Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill and Minister of State in the south Tom Hayes have launched TreeCheck, a new smartphone app to enlist the public’s help in safeguarding tree and forest health on the island of Ireland.
Commenting on the development of TreeCheck, Minister O’Neill said: “TreeCheck has been made possible through effective and innovative co-operation between officials in Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), who have developed, refined and tested the application on an all island basis, with the co-operation of the Forestry Commission. This development will enhance the ability of tree and forest owners and the public to accurately report suspect tree diseases and pests, and enable more effective follow up by departmental inspectors.”
Minister Hayes added: “The outbreaks, on the island, of Chalara Ash Dieback and Phytophthora ramorum in larch have brought into sharp focus the threat posed by the introduction and spread of serious pests and diseases to our trees and forests. Increased movement of plants and plant products in global trade and changing weather patterns will only serve to heighten these risks, and it is essential that we all play our part in protecting the economy and the environment. The positive contribution that engagement by the public can make towards safeguarding plant health is increasingly recognised.”
TreeCheck will enable members of the public throughout the island to use their smartphones to report details and send a photograph of suspect diseased trees or evidence of insect damage to DARD or DAFM for investigation. Using any GPS enabled Smartphone, the location of the suspect tree may also be captured by the App to allow inspection if required. Once received, the ill health reports will be assessed by plant health officials and will be followed up if a serious pest or disease is suspected. The App will help in the early detection of new and existing harmful pests and diseases.
In conclusion, both ministers agreed that early detection and action are critical in our efforts to prevent serious tree pests and diseases becoming established on the island of Ireland.
Both ministers encouraged the public to use TreeCheck which can be accessed at www.treecheck.net. All reports received will be acknowledged and those of particular concern taken forward for follow up by specialist plant health inspectors.