Plant biosecurity on agenda at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Plant pests and diseases will be hot topics at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show where two displays will warn about the UK's susceptibility to plant health problems imported from outside the UK.

Corporation of London OPM garden
Corporation of London OPM garden

The Food and Environment Research Agency's display will illustrate pathways that bring in pests and diseases to the UK, while the Corporation of London has a 'Fresh' garden warning of the dangers of oak processionary moth (OPM).

The oaks in the Chelsea garden are from Deepdale Trees and were sourced from Germany seven years ago.

Designer Helen Elks-Smith said: "I don't have a problem necessarily with big trees coming in. We need to be mindful of making sure quarantine periods are completed and making sure inspections are done at both ends. The general public and professionals have to take on the issues of biosecurity."

The FERA exhibit shows the three major pathways through which pests and diseases could inadvertently be brought to the UK.

They are from ornamental plants from Asia, specimen trees from continental Europe and private imports.

The Forestry Commission has set up the ‘OPM London Advisory Group’, including The City of London Corporation , London boroughs, Royal Parks, London Tree Officers and tree contractors, who spray the pests.

They have developed a ‘control programme’ to combat OPM chaired by City of London Corporation open spaces director Sue Ireland.

This has led to a 50 per cent reduction in numbers since 2012. But Ireland warned that if the group does not sustain the momentum in 2014, OPM will spread further again.

The group’s next aim is to seek ‘full containment’ so OPM no longer spreads – and later, full eradication, but that will need greater resources and more in-depth research gained through engaging policymakers, decision makers and researchers on anti-OPM strategy and improving OPM surveillance, communication and control across London.

In 2013, FERA had a 'Stop the Spread' garden highlighting pests and diseases.

Last week, Defra issued new biosecurity and tree health strategies.


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