Phytophthora ramorum at Quarry Bank
Over the last two years, the infectious plant disease Phytophthora ramorum has been repeatedly identified in the Chapel Woods on the Quarry Bank estate. Find out how we're managing this virulent disease and preventing future outbreaks.
What is Phytophthora and how does it spread?
Phytophthora is a fungal-like plant disease that infects shrubs and trees, and spreads through its spores. The spores spread themselves by air or water, and can also be picked up by animals’ feet. Phytophthora is not dangerous to humans or animals.
Plants have no defence mechanism against the disease, so it slowly spreads throughout the plant, and will eventually kill it. Once a plant has Phytophthora, there’s nothing we can do to stop this, so we have to act to prevent the disease spreading in the first place. There are several different strains of Phytophthora; the most prevalent in our woodlands has been Phytophthora ramorum.
Where has Phytophthora been found at Quarry Bank?
Over the last two years, Phytophthora ramorum has been repeatedly identified in the Chapel Woods, and area of the Northern Woods, on the Quarry Bank estate. The outbreaks so far have been due to infected rhododendron plants.
When native species become infected with Phytophthora they are killed by the disease but they don’t spread it. However, there are several non-native species that play an active part in spreading the disease, including rhododendron and larch. It’s vital that we minimise the risk posed by these ‘carriers’ of Phytophthora.
What happens when there's an outbreak of Phytophthora?
When we have a suspected Phytophthora outbreak, we have to inform the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), who visit us to take a sample for testing.
If the test comes back positive, then a legally binding Statutory Destruction Notice is issued to us by APHA, which requires us to destroy the infected plant, and also all the plants within a certain radius of it. That area is then treated with chemicals for at least three years.
What actions are being taken to prevent future outbreaks?
We therefore took the decision to fell all of the larch trees in the Oxbow area as a preventative measure.
The felled larch trees will remain in the Oxbow area until the ground is dry enough to allow forestry machinery to extract the timber. This will happen in late spring or early summer. The timber will then be sold to certified FSC standards.
Once the larch trees have been removed the area will be allowed to regrow naturally with native species. When you walk in the Oxbow area, you'll see that there are lots of young native oak trees already coming through which means that the area will recover quickly. The woods will continue to be managed in accordance with our woodland management plan which aims to improve our native woodland at Quarry Bank.
How you can help
1. Paying attention to any site notices- infected areas may be cordoned off and felling/ clearance operations may be taking place
2. Keep dogs on leads at all times – This will reduce the spread of the fungal spores.
3. Keeping to marked paths- to help reduce the chances of picking up contaminated soil or plant debris.
4. Cleaning your footwear- remove any soil or plant debris from footwear after each visit.
5. Not taking plants or cuttings - you could inadvertently introduce infected material into your own garden.
6. Monitoring the health of your own plants – familiarise yourself with the symptoms of Phytophthora by visiting www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum