Posted: 15th March 2017
In the following article, we will highlight tips for managing Phytophthora, particularly Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death) and Phytophthora infestans (Potato Late Blight).
Although, Phytophthora has been causing havoc for well over 100 years and can spread very quickly. The following tips will go some way towards reducing the impact of the ‘Plant Destroyer’.
Phytophthora thrives in wet and warm soil conditions. It is for this reason that Phytophthora species such as P. Ramorum and P. Infestans are a problem across North America and Northern Europe at certain times of the year.
We all know we can’t control the weather or temperature, and inevitably there will be some years when Phytophthora will destroy the majority of a crop or result in the felling of a large number of trees. However, we can take steps to reducing its impact on plants and crops by following these tips.
Irrespective of whether you manage woodland or gardens, or oversee the growing of potato crops. These tips apply to different scenarios applicable in woodland and garden management and growing crops.
This is easier said than done depending on available budgets, resources and land area. However, avoiding the build up of standing water is a great tip for keeping Phytophthora at bay. Phytophthora spores are more than capable of surviving in waterlogged soil or standing water. This is why the Phytophthora fungus is such a formidable foe.
Standing water can occur owing to drainage issues, broken irrigation systems and of course following rainfall. Mixed with optimum temperatures and failure to address standing water can lead to Phytophthora affecting a wide area of land.
A guide released by AHDB Potatoes provides a guide to soil management offering guidance on irrigation and drainage management to create a good environment for growing potatoes.
Phytophthora spores can travel on soil and plant material attached to boots or tools. So ensuring staff members routinely clean equipment and clothing after use, applying the cleaning appropriate methods, is a good way to try stopping the spread of Phytophthora.
However, for public areas such as forests, gardens and national parks the management of preventing the spread of disease using this method isn’t as straight forward. Employees will, of course, adhere to a cleaning routine. But, the general public may not.
A good solution is to prevent people from passing through areas infected by Phytophthora. That way there is no reliance on members of the public following cleaning protocols. However, as Phytophthora spores can travel into neighbouring areas on animals, for example. Preventing the movement of people in infected areas is not 100% solution to stopping the spread of the disease. But, it can help.
We have found a few websites to help you on this. The Forestry Commission has released a video offering guidance for people working in Phytophthora-infected woodland or working with wood from Phytophthora-infected trees. In addition, potato growers can turn to the University of Idaho for guidance on cleaning and disinfecting potato farming equipment.
This is a routine part of plant disease management and it seems obvious to point out. However, in order to help stop the devastating effect of Phytophthora, watching out for disease symptoms on regular basis can be the difference between several plants being infected with Phytophthora opposed to just one or two.
In order to make sure the symptoms detected are those of Phytophthora, you can compare and consult many different plant pathogen websites or government and university advisors. Alternatively, you can use a Phytophthora rapid test that detects many different species of Phytophthora in minutes.
This way you can definitely confirm the presence of the pathogen when disease symptoms appear and take necessary actions to combat the spread.
Once again this is a very obvious solution. But, the removal of Phytophthora-infected plant material present in the ground, in storage or on equipment, and destroying it, is a must. Also, it is important that any disease-infected plant material is destroyed immediately after discovering its presence. Furthermore, the cleaning methods highlighted above should be employed after the pathogen has been destroyed.
In addition to removing infected plant material, it’s obvious not to plant trees or crops in previously infected soil. This is easier said than done if your land is at a premium and the appropriate means of trying to remove the pathogen from the soil is not available. However, if you know that a plot of land has previously been infected with Phytophthora, try to avoid using the same infected land for planting new trees or potatoes.
If you are unsure if Phytophthora has been present in the soil there are organisations that offer soil testing. However, it is a difficult, long, and in some cases, a very expensive process.
Organisations such as the Forestry Commission, AHDB Potatoes or the Animal and Plant Health Agency offer guidance on this subject. Furthermore, they can provide additional tips for managing Phytophthora. If you live in mainland Europe you can visit this website (https://www.eppo.int/ABOUT_EPPO/images/clickable_map.htm) to find a plant health organisation that can help. For people living outside of Europe, please consult your nearest plant health organisation.
© Abingdon Health 2017