Prunus is becoming such a pest and disease concern that it is being added to a notification scheme in October to safeguard UK trees from incoming problems. Meanwhile, interceptions of plants coming into the UK infested with Bemisia tabaci reached the same level by the end of September 2015 as in the whole of 2014.
An APHA representative said: "Following a consultation launched in January 2015, Prunus will be added to the UK statutory notification scheme this autumn. This means that we will be better able to protect the UK against the risks from a number of harmful organisms whose main hosts include Prunus species. Many of these are present elsewhere in the EU, but not in the UK. They include Xylella fastidiosa, Anoplophora chinensis and Xanthonomas arboricola pv. pruni, as well as unlisted pests such as Platynota stultana and Aromia bungii."
Currently, the statutory notification scheme applies to oak, plane, sweet chestnut, pine, elm and ash trees. The scheme was put in place to help the Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) build intelligence about individual trades, particularly those where there is a risk of introducing harmful organisms, and to help target inspections of such trees. The information gathered is also valuable in the event of an outbreak, enabling the PHSI to more easily trace the movement of potentially infected stock.
Nursery consultant John Adlam said: "With new diseases ever pressing to enjoy our horticultural generosity it is important that we regulate the flow of new material into the UK. Prunus as a species is diverse and important to the industry, covering the humble laurel to the exotic cherries. Adding this genera to the notification scheme will assist in protecting the UK stock from infections and also give increased support to UK and overseas tree sales."
He added: "It should be noted that this scheme applies to growers who have a holding number and registered to the scheme. Landscape projects and similar schemes where imported plants are delivered direct to site often manage to bypass such notifications and pose a risk to the industry. We should also be mindful of the Ornamental Horticultural Round Table ask number nine, where growers have stock destroyed as a result of a plant health order that they are provided with compensation, such as the livestock and poultry sectors. The introduction of a new pest or disease to the UK can be financially disastrous to companies."
On 1 October 2014 five new commodities were added to the list of plant material that is controlled (requiring a phytosanitary certificate) and so requires an inspection. They were sweet and chilli peppers, Limnophila and eryngium leafy vegetables, cassava and Murraya leaves. These "new" products have accounted for 37 interceptions to date in 2015. APHA has recruited 27 additional PHSI posts in 2014-15 and has "presented a strong argument for maintaining our current staffing levels during the current spending review".
Interceptions Bemisia tabaci from EU and third countries
Interceptions of Bemisia tabaci from the EU Notification System for Plant Health Interceptions (Europhyt) for material from EU countries:
• 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014 38
• 1 January 2015 to 24 September 2015 107
Comparable figures for Bemisia tabaci interceptions from third countries:
• 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014 190
• 1 January 2015 to 24 September 2015 187