GEORGE NEWS - "We need to think out of the box and not limit ourselves in dealing with the problem. A common sense approach is required." This how Dr Jaap Steenkamp reacted to the latest on the ongoing PSHB (Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer) infestation.
Steenkamp, a well-known forestry specialist, said it is evident from the interest that the Western Cape government and Disaster Management together with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development are taking, that the matter is receiving more and more attention.
According to Steenkamp a PSHB situation report was recently compiled and Phytosanitary Procedures and Draft Control Measures were cited.
"This is most certainly a step in the right direction," he said, but added that the consultative process on PSHB is lacking.
He said government organs should be wary of casting their measures in stone, as all the draft documents were compiled at a time when no registered pesticides were available and by now there are some different ideas regarding tree treatment and tree removal.
"The single biggest current risk with these documents is that they may be gazetted (become legislation) and then we find more amicable solutions to our problem, but by law we may not be able to implement them," he warned.
One of the out-of-the-box ideas that should be tested is to plant the PSHB preferred trees next to crops to alleviate pressure and assist in saving the crop trees. This is not a new principle and there are excellent examples where exotic trees were planted around or next to indigenous trees, allowing for fire wood collection and building materials while preserving the indigenous forests in the process.
The same principle may work to protect crops. If we ban these preferred hosts from being planted, we ensure that PSHB will just look for the next host.
According to Steenkamp some of the proposed Draft Control Measures relating to PSHB are:
- Compulsory notification
- Phytosanitary procedures (to be monitored by "executive officers")
- Removal, removal prohibition and remaining plant guidelines
- Responsibilities of land users
"We need to make our inputs known in the consultative process. In my opinion there are currently some obvious flaws in some of these documents and we need to ascertain that there are not unintended consequences to all our detriment and the advantage of PSHB.
"The next meeting to determine the current situation will take place on 12 September in Cape Town and the George Municipality will attend the meeting."
He said that PanAf has registered PSHB Fungicidal and that the measures taken in George regarding PSHB has had some success.
The challenge of the PSHB infestation is ongoing, but there is no need to panic. Now that spring has started the real impact of the PSHB infestation will be visible.