Phytophthora kernoviae has overtaken Phytophthora ramorum as the most worrying plant disease to threaten growers next year.
Dr Stephen Hunter, DEFRA head of plant health, told 150 delegates at the third annual Phytophthora meeting in London this week that DEFRA will spend over £200,000 in 2006 on removing Phytophthora kernoviae-hit Rhododendron ponticum in a disease-management zone east of Redruth in Cornwall.
Hunter added: “We still have a problem with outbreaks outside nurseries because it’s difficult to get rid of this disease. It’s more aggressive in action than Phytophthora ramorum and is spreading within management zones.” It has hit only one nursery so far, in Merseyside.
Martin Ward, a DEFRA scientist, suggested that a future option is to create a buffer zone to isolate Phytophthora kernoviae in Cornwall.
Hunter said Phytophthora ramorum is in 15 European countries and that there have been 550 outbreaks in England and Wales on 25 host plants, 95 per cent of which are Rhododendron, Viburnum and Camellia. “We are finding less of it. We seem to be winning the battle.”
But, he said, there is still an unacceptable risk to some native trees. Positive findings decreased by half to one per cent after 30,000 inspections in 2005
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