the bark of living trees to lay eggs, and its larvae feed on the woody material, creating cavities that weaken and eventually kill the tree. Currently, timber is only imported to Ireland from a pest-free area in Western Scotland, which is regularly monitored by the Scottish Forestry Commission. Additionally, all imported spruce logs are accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate.
Fleming highlighted the potential impact of an invasive species like the great spruce bark beetle, explaining, “Once it enters a new environment, it can have a disproportionate impact because the predators that would normally control it in its native range are not present. This can lead to population explosions, significantly hindering timber production and devaluing farmers’ timber crops.” He drew attention to the devastation caused by ash dieback and stressed the importance of implementing appropriate biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction and spread of bark beetles, which could have a similarly destructive impact on the Irish forestry sector.
In conclusion, the IFA is urging the Minister of State at DAFM to establish a bark beetle taskforce to review and strengthen the current biosecurity procedures. The aim is to minimize the risk of introducing the great spruce bark beetle and other bark beetles to Ireland, thereby safeguarding the country’s forestry sector. The potential consequences of such an introduction could be devastating, and the IFA is determined to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to protect Ireland’s forests and timber crops.