FORESTRY Commission Scotland is to step up the fight against tree pests and diseases by quantifying drift patterns by spraying a common food colouring from a helicopter.
Commission staff will undertake an aerial spraying trial, with no pesticides, to improve their understanding should this technique ever need to be used.
The trial will take place near Meall Mor approximately 10km south of Inverness and, subject to weather conditions, is scheduled within a ten day window from August 1 to 10.
Regarded as a last resort in combating virulent, fast spreading tree pests and diseases, this trial follows two others on the national forest estate in recent years.
The trial will be managed by Forest Research and will focus on the more technical aspects of drift management in Scottish conditions. This will enable the commission to verify drift models and continue to help build the necessary competence and capacity to safely deploy aerial spraying if needed. The spray mix - water, a food dye and an agent to prevent evaporation - poses no risk to the environment or to human and animal health, but a small area of the forest will be closed to ensure the helicopter can work safely. It is anticipated that during the 10- day window the site will only be closed for a few hours on each of two or three days. Signs will forewarn forest users about the temporary closures and the site will re- open once flying is completed.