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NEWS RELEASE No: 1656910 MARCH 2016

Business to team up with scientists to tackle Phytophthora

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Lawson's cypress tree (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) infected with Phytophthora lateralis at Balloch Castle Country Park, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Nursery managers and other plant traders are being invited to take part in scientific research into Phytophthora infections in the trade.

A consortium of scientists led by the Forestry Commission’s Forest Research agency are contacting those involved in the plant trade inviting them to help in the Phyto-Threats Project. The project complements a ‘Keep it Clean’ campaign by the Forestry Commission and partners to promote good biosecurity practice at work to minimise the spread of plant pests and diseases.

Dr Sarah Green, senior forest pathologist at Forest Research, explained,

“As people in the trade are well aware, our plant trade and natural environments are being affected by a range of destructive Phytophthora organisms which have entered Britain from different parts of the world. They arrive and are spread around the country in soil, water, equipment and in the tissues of a large number of plant species, damaging business and ecosystems alike.

“We are looking for plant nurseries and traders to take part in this project to enable us to better understand the dynamics of Phytophthora spread and infection, and devise effective control measures. They can do this by sharing their expertise and experiences with us, and allowing us to sample water and plants at regular intervals during the project.

“In return, we will provide them with information about their Phytophthora risk, and work with them to reduce it. Ultimately the project will provide invaluable data which will help businesses to effectively manage their risk.”

Dr Green gave an assurance that all published data on nursery findings will be anonymous, and it will not be possible to identify any individual businesses from the published findings.

Anyone interested in an informal discussion about ways to get involved may contact Dr Green on or telephone 0300 067 5000.

Further information about the Phyto-Threats Project is available on the Forest Research website at .


  1. The Phyto-Threats Project is a Living With Environmental Change project for the Tree Health & Plant Biosecurity Initiative (THAPBI). It will address knowledge gaps identified by Defra's Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Task Force and the objectives of the joint Defra/Forestry Commission Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan.
  2. Project partners and funders with Forest Research are the James Hutton Institute, the Centre for Hydrology & Ecology, the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA), the University of Edinburgh, the University of Worcester, and Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA).
  3. THAPBI brings together biological, environmental and social scientists to support the health and resilience of the UK’s forests and woodland in the face of increasing pressures.
  4. Phytophthoras are a large group of fungus-like organisms, called water moulds, which infect a wide range of plants. Infection is often fatal, giving rise to the name, which is Greek for ‘plant destroyer’.
  5. Several Phytophthoras are affecting forests and woodland, including Phytophthora ramorum, which is causing an epidemic on larch trees and infects more than 150 other tree and plant species; P. alni (alder trees); P. austrocedri (juniper); P. lateralis (Lawson cypress and others); and P. kernoviae (beech trees, rhododendron and other plants).
  6. Forest Research is an agency of the Forestry Commission. It conducts world-class scientific research and technical development for internal and external customers to inform and support the development of sustainable forest management.
  7. Partners with the Forestry Commission in the ‘Keep it Clean’ campaign are the Institute of Chartered Foresters, Confor, the Arboricultural Association, the Animal & Plant Health Agency (Apha) and the Landscape Institute.  Information about it is at and .
  8. Information about pests and diseases of forestry concern is available at .

MEDIA CONTACT: Charlton Clark, 0300 067 5049