Bio-security threat taken up by MP

Neil Parish visits woodlands to see work being done to stop the spread of pathogen.

Honiton MP Neil Parish has visited woodland sites owned by the Forestry Commission - to see the work being done to stop the spread of phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum).

The disease is a serious threat in Devon and has already resulted in the loss of many hectares of woodland.

Mr Parish, who says proper resources must be allocated to identify affected areas, inspected the sites with Alison Field, regional director of the Forestry Commission, along with forest research workers Alan Ockenden and Tony Reeves.

After the visits, Mr Parish told the Midweek Herald: “Phytophthora ramorum poses a real bio-security risk to some of Devon’s most treasured woodlands and is a grave threat to the 2,220 workers who are employed in primary production and processing and the 15,000 green jobs in the South West supported by the forestry sector.

“I would like to thank the Forestry Commission for showing me some of their infected woodland sites and sharing their expertise on the disease with me.

“Proper resources need to be allocated to support the Forestry Commission and other woodland managers to identify infected areas and ensure that commercial softwoods are replanted after felling.”

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P. ramorum is a fungus-like pathogen that is causing extensive damage and mortality to plants and trees, in particular, the Japanese larch in the South West and South Wales.

It was unknowingly spread by plant movements of ornamental rhododendrons to gardens across the UK.

The pathogen was first identified in a commercial tree crop, a stand of Japanese larch in Devon in August 2009. This caused particular concern, because some of the affected trees were not close to any other infected sites.

Mr Parish is a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.