Lavender and tomato plants could be destroyed by invasive foreign pests, with the warmer weather speeding up their life cycle, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has found.
Our outdoor spaces might be a riot of colour, but the horticultural charity is warning gardeners that diseases commonly confined to glasshouses are rapidly spreading across gardens — particularly the brown marmorated stink bug.
Favouring warmer weather, the fast-breeding brown bug feasts on apples, pears, peaches, tomatoes, and sweetcorn by piercing the surface and sucking out the juice during summer months. Despite its tiny size, the small stinker leaves behind rotting spots which can make the plant inedible.
As well as this, another plant bacterium under investigation is Xylella fastidiosa — known to kill garden favourites such as lavender and rosemary.
"Of particular concern, not just for the RHS but £24billion horticulture industry as a whole, are new threats whose impact is as yet untested," Glen Powell, the new Head of Plant Health at the RHS, told The Telegraph.
"This includes the brown marmorated stink bug which although present in the UK is not yet thought to have colonised and spread, the emerald ash borer beetle, rose rosette virus which has devastated entire collections in the US, rendering big, blousy blooms mere patches of soil, and Xylella which has brought destruction and decay to olive groves and lavender fields on the continent.
"If Xylella were found in the UK all host plants within 100m would be destroyed and there would be restrictions on movement of plants within a 5km radius for five years – sounding a death knell for gardens, nurseries and garden centres."
Plant health and the ongoing fear around diseases has become a growing issue for many, with the RHS team responding to 22,385 gardener enquiries so far — up 87% on the previous year.
On the back of this, the RHS has set up new purpose-built laboratories at Garden Wisely to help detect, identify and manage pests from the garden. "The RHS, like gardeners across the country, fights a daily battle with pests and disease on our plots but we've learnt to take a more balanced view, often overlooking those that cause only surface level damage," adds Glen.
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