According To Edwards ... Xylella poses serious threat to production

The latest plant health problem to sink its metaphorical teeth into Europe is called Xylella, a bacterium passed between plants by sucking insects and first identified in California as a serious problem on vines and has a history of being taken seriously.

Its arrival in Italy didn't concern northern growers unduly until we understood the ramifications where it was discovered on our nurseries. The range of plants known capable of hosting the pathogen is large and growing as research continues. A risk assessment carried out by EU authorities produced regulations that appear to demand a ban on the movement of all host plants within a 10km radius for up to five years - enough to put out of business not just a nursery but a whole production area.

Bacteria are renowned for their ability to change and adapt to new situations. Xylella has now jumped from Italy to southern France and the French pathogen is indeed a new strain, a strain apparently capable of surviving further north.

Couple that fact with the ever growing list of plant hosts and the ever growing list of insects able to act as vector, and we have a very serious problem indeed.

No one knows how Xylella will play out - who guessed "sudden oak death" would ultimately devastate our Larch plantations? But we can be sure more plant health issues will follow. When they do, the UK plant trade will have to work to regulations set out by the EU and policed by UK authorities.

Those regulations will be common to all member states but the relationships between trade and national authorities will be unique. It's pleasing to see our relationships in the UK starting to develop in the right way, but there's a long way to go if they're going to become truly effective.

Just how relationships develop from here is largely down to the trade - that process will move on at a plant health conference taking place in York on 17 February. People who think it's important should be there.

Tim Edwards is chairman of Boningale Nurseries


Did you find this article useful? Why not subscribe to the magazine? Please call 08451 55 73 55 for more information or visit

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Green manure crops

Pest & Disease Factsheet - Green manure crops

Valuable tools to combat pests and diseases, improve soils and boost nutrient levels.

Pest & disease Factsheet - Whiteflies

Pest & disease Factsheet - Whiteflies

Whiteflies are sap-sucking insects that can be found in high numbers on protected crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chrysanthemum, fuchsia, abutilon and gerbera. They can also attack outdoor crops including brassicas.

Pest & disease Factsheet - Powdery mildew

Pest & disease Factsheet - Powdery mildew

Accurate identification is key to tackling this serious plant disease.