A Cork forestry owner has warned farmers with larch to be on high alert after a fungal infection similar to ash dieback ravaged his plantation.

Peter Fell said he noticed in May that the needles on a six-acre stand of Japanese larch were starting to turn colour.

“Within a week it was obvious that the plantation was in trouble,” he told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Samples sent to a Department of Agriculture laboratory later confirmed the presence of the deadly phytophthora ramorum.

Phytophthora ramorum is a fungus-like pathogen that is related to the organisms that cause ash dieback and potato blight. It has been in Ireland for more than a decade having been brought in from the continent on infected rhododendron plants.

Fell is heavily involved in the equestrian sector and hosts horse trials at his farm in Watergrasshill in east Cork. He planned to use the Japanese larch to make posts for fences and other obstacles.

However, the six acres of larch will not now be suitable for that purpose and he fears the trees could be totally worthless if he is not granted a felling licence in the short term.

“If we could get the larch harvested quickly at least we could use the wood for stakes or something. But the plantation is dying as it stands at the moment,” he said.

Fell has further larch through the remaining 44ac of hardwood and conifer that is planted on the farm, but the losses posed by the six acres are his main concern.

He estimates that he could lose up to €40,000 as a result of the infection and questions why a compensation scheme is not available from the Department of Agriculture for farmers with larch.

“Some farmers could be in deep trouble should their plantations get infected and their main source of income is impacted. If there is compensation for ash dieback, surely farmers with Japanese larch deserve the same,” he said.