Residents in Ballymena and district are being urged to get out and about in their gardens, parks and forests and play their part to help protect local plants, woodlands and green spaces from new pests and diseases.
The initiative is calling on walkers, gardeners and families to help Forest Service prevent outbreaks of plants diseases across County Antrim and the wider Northern Ireland.
Jim Crummie, Director of Plant Health, said: “We are very proud of our high plant health status here but new risks and threats are emerging and we must manage those.
“If we don’t our crops, forests, food production and amazing landscape could be at risk.
“We are already working hard to protect our agriculture industry, woodlands, pollinators, honey bees, plants and crops but we can’t do it alone. We need help. And the time to take part and help is now.
“So we’re asking everyone to get out and check the plants in their area.
“Go into the garden, Glenariff Porest Park, or take a walk around Ballycastle, Capanagh or Portglenone forests. Take photographs of trees that are not thriving and report to us anything that looks like a damaging disease or insect damage. You can use our www.treecheck.net web based app to take an image and e-mail this or contact Plant Health Inspection Branch on 0300 200 7847,” Mr Crummie said.
The information received will be assessed and if a new serious disease or pest is confirmed it will be added to the new DAERA Plant Health Risk Register.
The register which lists over 900 existing threats allows Forest Service to monitor, manage plant health and tackle diseases.
Mr Crummie added that plant health is a shared responsibility between regulators, traders, industry and citizens, because pests and diseases often hitch a ride on the goods in global trade and travel.
“Government alone cannot protect our environment and plant health,” he said.
“We also need everyone from green-fingered amateur gardeners to commercial nurseries and landscapers to be aware of what plants we are importing, buying off the internet or bringing back from holiday. We can inadvertently import new diseases and pests which pose a significant threat to our plants and agri-industries,” added Mr Crummie.
For more details on how to partner with the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to protect forests, crops, food production and beautiful landscape, visit DAERA website www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/about-plant-health-risk-register