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There has been considerable concern about the discovery in Cornwall of 2 new diseases affecting trees and shrubs, and it has been compared with elm disease and fear of the potential for wide spread death of trees.

What are they?

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Phytophthora is a widespread group of fungal like pathogens that cause such problems as potato blight, bleeding canker and alder dieback. Most are waterborne and affect the roots and tubers. In latin Phytophthora means 'Plant Destroyer'.

Phytophthora ramorum was only recently described (1993) and its biology is not fully understood but it is believed to be dispersed by rain splash, wind-driven rain (a frequent occurrence in Cornwall) or irrigation or ground water.

Phytophthora kernoviae is a newly discovered pathogen which causes serious damage to rhododendron and beech trees and a growing list of other plants including Magnolia and Pieris. Little is yet known about this disease and how it develops or spreads but it is thought to spread in a similar way to Phytophthora ramorum. It is also thought to cause plant death more rapidly than Phytophthora ramorum. Research is underway to gain further understanding about this disease and how it develops or spreads.

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