Tobacco cutworm warning issued one year on from previous pest outbreak

Growers are being urged to quarantine and inspect any new begonia stock for Spodoptera litura (tobacco cutworm) following an outbreak of the pest at this time last year.

Although horticulture consultant ADAS's latest Bedding & Pot Plant Notes reported no cases of pests and diseases in December 2010, a warning was issued to begonia growers to be vigilant for signs of tobacco cutworm on new stock.

The January 2010 outbreak emerged from crop produced from Dutch cuttings and the pest, which often kills or defoliates young plants, has been known to attack cyclamen and primula.

As Spodoptera litura is a notifiable pest, any sightings should be reported to a Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) plant health and seeds inspector.

Meanwhile, FERA senior plant pathologist Charles Lane has urged sunflower growers to report any suspected outbreaks of sunflower downy mildew (Helianthus annuus) after it was discovered on an outdoor cut flower crop for the first time in the UK in October 2010.

- Statistics from the Defra Phytophtora programme, which began in April 2009, have shown that biosecurity measures have lowered the incidence of the disease - down to a 0.2 per cent occurrence rate throughout the first half of the 2010-11 year.

Writing in the latest issue of FERA newsletter Plant Clinic News, Phytophthora programme leader Keith Walters said the findings showed "progress towards reducing the impact of these diseases in this vital industry".

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