BALI's Technical Officer, Owen Baker, attended a late-afternoon BALI South Thames Xylella event this week, hosted at BALI Registered Affiliate member Provender Nurseries, alongside the APHA. Upon his return to Landscape House, Owen provided some thoughts on the event.
Xylella needs no introduction. Whilst plant nurseries and wholesalers have been taking preventative measures to protect the UK from pathogens for decades, more recently, a general awareness (and fear) of the bacterium Xylella has spread quickly through the landscape industry, as a result of articles published in the landscape and horticulture press.
Thanks to the momentum generated by recent articles, designers, contractors and suppliers have become acutely aware of the threat Xylella poses to their profession. It was no surprise, then, that an awareness event run by BALI registered affiliate member Provender Nurseries, led by managing director Richard McKenna, in conjunction with BALI and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), was well attended. Together with his team at Provender, Richard had arranged for Tracy Wilson, Graham Brooks and Fiona Jones, from the APHA, to deliver a detailed presentation on Xylella, and to answer questions from the audience.
The event was a great success. Together with Richard, the APHA shared a considerable amount of knowledge with the audience, which will help plant specifiers to make better informed, sustainable decisions when buying plant material. Together with Richard, the audience was also able to challenge the decisions by the government and lead a lively discussion. The presence of Richard and his team helped bring the threat of Xylella to life – either through learning about the measures expected from plant nurseries and wholesalers to enforce biosecurity, or the potential effects if Xylella did make it to the UK.
For me, the outcome of the event was a feeling of empowerment in the battle against Xylella. Before the event, I was aware of widespread enthusiasm to help prevent the introduction Xylella to the UK, but also of a lack of direction in what can be done to help. The value of the event, was that it helped combine the legislative and technical aspects of control from the APHA, with examples of best practice from the audience and the team at Provender. The conversation which followed the APHA presentation revealed areas where legislation alone cannot protect the long list of host plants in the UK, as well as limitations of the plant passport system. However, Richard and his team explained ways in which specifiers can take simple steps which will make a massive difference to the UK biosecurity.
Before the end of the year, BALI will release two documents. The first is a best practice document, which will summarise the lessons I have learnt following attendance of various Xylella events, and meetings I have had with BALI members. Whilst there is considerable information from the UK government, which identifies the bacterium and the effects it may have on the industry, I felt there was a shortage of guidance for members wishing to source plant material responsibly. The second document is a plant biosecurity statement. Through consultation with key members of the landscape industry, we have produced a statement which recognises the important role the landscape industry plays in protecting the environment, and the role BALI members play as custodians of the landscape.
BALI would like to thank Richard and the Provender team, as well as Tracy Wilson, Graham Brooks and Fiona Jones at the APHA for an inspiring event. You can find a selection of images from the day, on BALI's Flickr page.