1lickA serious plant disease has spread in the Lickey Hills Country Park despite previous restrictions imposed. Lickey Rangers say that this will result in around 300 trees being felled. Please observe any restrictions in place in the park to avoid any further spread.

From Birmingham City Council:

Routine screening of sites in the Birmingham area by the Forestry Commission and The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) for a serious notifiable plant disease caused by the organism Phytophthora ramorum has uncovered infection on rhododendron, bilberry and larch at the Lickey Hills Country Park.

This fungal-like organism mainly affects shrubs, such as rhododendron, viburnum and camellia, and trees such as Japanese larch, beech, magnolia and horse chestnut. To date the disease has been found in plant nurseries, garden centres, parks and historic gardens, as well as woodlands and the wider environment. Bilberry has previously been found to be affected in heathland and woodland situations.

Symptoms can vary with the type of plant infected. On shrubs, typical symptoms can include blackening of leaves around the midrib and at the tips, and/or wilting and dieback of shoots. Trees can show black lesions (called cankers) on the bark, which ‘bleed’ a dark sap.

Previously plant Health Inspectors from FERA found the disease in bilberry and put in place eradication and containment measures. Unfortunately further examples of the pathogen have been found in our larch trees by the Forestry Commission.

The site is subject to a containment notice issued under the Plant Health Order (Phytophthora ramorum) (England), 2004, as amended. Treatment is to be completed by the 30th September 2013, headed by The Parks Woodland Team. The aim is to reduce the risk of the disease spreading on and off the site. In particular, a large area of larch is to be felled adjacent to Twatling Road.

Access will be restricted to this area during the duration of the work whilst treatment is undertaken. Treatment will commence with the felling of the infected larch and all larch within an additional 100m buffer zone to reduce the opportunities for the disease to spread.

Additional measures including the felling of rhododendron with stump killing and the removal of regenerating larch will occur after the initial work. All plant material will be burnt on site, and in-situ.

Site notices will be placed at and near the locations of the infected plants and information will be provided via the Ranger Service at the Lickey Hills Visitor’s Centre. The notice will advise the public to help in preventing the spread of this disease by:

  • Please keep to footpaths and avoid walking through vegetation.
  • Clean footwear, your dog’s feet and bicycle wheels thoroughly to remove soil and vegetation which may harbour spores when leaving the park and before entering another site.
  • Do not remove plant material from this site
  • Please keep dogs on a lead within the park; this will prevent them from running through vegetation and potentially picking up spores and transferring them to your garden or to another park.
  • Please be careful of and stay away from forestry operations in the woods. For the next few months there will be significant forestry operations carried out in the woods to remove infected and potentially infected plants. This will involve heavy machinery and chainsaws. For your own safety please follow all safety instructions from the marshals, staff or from signs. Please keep dogs on the lead especially in these areas.

Head of Parks Darren Share said: “This disease is extremely serious and the work being carried out by our woodland team is absolutely vital if we are to contain the outbreak. Now it’s absolutely vital that the public help us prevent the spread of this disease.”

Both FERA and the Forestry Commission will be monitoring the situation on behalf of DEFRA to control the spread of the disease. Additionally they will be undertaking follow-up surveys to establish the success of our control measures and any further work that may be required.

The Forestry Commission and FERA are working closely with other agencies, organisations and landowners to reduce the spread and impact of Phytophthora ramorum.

Phytophthora programme staff are regularly carrying out surveillance activities across England & Wales and monitoring sites both in parks, heritage gardens and the wider environment where there have been previous findings of this disease. The success of the programme is largely due to the close engagement with stakeholders, land owners, the horticultural trade and the public.

The Phytophthora programme is also funding research into the management of the disease, together with raising public awareness and encouraging behavioural change and very much appreciate the help and support of the public and stakeholders in supporting this important work.

The public can help by reporting any suspected findings to FERA using the following contact information: Telephone: 01904 465625 Email: planthealth.info@fera.gsi.gov.uk

More information is available at:http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/plantHealth/pestsDiseases/phytophthora/pRamorum

 

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