Virulent unknown Phytophthora species discovered in South-West

Plant health fears grow as new virulent disease is found in Cornwall

More plant health fears hit the UK this week when a “new, more virulent species of Phytophthora” was confirmed in Cornwall. A Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs representative confirmed that the outbreaks were on existing affected sites, which include Caerhays Castle and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. She said: “The worrying bit is that the new variety of the disease found at one of the sites. “In the lab it doesn’t come up as ramorum, but it is a Phytophthora. We can’t find anyone in the world who has seen it before.” DEFRA said the new Phytophthora at one of the sites in Cornwall is causing disease on rhododendrons and a nearby Fagus. McMillan Browse said: “It is almost inevitable that if you are doing a survey looking for Phytophthora ramorum, you are going to come up with other diseases.” DEFRA confirmed four new outbreaks of ramorum this week, on Quercus cerris, two Fagus sylvatica and one Castanea sativa. Heligan horticulture director and Great Gardens of Cornwall group spokesperson Philip McMillan Browse said none of the findings were at Heligan but the two new species were on one Cornish site. Plant Health & Forestry Minister Ben Bradshaw said: “DEFRA and the Forestry Commission continue to monitor this situation very closely. The identification of a new type of disease is a matter of concern and we are working to establish the extent of the problem. “We need to ensure that the precautionary measures we are taking, including additional resources in surveillance and checking imports, are effective and proportionate to the risks.” Two other trees in Europe are known to be infected by ramorum dieback — one in Sussex and one in Holland. Both are American oaks.

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