Image courtesy of: Penn State Department of Plant Pathology & Environmental Microbiology Archives , Penn State University, Bugwood.org

This note is for guidance and signposting only

New legislation that will come into force on 4 March 2021 to address the plant health threat posed by Xylella.

This legislation applies to Wales, being GB wide. These changes have been identified by Government as priorities for improving the UK’s plant biosecurity in response to known threats. Plant biosecurity protects Welsh businesses, society and the environment.  

The measures in the legislation reflect the desired level of protection for plants imported from countries and areas where Xylella is present, while avoiding unnecessary new burdens for those countries where Xylella is not present.

Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterium which causes disease in a wide range of commercially grown, woody plants. It has spread, causing a serious impact, in Europe on hosts such as olive and grapevine. It has the potential to attack several species of broadleaf trees widely grown in the UK, as well as shrubs and herbaceous plants. The disease is not currently known to be present in the UK. However, the long period between infection by Xylella and symptoms appearing (a period known as latency) means that it could be carried into non-infected countries, via plant imports, long before the infection is identified. There is considered to be a particular risk of introducing Xylella with olive, almond, lavender, rosemary, coffee and polygala plants, and these hosts will be subject to additional requirements.

The new measures apply to imports from those countries (including EU Member States) where
Xylella is known to be present. The measures, amongst other items, include the following requirements:

  • Only allow imports of Coffea (coffee) and Polygala from countries where Xylella is
    known not to occur.
  • Introduce more stringent requirements for the import of Lavendula sp. (lavender), Nerium oleander, Olea europaea (olive), Prunus dulcis (almond), and Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) (reclassified as Salvia rosmarinus) from countries where Xylella is known to occur. Imports may be allowed under certain conditions that include inspections of the place of production and the surrounding area, testing, pre-export inspections and a one-year quarantine period prior to import.

The existing requirements for high risk plants from countries where Xylella is not known to occur will be retained, which include annual official inspection, with sampling and testing of the plants concerned.

Defra have said that the important point to note for businesses is that the relevant plants have been grown in approved premises and, where required, details have been supplied to the UK Plant Health Services by the competent authority of the exporting country, so that the phytosanitary certificate can state the prescribed requirements have been met.

You are advised to read the full guidance from Defra on the UK Plant Health Information Portal.

The guidance can be found at https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/latest-news/new-gb-measures-against-xylella/ . This includes a letter from the UK Chief Plant Health Officer, and an annex on the detail of the legislation and how it relates to host plants and a Q&A document.

A list of hosts, with levels of susceptibility to subspecies of Xylella fastidiosa, is given at: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/assets/uploads/Xylella-hosts-risk-levels3.pdf

A copy of the statutory instrument that comes into force on 4 March 2021 (The Official Controls and Phytosanitary Conditions (Amendment) Regulations 2021 is available at:
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/id/uksi/2021/136