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Trees: Disease Control

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent steps he has taken to prevent the spread of (a) oak and (b) rhododendron diseases; and if he will make a statement. (265199)

We recently announced the allocation of new money to support a five-year programme of work to manage and contain the risks of two plant diseases, Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae, from spreading further. P. ramorum and P. kernoviae are fungus-like pathogens of plants. There is strong evidence that they both have the ability to kill trees in the UK, and have the potential to kill native heathland species and cause serious disease on some garden shrubs.

In addition to further research and development and an education and awareness programme, we will be looking to reduce the level of disease by removing infected and susceptible plants in woodlands and the wider environment. We will also work to identify and control any new outbreaks. Experience has shown that the eradication of Rhododendron ponticum (the main host for the diseases) is the most effective control measure to reduce disease spread in the wider environment. At a selected number of woodland sites, the clearance of all rhododendrons, whether infected or not, has proved effective and appears to have prevented further infection of trees on those sites.