An HTA ornamentals committee meeting discussed the plan last week and Curtis-Machin said all growers present backed having a UK provenance oak programme. Having biosecure oak is one way of growing more stock in the UK, as identified in the Ornamentals Round Table Action Plan, he added.
"We will get Xylella coming in at some point and there will be other major pests and diseases heading our way, and from an industry perspective we want to work out something for our most iconic and sentinel species. Is there a way we can guarantee British stock as disease-free as we can be?"
Curtis-Machin said he will discuss with Defra and chief plant health officer Nicola Spence "what that might mean", adding: "We're seeing what will work from our perspective and then seeing what support is available and then creating a level playing field."
He said there is an "unstable" marketplace for trees in the UK, which is a "big issue", and the Government can help by stabilising the grants system. If the UK industry could show that the method worked for one species then it could expand.
If there is an argument for biosecurity then it is possible to run a scheme within EU rules. "If there is a threat to UK landscapes then that trumps trade agreements." He explained that Brexit is "not relevant" because the same trading issues would exist should Britain leave the EU. He wants the plan to be in place by November's planting season.
HTA consultant David Brown said plane might be added to oak in the future. A biosecure supply of oak could help halt the spread of oak processionary moth, which he said is a huge cost to the UK. Brown and growers will research how a system might work. He said it would be "naive" to think the UK could replace 100 per cent of oaks with home-grown stock but even a "good chunk" would benefit UK growers and the UK environment.