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Phytothreats biannual all project team meeting

5 October 2016, APHA, Sand Sutton, York

Full meeting report

This event provided an opportunity for the project team to meet in its entirety, including new team members Peter Thorpe (JHI), Louise Barwell (CEH) and Debbie Frederickson-Matika (FR), together with an overseas member of the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) Susan Frankel (US Forest Service), and other UK-based EAP members David Slawson (OPAL), John Morgan (FC), Richard MacIntosh (Defra) and Kelvin Hughes (APHA). The objectives of the meeting were to share research updates for each workpackage (WP) in the morning, and to promote team-wide understanding of the plant trade and nursery sampling challenges through a visit to Johnsons of Whixley nursery in the afternoon.

WP1 Presentation – David Cooke (JHI) and Leighton Pritchard (JHI)

David Cooke outlined WP1 objectives as using metabarcoding to analyse Phytophthora community structure in nurseries and associated ecosystems with the aim of informing disease management and best practice and to model Phytophthora communities. David reviewed WP1 sampling methods and reiterated the need to extend networks for nursery sampling. David is involved in a number of related projects that can feed into this one, including a THAPBI Phase 2 project on Early Detection and a Scottish Government funded project looking at Phytophthora diversity in different ecosystems in Scotland. Data on Phytophthora diversity in a range of wider ecosystems can be modelled together with data on nursery Phytophthora diversity. David then gave an overview of the metabarcoding approach to be used from sampling in nurseries through to analyses of Phytophthoras present in each sample.

WP2 Presentation – Mariella Marzano (FR) and Gregory Valatin (FR)

Mariella started her presentation with a review of work planned for the social and economic research. This package will cover the feasibility analyses and development of ‘best practice’ criteria for a nursery accreditation scheme. There are three key parts: social-the applicability of best practice criteria; cost-benefit analysis; the development of best practice criteria to underpin guidelines for an accreditation scheme.

In general the project team need to be aware of all the other initiatives in terms of accreditation schemes, for example Richard MacIntosh (Defra) mentioned the Woodland Trust Accreditation Scheme.
Gregory Valatin asked what the expected uptake of an accreditation scheme might be, pointing out that if low the overall impact would be small.
There was also a short discussion on a 2016 paper by Whittet et al in Land Use Policy journal “Supplying trees in an era of environmental uncertainty: Identifying challenges faced by the forest nursery sector in Great Britain”

This study involved a survey of forest nurseries in Britain in relation to supply of locally sourced seed and domestically produced planting stock for native woodland and hedging markets. It will be important to follow up on which nurseries were surveyed to avoid overlap.
The discussion ended with the comment that consumers’ willingness to pay will be affected by the availability of cheap plant imports.

WP3 Presentation – Beth Purse (CEH), Dan Chapman (CEH) and Louise Barwell (CEH)

Beth outlined the approaches for WP3 objectives 1) assessing risk of introduction of Phytophthoras to the UK via trade and recreational spread, 2) risk of establishment and spread following arrival, and 3) scoping knowledge gaps to try to predict likely future introductions. The WP team will identify and rank Phytophthora threats to the UK and link invasiveness to different traits.

WP4 Presentation – Sarah Green (FR) and

Leighton Pritchard (JHI)

Sarah (standing in for Paul Sharp, University of Edinburgh, who was unable to attend the meeting) gave a brief overview of the objectives of WP4 which aims to predict risk via analysis of Phytophthora genome evolution. This will enable a better understanding of the genetic mechanisms by which Phytophthoras can infect woody hosts, adapt to new hosts, and the extent to which they can acquire new genes through hybridizations or horizontal gene transfer. WP4 does not start until April 2017, however the project has funding to target sequence three Phytophthora species (to be completed this year) and the focus of Sarah’s presentation was how to select these species.

13.30-17:00: Visit to Johnsons of Whixley plant nursery

After lunch the project team hopped into a minibus driven by David Cooke for the 30 min trip to Johnsons of Whixley, one of the largest wholesale plant nurseries in the country, supplying mainly the amenity sector. The team was hosted for the afternoon by Ian Nelson, production manager, who provided a lively, honest and energetic tour of facilities and account of business practices as well as responding to the many questions asked by the project team. This was a very useful experience for all members of the project team, particularly those not directly working with nurseries, who finished the visit with a much greater understanding of what is driving the trade and associated management practices.