Pest & Disease Alert: Phytophthora kernoviae

An outbreak of Phytophthora kernoviae, a fungal infection that can kill trees and shrubs, has been identified in Cornwall.

Infected rhododendron leaf. Image: Forestry Commision
Infected rhododendron leaf. Image: Forestry Commision

The Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera) has confirmed that the pathogen Phytophthora kernoviae has been detected on a bilberry (Vaccinium), in Cornwall.

Named after the old name for Cornwall, ‘Kernow', the fungus-like pathogen was discovered in 2003 on rhododendron plants and a beech in the Redruth/Truro area of Cornwall.  Cases have since been reported in Wales and Scotland. According to Defra, P. kernoviae causes bleeding cankers on trees, which can kill them. It also causes leaf blights on shrubs.

The earliest cases were contained at three nursery sites and public gardens, but in 2008 Defra confirmed the first discovery in the wild of P. kernoviae on bilberry - making it a threat to native heath land across Britain, according to Defra.

P. kernoviae is distinct from P. ramorum but appears to behave in a similar fashion although there is some evidence that the newer pathogen can kill rhododendron more quickly. It's thought to be spread by spores in mist or water.

Click here to read a collection of Horticulture Week stories on P. kernoviae

Click here for practical information from Fera on how to control P. kernoviae

For a copy of Fera's weekly Pest & Disease report click on the attachment below.

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