Coronavirus or Xylella: The importance of biosecurity, early detection and decisive action

Perhaps it is ironic that during 2020, the International Year of Plant Health, a human pathogen has dominated the global headlines and had such a major impact on so many individuals, businesses, lifestyles and cultures around the world. The coronavirus has, unfortunately, demonstrated how easily some types of pathogen can be spread, the negative impacts they can cause, whilst also highlighting the importance of society’s efforts to reduce mechanisms of spread. In parts of southern Europe, a bacterial disease called Xylella fastidiosa has killed many thousands of ancient olive trees and most of us have seen ash trees showing dead shoots, twigs and branches as a result of a fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) causing ask dieback.

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Help is at Hand – Benefits to an Observatree volunteer of buddying up with other organisations

You know that feeling – you’ve had all the training and now you have to do it for yourself. Well, getting started on monitoring for Observatree can feel like that. Where should I survey? Who owns the land? How do I find out who to contact? Why don’t they reply to me? Argh!

Well, there is an exciting development that will not only will make life easier for us Observatree surveyors on the ground but will also play an important role nationally in extending the network of organisations contributing to tree health surveillance.

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The role of citizen science in tree health in Slovenia

Figure 1: Field training of forestry professionals about tree diseases in Slovenia. Photo: S. Zidar

As part of the International Year of Plant Health, Observatree is hosting some blogs from colleagues around the world who, like us, are working to slow the spread of invasive tree pests and diseases. Below is a blog from some of the team at the Slovenian Forestry Institute, Simon Zidar and Dr Maarten de Groot.

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Observatree raising awareness of tree pests and diseases in Wales

Two pest and disease training days were recently held for stakeholders in Wales, one in the South and one in the North. The audience were mainly foresters, arborists and others working in the tree and forestry sectors who were interested in learning about the pests and diseases that threaten their trees and how to prevent their introduction and spread. The workshops concentrated on the particular pest and disease issues of Wales and aimed to improve tree health monitoring by highlighting the signs and symptoms of pests and diseases, thereby making them easier to recognise and outlining the use of the on-line reporting tool Tree Alert to ensure that they can be promptly reported.

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Observatree on the Hunt for Lace Bugs

Between June and October last year many of our wonderful volunteers took part in a lace bug survey to help us to determine whether the oak lace bug (Corythucha arcuata) and the plane lace bug (C. ciliata) were present in the UK. These non-native invasive insect pests were introduced into Europe from North America and are established in many European countries but are not thought to be currently established here, however they have been intercepted in, and eradicated from Bedfordshire in the past.

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A record-breaking 2019 and new developments for 2020

2019 was a record-breaking year for the project, with almost 4400 tree health reports submitted by our volunteers. The focus of Observatree has always been on the quality of reports submitted, rather than the number, but this figure far exceeds the previous 2018 record and shows the levels of hard work, commitment and dedication of our volunteers, many of whom were new recruits to the network a year ago. Our new ‘Lead volunteers’ have also played an important role in mentoring many of these new individuals.

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Volunteer mentoring days success!

It has been a fantastic year for our Observatree volunteers in terms of records submitted and the valuable contributions that they have made to tree health throughout the period. Many new volunteers have joined us and some of our longstanding contributors have increased their efforts and responsibilities within the project. So when the opportunity for some of the tree health professionals linked to the project to give something back to volunteers comes up we always have a great response.

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Summary of the 2019 training days

The Observatree volunteer training roadshow went ahead as usual this year with eleven training events in total in England, Scotland and Wales. Our volunteers came from far and wide to attend them, with one individual even flying in from Northern Ireland to join us! We had a great turn-out this year with a combination of new and existing volunteers, so a big ‘thank you’ to all of you who were able to attend.

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Observatree Autumn Round Up

Observatree Autumn Round Up Following on from our last blog post where we shared what we’d been up to this summer, we thought we’d share what the volunteers have all been up to this summer! In total we had 1247 reports submitted between July and September, which is a lot of trees being looked at!  The Midlands volunteers have been the busiest; we seem to have a bit of a rivalry developing between the West and East Midlands with both regions submitting over 200 reports each this summer.  All regions have submitted reports this summer, which is gives a good range of data across the UK. Chalara ash dieback diamond lesion spotted by Karen Holland 130 of these reports were for priority pests or diseases and a further 62 were for non-priority pests and diseases.  Negative reports are also very important for research, as they show scientists what’s happening around […]

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Observatree Summer Round Up

A busy summer of Observatree activity has seen us out and about up and down the country from shows and events to pest and disease surveys we have certainly had our hands full. Here is just a brief summary of what we have been up to and some of the highlights from the last few months.

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