Johnsons of Whixley director Andrew Richardson said working with chief plant health inspector Nicola Spence has given a good understanding of the "severe threat" of Xylella to the UK environment and how there was no cure for it.
He added that after 30 years of buying plants in Italy, "we can no longer afford to buy in Italy - it's too risky."
"We are the largest suppliers to the landscape market, and our in-house risk awareness system says the risks of supplying stock with xylella are high and could end up being sued by one of the clients we deal with."
He added that industry bodies need to do more to promote awareness of the disease to members, although he acknowledged BALI has had plant health officers speaking at regional meetings.
Richardson said that few garden centre plantaria managers he spoke to at the HTA National Plant Show had knowledge of xylella and the associated risks.
At the recent HTA Ornamentals meeting both Tim Edwards of Boningale Nurseries and Richardson were pushing for a stronger code. The HTA issued a statement signed by nurseries, and subsequently, garden centres, that said:
"We have taken the decision not to knowingly purchase any host plants originating from regions where the disease Xylella is known to exist. The decision has been taken after detailed consideration as to the potential catastrophic impact the introduction of the disease could have to the UK environment, coupled with the ever increasing number of host plant genera of this disease. This is in line with DEFRA’s good practice recommendations."
Johnsons of Whixley policy states:
"Based upon information currently available from Defra, APHA and other sources globally, Johnsons of Whixley will not knowingly procure any stock directly from or originating in an area that has a confirmed outbreak of Xylella spp."
Currently the areas included in Johnsons of Whixley procurement exclusion are:
- Italy – all regions
- Spain – all regions
- France – Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur (PACA), Corsica
- Principality of Monaco
- Germany – Saxony and Thuringia
- Czech Republic