The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has outlined the payment details under the new Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme (RUS) for ash plantations affected by ash dieback.

As the name suggests, the scheme has two elements: Reconstitution and underplanting.

For both aspects of the scheme, support is available for partial or total site clearance in advance of either reconstitution or underplanting.

Support is also available for reconstitution or underplanting. Reconstitution involves replanting a former ash plantation with an alternative species. Underplanting involves partially replanting a partially cleared ash plantation. In both cases, all Grant and Premium Categories (GPCs) under the Afforestation Grant Scheme are available to the forest owner, including agro-forestry.

Regardless of whether reconstitution or underplanting is undertaken, the clearance grant is set at €1,000/ha cleared.

The grant for reconstitution will depend on the relevant GPC for replanting. This figure ranges from between €3,140 to €6,620, depending on the GPC. Applicants to the scheme apply for 75% of the grant after reconstitution, and apply for the 25% balance four years later.

For underplanting, the grant is again dependent on the relevant GPC. This figure ranges from €2,285 to €4,375, depending on the GPC. The same 75%-25% breakdown of payments applies. The payment for underplanting is based on replanting 50% of the ash plantation.

Management options

The options available to the forest owner may be restricted, based on the category of the ash plantation.

For ‘Category 1’ (plantations under 7m in height), both reconstitution and underplanting are available.

In ‘Category 2’ (plantations between 7m and 17m in height and less than 18cm diameter at breast height and less than 25 years old), plantations will be further subdivided, according to the extent of stem infection from ash dieback.

‘Category 2a’ will include plantations where the extent of stem infection is greater than 4% but less than 10%. For this category, only support for underplanting will be available. Support for reconstitution will not be an option.

For ‘Category 2b’ (stem infection of 10% or more), support for both options is available.

Ash plantations in Category 2 must have a damage level assessment carried out by the registered forester before an application to this scheme can be made. An assessment is not required for Category 1 plantations.

It is understood that plantations that are greater than 17m in height or more than 18cm diameter at breast height (DBH) or over 25 years old are not catered for through this scheme, though management under the Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS) will remain available.