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Plant disease poses threat to UK horticulture industry

Published: 11 August 2017 - Fiona Garcia

One of the most harmful bacterial plant diseases in the world, Xylella fastidiosa could pose a huge risk to the UK industry and the Horticultural Trades Association is warning that businesses must make sure they only buy host plants from trusted plant passported suppliers. 

The HTA is calling on the horticultural industry to ensure they are only buying from trusted plant passported suppliers to avoid an outbreak of the harmful Xylella fastidiosa disease in the UK
The HTA is calling on the horticultural industry to ensure they are only buying from trusted plant passported suppliers to avoid an outbreak of the harmful Xylella fastidiosa disease in the UK

The HTA has is calling on retailers, landscapers, growers, designers and all dealing with plants in a professional capacity, to be aware of the risk the disease poses and to be extra vigilant when sourcing plant material.

Xylella fastidiosa can cause severe losses in a wide range of hosts and the HTA has warned that there would be a massive impact on the plant trade across all business sectors in the event of an outbreak in the UK.

An outbreak of this disease, where several different plants are infected, will trigger immediate stock destruction within 100m and a movement ban of host plants within a 10km radius for up to five years. “This will dramatically and immediately affect most plant selling operations, as well as impacting on all businesses dealing in plants within the 10km zone,” said the HTA, adding that domestic gardens could also be affected.

In order to prevent the disease from coming to the UK, the HTA advises that businesses only buy potential host plants from trusted plant passported suppliers who know where their plants come from. “We strongly recommend that potential host plants are not sourced from or near regions where there have been findings of Xylella fastidiosa,” said the association.

Current demarcated areas can be seen at: http://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/plant/docs/ph_biosec_legis_list-demarcated-union-territory_en.pdf

The list of host plants is growing and includes many popular garden and landscape plants, such as lavender, rosemary, oak and many others. The current list of confirmed hosts can be found here.

The full emergency measures imposed at EU level are only triggered when the disease has spread and it is considered to be an outbreak. These full measures are not triggered in the case of an interception, if the disease is found on a single plant or within a batch of plants and is diagnosed and contained before it spreads. Stock will still be destroyed in this circumstance but the movement ban is very unlikely to come in force, says the HTA.

In light of the growing risk when sourcing plants, over 100 wholesale nurseries, including Aylett Nurseries, Bents Garden & Home, Bridge Nurseries, Chessington, David Austin, Hillier, Klondyke, Squires, Millbrook, Gardens Group, Perrywood, Monkton Elm, and Notcutts have signed up to plant sourcing statements such as the one below:

“The following nurseries have taken the decision NOT to knowingly purchase any host plants originating from regions where the disease Xylella is known to exist. The decision has been taken after detailed consideration as to the potential catastrophic impact the introduction of the disease could have to the UK environment, coupled with the ever increasing number of host plant genera of this disease. This is in line with DEFRA’s good practice recommendations.”

You can view the full list of nurseries signed up to the statement here.

 

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