Article 66 – ‘Unseen enemies update’

Hi, welcome to Taiga Bonzai in this post we share some of the comments we have received regarding article 56 ‘Bug apocalypse’ and this series ‘Unseen enemies’.

Introduction – the viewpoints of our readers are many and varied with all having concerns on the ever increasing problem of pests and disease that are threatening our very existence. But to discuss them all at length would make this article far too long therefore, we will take a small selection 10 in total in reverse order and we thank all whom have commented on our articles. In addition, there were also questions that will be answered at the end.

  • 10. Amy Hardcastle – “I had heard of the problem with declining insect populations but I did not realise the situation was so severe, I do now! Thank you.”
  • 9. Leon Sanchez – “Your post unseen enemies 4 re: ‘Portugal confirmed its first case in 2019 on lavender’ certainly shows the severity of the problem with the deadly disease Xylella fastidiosa, congrats.”
  • 8. Gillian P. Simmonds – “Taiga bonzai certainly knows how to get people’s attention on topics that most fail to understand, we do have problems and I do agree they need to be addressed, please keep writing.”
  • 7. Jonas Olsson – “Great work, you have given the powers that be a strong clear message will they listen! I sincerely hope they do otherwise we will be in serious trouble.”
  • 6. Lilian Gough – “Many bloggers write good work but yours is on another level, your work is artistic informative and a pleasure to read if only there were more like you.”
  • 5. Heinz Muller – “Bug apocalypse and unseen enemies really drive the message home here’s hoping the bureaucrats take note, very good articles.”
  • 4. Andrew Billings – “Talent is a hard to find in these days especially on subjects such as yours – you are able to get the message across, enjoyable reading, I look forward to more.”
  • 3. Galen Jonak – “It’s hard to come by well-informed people on this topic, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks”
  • 2. Taren Vanlier – “May I simply say what a relief to uncover a person that really understands what they are talking about on the internet. You actually know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people really need to check this out and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you’re not more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.”
  • 1. Dalton Beitz – “I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something concerning this.”

The questions – there were many on pests and disease for example, how to eradicate them and by what methods, the protection of forests and woodland, tighter restrictions on importation, new phytosanitary regulations and will there be any detriment to bonsai horticulture.

1. Eradicating pests and disease – “What methods of eradicating pests and disease are currently in use and what is the success rate?”

For aeons agriculturists and horticulturists around the globe have been trying to halt the onslaught of pest and diseases that have devastated crops, forests and woodland. Many of these unwanted entities have arrived either by wind (pathogens) and wing (Insecta) and through packaging in more recent times. To date over 1 million species of insects have been discovered and described, but it is estimated that approximately 10 million exist on earth. For plant pathogens there are over 100 for every tree species. (60,065 in total)

Many we know of and are able to eradicate via insecticide and fungicide, but many chemicals are no longer effective and/or are not available for general public use for obvious reasons. Pesticides widely used include Cypermethrin, Glyphosate, Lambda Cyhalothrin, Chlorpyriphos, Cypermethrin Acetamiprid and Profenos Cypermethrin. However, insecta can become immune for example, the cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera has documented resistance to 49 pesticides. Pathogens are able to mutate and many are not affected by fungicide sprays and in some cases there is no chemical cure; hence the success rate is minimal to say the least. Science has to find solutions that are safe not just for humans but also the environment.

2. Woodland and forest protection – “What methods or practises are in place to protect forests and woodland?”

Practically all foresters are knowledgeable regarding the health and status of their plants and are able to detect problems quite quickly when symptoms appear. However, there are diseases that attack tree root and water conducting systems for which the signs are not visible until it is too late for example, Armillaria and Xylella fastidiosa. Anthracnose and Fire blight are visible as they attack foliage and small branches, infected trees by the above die within a short space of time, hence they are normally removed and burnt to avoid further contamination.

Aftermath of Xylella fastidiosa

Borers are perhaps the most harmful to trees, Asian Longhorned beetle Anoplophora glabripennis (China and Korea), Bronze Birch borer Agrilus anxius (United States), Emerald Ash borer Agrilus planipennis (China), Sirex woodwasp Sirex noctilio (Worldwide) and Dutch Elm Disease DED (UK). Evidence of their existence are particles of wood dust at the base of the trunk the result of tunneling into the tree’s cortex where eggs are laid and eradicating them is extremely difficult. 

3. Tighter restrictions on importation – “You have brought to awareness through your articles the problems with pest and disease control, will tightening the rules further reduce the problem?”

The World Trade Organization (WTO formed on January 1st 1995 with 164 members) is an intergovernmental organization that regulates and facilitates international trade between nations. Governments use the organization to establish, revise and enforce the rules that govern international trade. However, there are 14 countries who are not members including, Aruba, Eritrea, Kiribati, Kosovo, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, North Korea, Palau, the Palestinian Territories, San Marino, Sint Maarten and Tuvalu.

Therefore, it is extremely difficult to enforce rules and regulations further if there is stiff opposition, because trade rules for agriculture remain an extremely sensitive issue. This is particularly the case when agricultural imports carry the threat of disease. Nonetheless, under the rules of the WTO member countries are allowed to restrict the importation of agricultural products from diseased regions should potential risks be apparent.

4. New phytosanitary regulations – “What do these new rules entail and can they be enforced?”

Every country on the planet is a sovereign nation and has the supreme right to make or change laws as it so desires regardless of what treaties or agreements are in place. However, the nations in the EU block have to abide by the rules laid down by the commission, but the UK has parted company with the block and has no obligation to adhere to any mandate. The latter passed new phytosanitary regulations in January 2021 due to diseases that are now rife in Europe, any country wishing to trade with the UK has to abide these new measures. Such mandates are regulatory in other nations including Australia, North America, Canada and Russia.

5. A detriment to bonsai horticulture – “Will these new restrictions have an effect on the bonsai fraternity?”

We are researching and monitoring new laws and what we can divulge is the from the 1st January 2022 according to the UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

“All plants, plant products and other objects categorised as either ‘regulated and notifiable’ or ‘regulated’ must be accompanied by a Phytosanitary Certificate – All plants, plant products and other objects categorised as ‘regulated’ will require pre-notification, but only if instructed to do so upon submitting a customs import declaration.”

Since leaving the EU, importing goods from the UK has and is an arduous affair with more paperwork and additional import duty costs and these new regulations now in situ just exacerbate the issue. Meaning purchasing bonsai products from the UK will not be impossible, but extremely tedious and time consuming. No doubt the EU will probably reciprocate due to their petty minded bureaucracy because of the UK’s actions. However, there are many bonsai outlets on mainland Europe and other countries where the restrictions although in force are less rigid.

We wrote article 56 ‘Bug apocalypse’ because we were asked to do so, ‘Unseen enemies’ was a follow on because the two are connected. It was felt that these issues not high on governments agenda needed to brought to the public awareness due to the severity of the current situation, which if not addressed will spiral out of control.

Turning to another issue that is of great concern to us, is the vast amount of comments we have received on one post in particular article 50 – ‘Used, Abused and Unloved’. In the previous 2 days the total exceeded over 1,000 and today (Saturday 8th January) another 480 were lodged, this colossal amount on one article is unprecedented; hence investigation is in progress.

The comments themselves were not malicious in any shape or form quite the opposite and many required a response, but dealing with them is time consuming therefore, rules have been tightened in the hope that the onslaught will decrease. For example, (a) Comment author must fill out name and e-mail and (b) Users must be registered and logged in to comment. T.B. is not in favour of imposing restrictions we want our site to be available to all, but for the moment necessity compels. Until next time, BW, Nik.  

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