New tree disease Phytophthora pluvialis is discovered in Cornwall – as experts warn a huge rise in cheap imports is putting the UK’s varieties at risk 

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  • The tree disease Pythophthora pluvialis was first discovered in 2013 in Oregon, USA.
  • It was found in September this year infecting a woodland in Cornwall
  • The discovery comes as government figures reveal a reliance on imported trees.
  • Figures released by the government show that the total value of imported trees increased from £52 million in 2016 to £100 million in 2020, a 92 percent increase.
  • The Woodland Trust says it presents a serious threat to native tree species

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A new tree disease called Pythophthora pluvialis has been discovered in Cornwall, as experts warn a massive increase in cheap imports is putting UK tree varieties at risk.

Figures released by the government show that the total value of imported trees increased from £52 million in 2016 to £100 million in 2020, a 92 percent increase.

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Imports of outdoor plants, which are often alternative hosts for tree diseases, have increased from a low of £19 million in the 1990s to £90 million in 2020.

This reliance on cheap imports is putting native varieties at ‘critical risk’, according to the Woodland Trust, which claims it has inadvertently imported at least 20 serious tree pests and diseases into the UK since 1990.

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The trust has called for greater investment in nurseries to ensure there are enough home-grown trees to meet carbon emissions targets by 2050.

A Defra spokesman said the threat from diseases due to globalization and climate change is significant and growing, while the UK already has ‘some of the highest biosafety standards in Europe’, it will consider further measures.

A new tree disease called Pythophthora pluvialis has been discovered in Cornwall, as experts warn a massive increase in cheap imports is putting UK tree varieties at risk. stock image

Phytophthora pluvialis: discovered in Cornwall

Phytophthora pluvialis, a fungal-like pathogen, affects many trees, including western hemlock, tannock, pine and Douglas-fir.

The disease was first discovered in 2013 at Tannock in Oregon, USA.

It has since been found to be responsible for the ‘red needle cast’ of Radiata pine in New Zealand.

Government officials confirmed that it was discovered in a forest in Cornwall in September 2021.

It was found to affect mature western hemlock and Douglas-fir.

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The Woodland Trust says an increase in imported disease has caused the loss of millions of trees over the same time period, and new diseases are still emerging, including Pythophthora pluvialis in Cornwall.

The charity has warned that the risk posed by imported bugs could jeopardize the government’s goal of planting 74,131 acres of trees per year by 2024.

The Woodland Trust’s principal policy advocate Nick Phillips said it was unclear how the disease got to Cornwall, but it was a reminder of the vulnerability of UK trees.

‘While today’s data shows our reliance on cheap tree imports, the news may serve as a wake-up call for stricter new government policy or the risk of losing tens of millions more trees,’ he warned. must do,’ he warned.

The Woodland Trust has warned that ash dieback is expected to destroy more than 100 million ash trees, at a cost of more than £15 billion.

It also comes at a high cost to nature, with more than 900 species of ash trees being found – 40 of which cannot be found anywhere else.

Mr Phillips said: ‘We know the current policy is not working. In 2019 alone, the oak processional moth – which not only harms oak trees but is harmful to human health – was missed and imported into the UK more than 70 times!’

The charity warned that without a strict new biosecurity policy, the government could jeopardize its goal of reaching net zero carbon by 2050, as tree planting is an integral part of its plans.

Since leaving the European Union, the government has been preparing new biosafety legislation that is currently out for public consultation.

‘Our trees and forests face an increasing threat from imported pests and diseases. Unless the government gets serious about biosecurity, the whole ecosystem is on the firing line,’ Mr Phillips said.

The Woodland Trust says there is an urgent need for investment in UK-based nurseries to ensure they can grow the trees they need to meet government targets.

This will also avoid the need to import more trees and with them diseases will also go away.

Studies have shown that millions of new trees will need to be planted over the next few decades to combat climate change.

Figures released by the government show that the total value of imported trees increased from £52 million in 2016 to £100 million in 2020, a 92 percent increase.  stock image

Figures released by the government show that the total value of imported trees increased from £52 million in 2016 to £100 million in 2020, a 92 percent increase. stock image

This reliance on cheap imports is putting native varieties at 'serious risk', according to the Woodland Trust, which it claims has led to at least 20 serious tree pests and diseases being unintentionally imported into the UK since 1990 .  stock image

This reliance on cheap imports is putting native varieties at ‘serious risk’, according to the Woodland Trust, which it claims has led to at least 20 serious tree pests and diseases being unintentionally imported into the UK since 1990 . stock image

Key Findings on Tree Imports

Imports of outdoor plants, which are often alternative hosts for tree diseases, increased from a low of £19 million in the 1990s to £90 million in 2020.

In 2020, 344k tonnes of plants were imported – roughly in line with 2016 levels

By value, 83% of imported plants and planting material were from the European Union, and 17% were from the rest of the world.

In 2020/21, over 2,800 consignments of controlled material were notified to the Forestry Commission

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Mr Phillips said: ‘If more diseases occur, landowners will be expected to pay the bill for management or removal of affected trees. We are already aware of the financial burden on landowners to deal with ash dieback.

There are at least 127 tree pests and diseases that are considered high risk for the UK.

If imported into the UK, 47 of these could cost more than £1 billion to deal with and wipe out millions of trees.

To ensure that the Woodland Trust plants and sells trees are not imported, the charity established its assurance…

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