Phytophthora austrocedri — an aggressive, fungus-like pathogen which infects juniper and cypress trees — may have entered into juniper woodland areas through well-intentioned planting schemes.
The disease, which lives in the soil, infects and damages the roots of trees, causing them to no longer take up water. There are only around 400 hectares of juniper woodland in Britain left, mostly in Scotland, so protecting them is vital.
Sadly, it's not just gin that's under threat. Fiona Burnett, from Scotland's Rural College, explained that "whisky is equally at risk to gin through barley diseases which slash crop yields".
The team at Plant Health Week are now encouraging people in the local Scottish area to take simple steps to help the gin industry, such as cleaning soil from boots, dog paws and bike tyres before and after visiting woodland areas. This is to prevent the disease from spreading to new sites.
Fiona continues, saying: "Plant Health Week is a chance to flag that everyone can play their part in protecting Scotland's plant health assets. But the principles of best plant health practice such as sourcing seed and plants with care and avoiding moving problems inadvertently in soil apply equally to field crops and the plants in our moorlands, gardens, forests and fields," reports ITV News.
Sadly, this is not the first time that juniper trees have come under attack. Back in 2015, plant conservation charity, Plantlife, said that the plant was in a critical state in Scotland, also due to the spread of the deadly disease.
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