Plant pathogens can be devastating; beyond putting the plant at risk, the financial impact can also be huge, especially when it happens on a large scale.
A Vancouver Island greenhouse is under quarantine after one of its plants tested positive for a harmful pathogen called Phytophthora ramorum. Now, the future of 100,000 plants at the Island View Nursery is in jeopardy.
The discovery means the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has placed the entire 32-hectare property belonging to the Island View Nursery under lockdown for at least two weeks.
If the spores are still present after that time, the quarantine could be extended to 90 days.
And if that doesn’t do the trick, all of the plants will be burned due to their proximity to the one infected plant.
What is Phytophthora ramorum?
P. ramorum is a fungus-like plant pathogen on the list of pests regulated by the government of Canada because of its wide host range and potentially harmful effects.
It causes diseases such as Ramorum Blight and Leafdrop on all kinds of nursery plants.
Signs of an infection include brown patches on the leaves or lost leaves, as well as brown, dead tips on the twigs.
It has also been linked to a disease that affects oak trees, known as “Sudden Oak Death” that was first seen in California in the 1990s and has since spread as far as southern Oregon.
The pathogen lives in soil and can move by water. The CFIA says that when an infected plant enters a nursery, the disease can spread quickly in the environment. Greenhouses and nurseries provide the perfect microclimates for the infection and reproduction of P. ramorum.
Nurseries that propagate from infected plants or sell them help spread the disease even further, introducing it to backyards, municipal parks, and many other settings. The natural, native environment is put at considerable risk as a result.
The pathogen poses no risk to humans, animals, or food sources.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Agriculture says the same pathogen has been found on ornamental plants sold at 10 Walmart stores and one Hy-Vee.
The plants were sold to the stores from nurseries in Washington and Canada. Recalls have been issued for the infected plants, and so far, no cases of Sudden Oak Death have been reported.
The infection will likely take a massive financial toll on a business such as the Island View Nursery in Vancouver Island.
The quarantine means nobody can come into the greenhouse, and the family-run nursery worries its reputation will be ruined.
And if it’s ordered to destroy all 100,000 of its plants, there is no government compensation for its eradication efforts.
It will mean starting over from scratch — a sad situation for the nursery, its clients, and the plants, themselves.
But the natural environment has to be protected.
Featured image courtesy of CBC News.