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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the potential effect on forests of the spread of phytophthora ramorum in the larch tree population; what steps he is taking to prevent the spread of phytophthora ramorum; and what recent discussions he has had with his counterpart in the Welsh Government on this issue.
Since the first finding in larch in 2009, Phytophthora ramorum has been found in large areas of larch forest in parts of the UK. This year substantial new areas have been found to be infected, notably in the previously infected regions of south Wales and south-west Scotland.
The potential for further spread is being assessed through an ongoing modelling project and given favourable conditions for the development of the disease, spread is likely. A five-year programme to reduce levels of the disease to epidemiologically insignificant levels began in 2009, prior to the finding in larch. Actions under the programme include removal of plant species which are most effective in spreading the organism; surveillance of horticultural and forestry production; research; and raising public awareness about the organism and plant health risks more widely. The five year programme covers England and Wales, and officials are in regular contact about its implementation. The programme has recently been reviewed to inform decisions on future action against Phytophthora ramorum in the broader context of DEFRA's plant health programme.
No ministerial discussions with Welsh colleagues have taken place about Phytophthora ramorum.