Cases of the downy mildew Plasmopara obducens, which is affecting thousands of pounds’ worth of crops on sites around the UK, are spreading rapidly since it was first found in Britain earlier this year.
Reports are coming from as far afield as Devon, Northumberland and beyond. Growers and garden centre owners feel more preventive information on tackling the disease should be available and many are angry that it has arrived in this country at all — before this year it was found in the US, Europe and Asia, but not the UK.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has called for statutory action against the disease, which would allow for the enforcement of the Plant Health Act, giving DEFRA the power to destroy infected plant materials.
Technical director Dr Martin McPherson for crop protection
at Stockbridge Technology Centre, in Yorkshire, said: “Plasmopara obducens is primarily an airborne pathogen but there are a few ways it could have spread to the UK. It could have come through imported plant material, winds may have blown airborne spores across from Europe, or it could be seedborne.”
Some affected firms have pointed the finger at Ball Colegrave as having introduced the mildew. Proprietor Robert Constantine of Crediton Garden Centre in Devon said: “Having spoken with others experiencing the mildew, who use the same suppliers as we do, I can’t see how it can be anyone else other than Ball Colegrave.”
Ball Colegrave was unwilling to make a full statement at this stage but a representative commented: “The disease has not been identified by DEFRA on any Ball Colegrave stock.” An official statement will be released next week.
Dr McPherson warned: “Any ideas as to the original source are speculative at this time. Pointing fingers will only break down communication in the industry
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