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Fungus hits county's Christmas trees

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: December 11, 2012

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CHRISTMAS tree growers in the county are being hit by a virulent fungal disease affecting their crops.

The disease, called Current Season Needle Necrosis (CSNN), turns needles brown during the summer which causes them to drop off.

And that has led to fewer trees being available for sale from some Gloucestershire sellers this festive period.

Farmer Jeff Brown, of Pamington Farm, near Tewkesbury, said the problem had been worse for him this year than it had in previous years – and he believed he wasn't alone.

He said: "I think every grower is affected.

"We usually sell about 1,000, but this year somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent of ours have been affected.

"A few have been completely ruined and the others will be unsaleable.

"Hopefully, they will throw out a new shoot and not be affected next year."

Mr Brown said the fungus left the needles with a brown tinge and many had fallen off.

He added: "It's a problem nationwide. It's been there for a few years, but certainly this is the worst I've ever had it.

"They're doing a lot of tests and treating it with a fungicide to try to stop it, but as yet they haven't really got an answer for it."

It is thought the disease was imported from the Caucasus in the seeds of Nordmann firs, the species that accounts for four in five Christmas trees sold in Britain.

There has been a reported surge in cases since 2009 with no fungicide yet found to halt it.

Growers across the country have been affected with the majority reporting damage to up to three per cent of their stock.

But some have reported more than 15 per cent of their crops have been damaged and many are said to have lost tens of thousands of pounds in damaged trees.

Harry Brightwell, of The British Christmas Tree Growers Association, said he felt sympathy for Mr Brown.

But he said the national picture was not as gloomy as his situation and insisted consumers should not be affected by the problem.

He said: "They won't notice any difference.

"There's no shortage predicted at all and prices are expected to be about the same as last year."

Mr Brightwell added that needles which are green now will remain green at least until summer next year.

So while the fungus can be of considerable concern to growers, it will not affect the quality or longevity of the trees in houses over the Christmas period as only healthy trees should be cut for sale.

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