Molecular detection of Phytophthoras in the soil environment

Phytophthora molecular detectionInvasive soil and water-dwelling Phytophthora species are posing serious threats to forest ecosystems in Britain, yet the distribution and diversity of Phytophthora spp. present in this country is largely unknown. This project uses Illumina high throughput metabarcode DNA sequencing to examine the diversity of Phytophthoras in soil at a range of forest and woodland sites in order to better predict risk.

Research objectives

  • Examine Phytophthora diversity in soil at a range of key forest, woodland and public garden sites in Scotland.
  • Provide evidence to inform biosecurity and remediation policy aimed at limiting the introduction, spread and impact of Phytophthora diseases.
  • Assess the feasibility of using llumina metabarocde technology for longer-term monitoring of Phytophthora diseases in Britain.

Results so far

Soil samples have been collected from fifteen different forest, woodland and public garden/amenity sites in Scotland. Sites chosen either had previous Phytophthora outbreaks or were regarded as high risk for Phytophthoras due to importation of large quantities of plants/soil in recent years. Soil samples are currently being processed for Illumina sequencing. Preliminary data from a limited set of samples suggest that a wide range of Phytophthora species will be detected, including species not previously known to exist in Britain.


This project started in September 2014 and is due to be completed in 2016.

Related Products/Services

To report a possible finding of Phytophthora on a tree host to Forest Research scientists please use TreeAlert


Sarah Green

Funders and partners

This project is funded by Forestry Commission Scotland.

Forestry Commission policy

This research underpins the evidence base for the delivery of healthy and resilient forests and wider ecosystems which is part of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan