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Biosecurity – preventing the spread of pests and diseases

 There has been a wave of non-native horticultural pests in recent years, the most widely known being ash die-back.

In their natural environment these organisms are not a problem as they are kept in check by other factors such as natural predators, diseases, competitors and parasites which have evolved together in that environment. But as soon as they reach an environment where the control factors are not present, they can become problematic.

These ‘alien’ pests can affect the plants in our gardens, and can also seriously threaten our natural forests, not only leading to economic losses for forestry and related industries, but also affecting tourism.

They have become more common due to the increase in global travel and trade. They can be attached to plants or packaging, can fly or be blown across the channel or can travel on plant matter or soil in vehicle tyres. Once in the country they can be further transmitted accidentally in soil or plant material by people moving between different woodlands and gardens. They can be carried on shoes or by the wheels of vehicles

The Tree Health and Biosecurity Action Plan aims to prevent the arrival of such pests, but we all have a responsibility to improve biosecurity at home. Here are some ways that you can help prevent the spread of any plant pest or disease:

 After visiting the countryside, clean soils and plant material from outdoor clothing, shoes and vehicle tyres.

 Examine plants before you purchase them to make sure they are not harbouring pests.

 Avoid purchasing more mature plants for instant impact as these are more liable to carry diseases.

 Look out for pests and diseases in your garden, try and identify and treat as appropriate. The RHS can offer help and advice.

 Use good hygiene in your own garden

o Remove infected leaves from plants as soon as possible and tidy up any that have fallen.

o Prune woody plants in dry conditions

o Disinfect tools after pruning plant material that might be infected e.g. by virus’s or bacterial canker that are spread in the sap.

o Avoid spreading soil-bourn diseases by cleaning boots and tools.

o Mulch around the base of plants in early spring. This buries and spores that might be present.

o Remove any tree stumps if they have been infected by root diseases such as honey fungus. If they cannot be dug out, stump grinding is the next best option but the grindings must go to land-fill.

o Weed regularly as weeds can carry pests and diseases.

o Clean greenhouses and equipments in winter to prevent problems such as damping off.

o Most infected plant material can be sent to council green waste sites but it is advisable not to home compost it as a home heap is unlikely to get to a high enough temperature to kill the pathogen.


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