The UK is suffering a major attack of Ash Dieback at the moment. Back in the late sixties Dutch Elm Disease spread throughout our land and wiped out more than 25,000,000 trees, a major worry for us at the time. Ash Dieback is being played down for the time being, but given that the three main deciduous trees in this country are Oak, Beech and Ash, I think we need to be seriously taking this on board. Once infected, the fungus that causes the trouble, Chalara Fraxinea causes rapid leaf loss and crown die-back, resulting in the death of the tree, and as usual there is no real solution to the problem other than controlled felling, and we know how that didn't work with Dutch Elm disease!
As well as our Ash trees being under threat, our Horse Chestnut trees have suffered drastically from the disease called Bleeding Canker over the last 10 years or so. This wasn't brought to the publics attention, but I, along with fellow gardeners and tree surgeons throughout the UK have noticed virtually every tree being infected, and although some trees do recover, most die or are made so unstable that they have to be felled.
Oak trees are under serious threat from a disease called Acute Oak Decline, and again hasn't really been broadcast as news like Ash Dieback. Nonetheless, it is a serious threat to our oak forests as it causes rapid and total death of the tree, often in as little as five years.
This week we hear that now our Larch trees are being killed by Phytophthora ramorum, which let me just say is seriously bad news.
Along with most people, I love our trees and deciduous woodlands, and living only fifteen minutes from the New Forest have spent most of my recreational time enjoying the majesty of it's trees and the peace and often solitude that these places offer. If we don't do something NOW, then I fear that within fifty years there won't be much left. This country is supposed to have a plant passport scheme, but I can only say that this is laughable and totally ineffective, as it still clearly allows the import of....wait for it.......around ten million Ash trees that may have carried the disease! I myself once imported some conifers from the middle east, all with plant passports to ensure their quality and health, only to find their branches alive with locusts! Albeit they were a little sluggish due to coming from such a hot climate to the great UK winter, but even so a potentially serious threat to our environment.
The dutch famously over hybridise their bedding plants, and although some wondrous colours have been achieved, the plants are made weaker and weaker, and are grown in such vast numbers that no real check on diseases can be carried out. In fact, given that most plants are exported as plugs and show no signs of disease at this point, maybe (and it's just my opinion) they choose not to treat them for economic reasons.
Until we started to purchase imported Dutch plants we had no signs of Pansy Leaf Spot, Impatiens Downy Mildew or Vine Weevil Larvae to name just a few.
We only import plants for economic reasons, chiefly because they cost less, but they cost less for a reason. and you only have to eat a Tesco tomato to understand why. To me the answer for the UK is simple, and can even come with two choices. The first is to ban the import of ANY plant material to the UK from anywhere else, and start growing our own (and again I say IMPORTING ASH TREES???). The second is to ensure that EVERY plant that comes into the UK has an effective plant passport that requires the plant or plant material to be totally disease free, and that the plant must be mature enough to detect these diseases. If contravened, then the grower is shut down and those involved never allowed to trade with the UK again. Personally I think that given human nature, the first is the only option. As for the dutch growers, well.......
The powers that be here in the UK also appear to be transfixed with the notion that genetic modification is the only way to go in terms of feeding an ever growing population. I don't want to rain on their parade, but sadly the only true solution to this problem is a global war. Genetic modification will bring greater and greater problems into an already fragile food chain, and once introduced will be irreversible. I will leave you with what for me sums up the whole GM problem. Click on 'Blue Rose' for the article.
Have A Nice Day!