Pests more likely to spread in UK as climate warms up

"We are at greater risk of invasive pest species because of global warming and increased global trade," entomologist Clare Sampson told delegates at Contact 09 earlier this month.

"Temperatures are predicted to rise by up to 6 degsC this century, producing conditions that favour exotic insects. Nursery staff need to be vigilant with imports," she said.

Sampson, who is development manager at Certis' bio-control department BCP, said growers should be aware of two pests that are spreading through Europe but have not yet reached our shores - spider mite Tetranychus evansi and leaf mining moth Tuta absoluta.

She explained how whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) has recently been brought into the UK on poinsettia and Ficus cuttings, but that the pest needs conditions above 10 degsC to thrive - and existing bio-controls, including Eretmocerus eremicus and Amblyseius swirskii, will be more effective in a warming climate.

Outbreaks of Fuchsia gall mite in Hampshire and Middlesex during 2007 "could be a problem, as eight million boxes of fuchsias are produced every year by UK growers", Sampson added.

Another pest to look out for is chilli thrips, Scirtothrips dorsalis, as the Plant Health Service in England and Wales made regular interceptions during 2005-06 on produce from India, Kenya, St Lucia and Thailand. Sampson said that "prevention and eradication is the best protection" and that knowledge of controls in other countries should be utilised.

Central Science Laboratory mycologist Paul Beales also said climate change and global trade was leading to an increase in diseases. However, he said new methods to tackle them were being developed, including improved lateral flow devices for field testing and auditory diagnostics.

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