I saw this perturbing report on the BBC News website at the end of last year.
Gardens under threat from ‘game changing’ plant disease.
Apparently Xylella fastidiosa has caused widespread problems in Europe, wiping out entire olive groves. It can infect plants from lavender to cherry trees and is of real and growing concern in the UK. Experts at The Royal Horticultural Society say the disease could arrive in the UK on imported stock, threatening gardens.
The government’s DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) website has more detailed information about Xylella fastidiosa.
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial disease with many sub species and strains not known to occur in the UK.
In mainland Europe, most notably France (Corsica and mainland France) and Italy there have been several outbreaks of different sub-species which have led to significant impacts on plants both in the wider environment and those grown commercially for olive production. In 2016 Xylella was detected in Spain for the first time on cherry trees in a nursery. Although EU regulated, there remains some concern about the risk of introduction to the UK via infected host plants imported as plants for planting considered to be the most likely pathway for entry. The disease is spread by insects that feed on the xylem fluid, that is the vessel of the plant which carries water. This includes the widespread and common meadow spittlebug, which is the principle insect spreading the disease in Italy and France.
The National Farmer’s Union (NFU) are offering advice to members.
So far, we have had no recorded cases of Xylella in the UK. However, X.fastidiosa has been identified in Italy, southern France (including Corsica), Germany and now Spain (Majorca).
The NFU considers that:
Xylella has the potential to be a big threat to ornamental plant production in the UK if it reaches our shores.
And the Forestry Commission
has produced a useful leaflet with some photos of Xylella fastidiosa and information about reporting any suspected cases.
The leaflet is at https://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/FCPH-XF.pdf/$FILE/FCPH-XF.pdf but might not be accessible if your device can’t read pdf files.
Hopefully the eradication measures in Europe will be successful and Xylella fastidiosa will be consigned to the dustbin of gardening history.
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