Friday, 9 April 2010

Phytophthora Ramorum / Kernoviae

You will be forgiven if your eyes glaze over at the title of this post. (For pronunciation try 'fytoffthora').   However, potentially this disease, also called Sudden Oak Death, could be a major threat to heathland habitats.  Fera ( The Food and Environment Research Agency)  provides more information about the disease and a Fact sheet on its website.

A Review Paper has just been published which provides a summary of the activity in England and Wales since the disease was first identified in Cornwall in 2002. Principally, the disease outbreaks have been confined to woodlands, nurseries and ornamental gardens, such as run by the National Trust, but there have also been some worrying outbreaks in the wild (261 cases out of 904 reported), and it appears likely that   Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillis can act as a host for the disease.    For obvious reasons, it is this latter issue that is focusing my attention.

The other main host is Rhododendron and control has involved the eradication of Rhododendron from the disease site and the surrounding area.  This in itself can have some benefits, but the large areas of wild Rhododendron, particularly on the west coast of Scotland, could prove to be a major harbour for this disease, if it cuts loose.

There is not much to be done at the moment, but this is an issue to monitor.

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