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Helen Mirren voices new plant health animation

Dame Helen Mirren has helped renew efforts to keep a deadly plant disease out of the UK by narrating a new animation, launched by a project which UEA are part of.

Launched today (13 January) by BRIGIT, a consortium of 12 universities and research institutes led by the John Innes Centre and including the RHS and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the four-minute animation is intended to educate the public about the insect-borne disease, the symptoms to look out for, and the risks of bringing plants back from abroad.

Helen Mirren has witnessed first-hand the impact of the disease on businesses and communities in Puglia, Italy and has previously urged gardeners to purchase plants sourced or grown in the UK.

Dame Helen Mirren said: “Xylella is a dreadful plant disease that has devastated businesses, communities and entire landscapes. Understanding what you can do to help keep it out of the UK is an important first step in protecting our precious plants for the future.”

Xylella is a bacterium that infects more than 500 species of plant causing leaf scorch, wilt, die-back and plant death. There is no known cure for the disease. Xylella is not present in the UK but the public is being asked to look out for symptoms and to report them to the TreeAlert service when the cause cannot be explained by other factors, such as frost damage, drought or other common pests and diseases.

The UK has funded the 28-month BRIGIT project to generate the evidence and understanding needed to reduce the risk of Xylella being introduced, to respond to any interceptions and outbreaks, and to mitigate the impact of the disease were it to become established.

Prof Andrew Fearne, from Norwich Business School is part of the project, lending his expertise work on supply chain and buyer behaviour. He said: “This disease could have devastating consequences for the UK, and so it is essential that all of the people in the relevant supply chains, from sourcing, producing, distribution, retailing to final ‘consumption’ are made aware of the risks and understand what to do if they have any reason to believe that plants might be contaminated.”

“I have always enjoyed working on projects led by natural scientists but with a strong social science component, particularly where this involves understanding and/or changing the behaviour of multiple stakeholders along the supply chain, as inter-organisational relationships is a key component of my research.”

Advice to help prevent the introduction of Xylella includes:

1.       Source new plants carefully, where possible purchase plants grown in the UK

2.       Propagate your own plants from seeds or cuttings

3.       Check plants for signs of disease before purchase and monitor the health of new plants

4.       Never bring plants back with you from abroad

For more information about Xylella and BRIGIT visit the website