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Updates about the Horticulture Wales project, along with industry news and opinion.

Horticulture Wales Hits The Airwaves

14 April 2014

Horticulture Wales Project Director Dr David Skydmore shared his expertise on plant health during the latest episode of long-running BBC Radio Wales series Country Focus.

Presented by Rachel Garside and broadcast on Sunday mornings, this week’s half-hour instalment of the rural news magazine was a horticulture special to mark the tenth anniversary of the RHS Flower Show in Cardiff (11-13 April), with much of the programme devoted to the current state of the industry and how to encourage the next generation of skilled workers to enter the sector.

Dr Skydmore, who is also Glyndwr University’s Academic Head of Biology and Environment, was invited on to discuss the threats posed by the spread of plant pests and diseases, and whether there was a need to train additional professional plant pathologists, following a recent report by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that warned of an increasing lack of plant health experts.

Dr Skydmore highlighted how plant disease “affects not only the cosmetic value of the plants, but can also cause a severe economic impact”, revealing the cost of damage to cereal crops such as wheat and barley added up to around £240 million.

He also claimed the rise of ‘citizen science’, where gardeners and farmers proactively assist with the identification of potential plant diseases, was playing a pivotal role in tackling outbreaks of Chalara (ash dieback) and Phytophthora ramorum, but he warned: “It’s a major task of ours to make sure that we train more people to go out and recognise these diseases, but also ensure they don’t spread the disease while actually doing that recognition.”

The six-minute interview also saw Dr Skydmore outline some of the biggest plant health threats the industry currently faces, including the Oak processionary moth, the Horse-chestnut leaf miner (which has spread tremendously quickly over the past three or four years), acute oak decline (which causes weeping from tree trunks and results in a very quick death), and Dothistroma needle blight (which makes the needles on pine trees look as if they have been burned).

Also featured on the show was Max Adam, a first year BSc Wildlife and Plant Biology student at Glyndwr University’s Northop campus, who explained what he had learned during his studies to date, including the structure of plants.

Listen to the interview with Dr Skydmore here (from approximately the 14 minute 15 mark of the programme called ‘RHS Cardiff - nurturing green fingers’…)

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