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Action needed to prevent more devastating tree diseases entering the UK
Date:10/31/2012

The UK Government has recently imposed a ban on importing foreign ash trees in order to prevent the spread of fungal disease Chalara, which kills the trees and has entered the country via imports from Europe.

Imperial College London researchers argue that the nursery trade, horticultural stakeholders and the plant buying public need to be more aware of the risks to tree health posed by imported plant pathogens. They say it is far better to prevent the entry of a tree disease than to attempt to contain it once it is established.

Based on the findings of a report published in 2011, the researchers stress the need for much more public debate about the issue of biosecurity and measures that will put in place tougher international regulation to protect our rural environments.

They also say there must be more engagement with the problem among conservation groups and agencies, plant lovers and garden designers and people in the horticultural trade.

Dr Clive Potter from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, who led the study, said: "We acknowledge there must be a trade-off between the desire to import trees and ornamental plants from abroad and the need for measures that effectively keep diseases at bay, but it is vital that we act."

He expressed particular concern about the emerging risks to tree health from a number of insect pests and disease pathogens, including ash dieback, that have recently entered the UK or are at high risk of introduction in coming years.

Social and natural scientists working with the UK Research Councils' Rural Economy and Land Use Programme and the Government's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) spent almost three years looking back at the outbreak of Dutch Elm Disease that ravaged the UK in the 1970s and considering the implications for newly emerging plant diseases such as Sudden Oak Death.

Despite its name, Sudden Oak Deat
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Contact: Simon Levey
s.levey@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-46702
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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