FERA poinsettia inspections minimise threat of Bemisia

Thorough inspections of poinsettia crops in the run up to Christmas are keeping Bemisia at bay, though the pest still remains a serious threat to UK growers.

Ravensworth Nurseries chief grower Paul Marshall praised the competence of Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) inspectors and said the nursery had achieved 100 per cent success in 2010 in pest control using biological measures.

He added: "This year has been brilliant compared to the last four to five years when Bemisia more or less got out of hand. From when the first plants originally come in, the inspectors are never off your back until you have got control of the problem.

"I think it's good because it needs to be found quickly. If you can't control the problem the inspectors more or less stop you from moving your plants. We take the approach that the plants are going to come in with Bemisia so we have a plan already in place."

FERA plant health and seeds inspector Chris Snell said: "We inspect the cuttings from when they first arrive in June and July and, really, that's the best time to find a problem.

"And because it's a notifiable pest, we have to require the grower to take action to eradicate it - they either treat it with a chemical pesticide or they use a biological option."

He added: "I have been quite lucky - I have two medium-sized growers and one small grower to inspect and we have not had a lot of outbreaks. It's been a better year this year. There were some outbreaks of Bemisia but my gut feeling is that it's down on last year."

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