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The PHYTO-THREATS project aims to address the risks to UK forest and woodland ecosystems from Phytophthora by examining the distribution and diversity of Phytophthoras in UK plant nursery systems. It also aims to provide the scientific evidence to support nursery ‘best practice’ accreditation criteria to mitigate risk of further Phytophthora introduction and spread.
The multidisciplinary ‘Phyto-threats’ project was initiated in 2016 to address the increasing risks to UK forest and woodland ecosystems from trade-disseminated Phytophthora as implicated in the recent upsurge of Phytophthora diseases in the UK and the establishment and spread of these pathogens in the wider UK environment in diseased propagation material. The project focused on understanding the drivers of emergence of Phytophthora species and opportunities for mitigation by; i) examining the distribution and diversity of Phytophthoras in different UK plant nursery management systems to identify high risk nursery practices, ii) conducting feasibility assessments with nursery managers, consumers and other stakeholders to identify economic and social opportunities and barriers to implementation of best practice, iii) identifying future global Phytophthora threats through modelling biological traits and environmental profiles, and iv) analysing genome sequences of Phytophthora species to gain genetic insights into what makes a species virulent.
We would like to work with industry to ensure healthy, high value plants. We are looking for plant nurseries and traders to participate in this project by sharing your expertise and experiences with us and by allowing us to sample water and plants at regular intervals during the course of the project. We will provide you with information about your Phytophthora risk and work with you to reduce it. All published data on nursery findings will be anonymous.
Q: What can I expect in terms of having my premises sampled?
A: Project staff or Plant Health inspectors will sample at least twice a year over the three year duration of the project. At each sampling we will collect water from various locations on the premises. Root and foliage samples will also be taken from plants in such a way so as not to require the destruction of sampled plants.
Q: When will we get results back?
A: We will aim to provide you with your results within three months of sampling. Results may be provided earlier if specifically requested.
Q: What actions are taken if a Phytophthora is found?
A: If a Phytophthora is found which is known to be present in the UK and is not listed as a quarantine or regulated pathogen no action would be required but we would provide advice on disease management.
If a novel or quarantine regulated Phytophthora is found, the Plant Health authorities would have to be informed and are in fact partners in this project. The DNA detection method used in this project (“meta-barcoding”) is new and cannot be used alone for statutory action. Any findings would need to be officially validated through follow-up visits in order to confirm positive results with alternative and established detection methods. For the regulated Phytophthoras (e.g. P. ramorum, P. kernoviae, P. lateralis, P. austrocedri) the usual statutory actions would apply. For novel Phytophthoras actions would be based on individual risk assessments and decisions made by the relevant authorities.
Statutory actions are only usually taken on suspicion or confirmation of infected plants, although recommendations are given for infected soil or water.
Please contact Sarah Green if you are interested in taking part.
The distribution and diversity of Phytophthora species in water and plant samples collected from different UK plant nursery management systems, including those locations considered to be high risk in terms of importing new Phytophthoras, will be studied using state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technology. Water samples from streams and ponds in amenity environments will also be collected to investigate the wider distribution of nursery-associated Phytophthoras . This work will identify nursery practices resulting in the highest density and diversity of Phytophthora pathogens and the highest probability of onward spread into woodland or other natural ecosystems.
For this element of the project we are working with the HTA, Defra and industry to provide the scientific basis to support nursery accreditation. Data from the plant nursery survey (above objective) will provide evidence to guide the development of nursery best practice. Feasibility assessments carried out as part of this objective will involve consultation with nursery managers, consumers and other stakeholders in order to identify economic and social opportunities and barriers, and attitudes towards implementation of such a scheme. We will also explore options to promote the visibility and legitimacy of the accreditation scheme to consumers such that there is an added advantage for nurseries to take part.
Identifying future global Phytophthora threats and potential routes of entry will be essential in refining nursery ‘best practice’ and other national biosecurity measures. To do this, data on current known global distribution of Phytophthoras infecting woody species and biological characteristics that may affect establishment will be collated from databases and national surveys conducted in a broad range of countries. Models will identify those species occurring in locations resembling the UK’s climate and ecosystems and those species that are ecologically similar to Phytophthoras that have established in Europe, strengthening the evidence base for inclusion of pathogens in the UK Plant Health Risk Register. We will also look at the pathways of international trade and tourism and the risks of new Phytophthora introductions via these routes, identifying national focus points for biosecurity based on a raised risk that new Phytophthoras will arrive at these locations. Pathway analyses will be used to inform nursery managers and accreditation scheme criteria of the highest risk trade practices.
Current practices are increasing the diversity of co-existing Phytophthoras in the environment, yet we have little understanding of the potential for new aggressive Phytophthoras to arise through hybridisation or other mechanisms of genetic exchange when new species meet. Whole genome sequences of Phytophthora species will be examined to determine the extent to which genetic exchange has occurred among Phytophthoras and related organisms, and how this might have enabled these pathogens to adapt on to tree species, change virulence or host range. This work will enhance our fundamental understanding of pathogen evolution.
This project began on April 1st 2016 and will run until March 30th 2019.
We would like to work with industry to ensure healthy, high value plants. We are looking for plant nurseries and traders to participate in this project by sharing your expertise and experiences with us and by allowing us to sample water and plants at regular intervals during the course of the project.
We will provide you with information about your Phytophthora risk and work with you to reduce it.
All published data on nursery findings will be anonymous. Please see the participants information page.