The global spread of plant disease and the devastating impact this could have on the tree care industry was the very current topic of an interactive presentation delivered to Forestry and Arboriculture students by members of Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Forestry Team.

Tree Health Officer Barnaby Wylder and Biosecurity Outreach Officer Becki Gawthorpe covered topics on tree health and biosecurity during an informative and timely morning attended by over 30 students due to sit exams this week.

Concern about the increase and spread in pests and diseases due to factors such as rising temperatures and increasing global trade and travel were underlined, particularly the potential threat from Xylella fastidiosa. This bacterial disease, which is established in Europe but not yet identified in the UK, could cause significant damage to widely grown trees such as elm, oak and plane. It can also affect many plant species which are grown commercially, so there could be economic implications as well as long term effects on both woodland and urban habitats.

After looking at examples of signs and symptoms of ill health in trees, our students were urged to support the Forestry Commission’s scientific research by reporting any suspicions to

They also revisited the importance of good forward planning and practice, particularly ensuring that clothing, boots, vehicles and equipment were scrupulously cleaned between jobs, and that trees were purchased from responsible sources. Those managing contracts were also reminded to include staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors in their disease prevention plan. Updated legislation was also discussed.

The Forestry Commission is among a number of partners who regularly support our programmes with educational presentations and discussions and gave a similar talk to students last year.

Said Becki: “Globalisation of trade and travel is a key factor in the spread of harmful tree pests and diseases. Individuals need to understand the risks that their industries and activities pose in order to mitigate those risks.”

“Our team is working hard to raise awareness of harmful tree pests and diseases throughout the industry and particularly the need to report any plant health issues.

“We also need to ensure that good hygiene standards become the norm. Through thorough understanding and training we hope that the next generation of tree professionals, such as those studying at Reaseheath, will set an example for their peers.”

The Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Forestry Team will be among industry partners to be represented at our Countryside Industry Information Day on Thursday May 21.

Forestry and Arboriculture Course Manager Alan Mottram said: “I’d like to thank the Plant Health Forestry Team for its on-going and valued support. Working relationships with industry partners such as the Forestry Commission enable us to fully prepare our students to enter  the tree care industry and are much appreciated.”