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OUT! C NKED; Conker crisis as wet weather, pests and disease leave autumnal tradition facing a huge threat.

Byline: Mary Griffin ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

CONKER fights could be tougher than ever this year as Warwickshire is in the grip of a conker shortage.

The county council is reporting that conker numbers across Warwickshire have plummeted because of this year's cold, wet weather.

The number of insects that pollinate the horse chestnut trees were down this spring and the trees' flowers were lost due to heavy rain.

Ken Simons, Warwickshire County Council's forestry officer, said: "The wet start to the year has had a severe impact and this is coupled with many of our common horse chestnuts suffering attacks from a range of pests and diseases, namely bacterial bleeding canker, leaf miner and leaf blotch.

"All of these are threatening to remove horse chestnut trees from the landscape in the coming years.

"Climatic conditions are also stressing these and other trees due to the irregular cycle of drought and flood the last decade."

Mr Simons said that the remaining conkers are hard to find and conker hunters who do strike it lucky will generally find only small examples. He added: "The loss of these trees will have a significant impact throughout Warwickshire as many were planted in highly visible locations and as memorial trees."

Earlier this month the Scottish Conker Championships were cancelled due to a lack of conkers, with organisers saying many horse chestnut trees were bare or A MINER CRISIS: leaf miner moth partly to blame for conker shortage only had very small conkers which wouldn't fare well in the competition. The World Conker Championships, held in Northampton, has also warned about a conker shortage. However, this year's event eventually had to be cancelled because of venue problems, while last year's event was cancelled due to high winds.

Ten years ago the leaf miner moth invaded Britain. Its caterpillars devour horse chestnut leaves, turning them brown and causing the tree to produce smaller conkers.

The is the The fruit of the horse chestnut tree was first used for conker fights 200 years ago as a replacement to hazel, cobnut and snail shells. Have you been unable to collect conkers? Or do you know where there are plenty? Write to Letters Editor, Telegraph, Thomas Yeoman House, Canal Basin, Coventry, CV1 4LY.

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A MINER CRISIS: The leaf miner moth is partly to blame for the conker shortage
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 27, 2012
Words:389
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