A new chapter in fight against Dutch elm disease (DED) is about to begin in the UK. Following the success of Ulmus Maritime, the Conservation Foundation’s programme for the Sussex coast’s elm landscape, The Conservation Foundation and East Sussex County Council are joining forces again for a programme trialling Dutch Trig®, a biological vaccine from the Dutch company Bomendienst.
The first injections of UK elms took place on Wednesday 25 May in Seaford, East Sussex.
This is the first time Dutch Trig® has been used to vaccinate elms in the UK, although it has been used successfully to combat Dutch elm disease in the Netherlands since 1992 and injections of elms have also been carried out in Sweden, Germany, the USA and Canada.
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”, says 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 population of elms in the country.”
A new chapter in elm management
The licence to trial Dutch Trig® in the UK has been welcomed with enthusiasm by The Conservation Foundation. “We are hoping Dutch Trig® may bring a new tool for managing Britain’s elm trees,” says 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, adds, “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.”
Explains Bomendienst’s Ron Schraven, “DutchTrig® 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, this helping it to survive. It is a safe, easy and organic way of protecting elms. With the admission of Dutch Trig® in the United Kingdom a new chapter in elm protection has begun.”
Protecting natural heritage
The UK’s elm population owes its survival to the continued work by volunteers and organisations involved in the battle against Dutch elm disease (DED). Elms represent an important scenic and cultural value to local residents, and are important habitats for many rare British species including the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.