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Novel Phytophthora and biodiversity impactsHealthy foliage free of Phytophthora © James Williams

 

Background

Phytophthora is a genus of plant-damaging water moulds that are responsible for a number of notorious plant diseases, such as potato blight.  Three species, named ramorum, kernoviae and pseudosyringae have recently been identified in the UK affecting heathland plants.  They are believed to be non-native, and may have been introduced via international horticultural trade.

 

Phytophthora ramorum and kernoviae can affect a wide range of native and garden plants.  Until recently, ‘wild’ findings were restricted to infections of the non-native invasive species Rhododendron ponticum, however it has now spread to infect native bilberry.  Laboratory testing shows that other native species such as heather, cowberry and bearberry may also be highly susceptible.

 

Once infections occur, they can spread very rapidly through other susceptible species, as infected bilberry or Rhododendron produce very high numbers of spores.  Some spores also remain in the soil and can infect germinating plants.  Trees are also affected by Phytophthora ramorum or kernoviae, and they can be killed by the infection.  However, most infected trees do not produce spores, and will normally only become infected if they are in close contact with other infected plant species.

 

Damage produced by Phytophthora @ Forestry CommissionFurther Information

 

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