Grower warns of danger to herb crops

New beetle invader poses risk to crops of Rosmarinus, Thymus, Salvia and Lavendula

A lavender grower has warned of a risk to Rosmarinus, Thymus, Salvia officinalis and Lavandula crops from rosemary leaf beetle. Norfolk Lavender managing director Henry Head called for a central body to sort out the problem and described DEFRA as “about as much use as a wet blanket on a cold November night”. He added: “The thing that appals me is the RHS knew about this in 1996 and didn’t tell anybody.” RHS principal entomologist Andrew Halstead said the claim was “nonsense” but added that the pest “didn’t immediately ring alarm bells” when it was first sighted in the mid-1990s. He said the RHS put out full information on the beetle in a 2002 report, adding that if Head “wants to pillory anybody it should be the Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate”. The Norwich-based John Innes Research Centre has had more than 20 sightings of the eight-millimetre-long, metallic green and purple, invasive Chrysollina americana. Most sightings have been in the Norfolk area, with others in London, Surrey, Warwickshire and Derby. ADAS entomologist Jude Bennison said a pyrethroid approved for control of other pests will kill the beetles. See www.rhs.org.uk/research/ projects/rosemary_beetle.asp.

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