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Invasive pathogens present a significant threat to the UK forestry industry. Recent epidemics have highlighted the risks of overreliance on a narrow range of plantation forestry tree species. FR research trials have been established to assess alternative forestry species which have an overseas origin, but which might be suitable for production forestry in the UK. Key to their suitability will be the extent to which these species remain resilient when exposed to endemic pathogens present in the UK. This work aims to evaluate the pathogen threats to alternative forestry species and provenances in established trials.

Research objectives

  • Identify the key pathogen threats to a range of alternative forestry species and provenances planted out at trial sites in the UK.
  • Assess the potential for variable susceptibility to existing local pathogens between a range of alternative species and provenances planted out at different geographical locations in the UK.
  • Advise the forest industry on best species and provenance choices based on current and future biotic threats

Latest updates

In the summer of 2021 pathogen impacts were investigated at two replicated trial sites; one in the Scottish Borders and one in Gloucestershire, England. Both sites contained 1-3 provenances of 14 alternative conifer and broadleaf species, replicated three times in plots of 49 trees. Thirteen trees per plot were scored for a range of health variables. Samples were collected and the causal agents of damage identified using morphological and molecular methods. All tree species had some form of pathogen damage, with significant impacts of D. septosporum and the shoot pathogen Gremmeniella abietina on exotic radiata pine and maritime pine. In contrast Weymouth pine, which is native to eastern North America, appeared relatively unaffected. However, this species is highly susceptible to a serious disease known as white pine blister rust. Other pathogens of note included Swiss needle cast of Douglas fir, Sirococcus on Atlantic cedar, Pestalotiopsis sp. on Japanese red cedar and Neofusicoccum on Sequoia.  Health surveys of other UK trial sites will continue in 2022 to allow a better understanding of the future commercial potential of these alternative forestry species.

Our Involvement

FR is leading the work


MSc Dissertation Liam Morton 2021

PDF, 3.20 MB

Morton, L. 2021. Assessment of pathogen threats to alternative forestry species and provenances in the UK, with a focus on local pathogen impacts at field trials in Scotland and England. MSc Thesis, Harper Adams University.

Funding & partners
  • Funded as part of the Forestry Commission Programme 7 ‘Tree Health and Biosecurity’

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