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Fungal disease puts Britain's oaks at risk.


A ``VIRULENT'' new tree disease related to Sudden Oak Death has emerged in Britain, the Forestry Commission confirmed yesterday.

Scientists have warned that Britain's 200m British oak trees could be at risk from the disease.

Other UK species, including beech, could also be hit by the fungal disease, warned the Commission's head of plant health, Roddie Burgess.

He said: ``This is a new disease which is not recorded anywhere else. We do not know what it may do. ''

The first case in the UK was discovered in two trees in a west Cornwall wood, and two more oaks there are now under investigation.

The trees are within an area already quarantined because of the presence of the disease Phytophthora ramorum, better known as as Sudden Oak Death, to which the new fungus is related.

A management zone of about six square miles has been established by the Commission and rural ministry Defra following a meeting on Tuesday night.

The aim was to contain the disease within that area while ways to eradicate it were investigated, said Mr Burgess.

No plants will be allowed to be taken out of the zone without permission, he said.

While Sudden Oak Death (SOD) is known to exist in more than a dozen countries throughout Europe, the new fungus is so far thought to be specific to Britain.

A major concern is that the new disease is more aggressive, and much faster spreading, than its more common relative.

Cases of SOD, which arrived in Britain two years ago, have already been identified on Anglesey and in Powys.

Alun Morris, of the Farmers' Union of Wales, which has been tracking SOD's progress, urged landowners to keep their eyes peeled for signs of both diseases.

He said: ``We all remember what effect Dutch Elm Disease had in the 1970s and this fungus has the potential to cause similar damage. '' While oaks are the species most at risk, SOD can also affect beech, Douglas fir, sweet chestnut, sitka spruce and the Lawson cypress.

The new disease does not yet have a scientific name, but has been dubbed Phytophthora kernovii, Kernow being the ancient name for Cornwall. Like SOD it attacks rhododendron, the main host and source of infection.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 11, 2004
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