Local nurseries could survive without California plants article by: Stevie L. Daugherty While Kentucky officials are preparing to ask the federal government for permission to ban all plants from California because of sudden oak death, a disease that has killed tens of thousands of trees in that state, it's business as usual for Rob Roberts. Roberts, owner of Roberts Landscaping, Water Gardens & Garden Center, Inc., doesn't think it will happen but, if it does, his business, along with other nurseries in Marion County will survive, he said. "The horticulture industry in California is so big that my gut feeling is that it won't happen," Roberts said. "If it did we would have to shuffle our feet real quick and find other suppliers but it wouldn't be devastating." Roberts buys plants from all over the country, including California, which is where sudden oak death was first discovered in the United States. Last spring it was detected in several Southern California nurseries, which prompted Kentucky to place emergency bans on certain California nursery stock. A California nursery group filed a federal lawsuit against Kentucky and to settle the suit Kentucky agreed to an injunction that forbids the state from having a policy that exceeds federal regulations. No cases of sudden oak death have been confirmed in Kentucky but it has been discovered in 21 states, including Tennessee and Virginia, and state agriculture officials view it as a potential threat to Kentucky's oaks. It is caused by a fungus-like pathogen whose spores are spread by wind and rain and through soil. Sudden oak spores infect oak trees through the trunk, gradually starving the root system. The only method of controlling the disease is to cut down and burn infected trees or plants. Roberts buys several different plants and trees from California, including Japanese maples. If the government banned all plants from California he would have to find another supplier and some of the more interesting plants would be hard to get, he said. "Japanese maples are probably the biggest thing that comes from the California area," Roberts said. "But, anything that's hot and new, California grows it. They are on the front edge of new products." Steve Nally, co-owner of Twin Oaks Landscaping & Nursery, Inc. said he doesn't buy many plants from California but the assortment of plants that he would be able to offer his customers would suffer if he were no longer able to purchase plants from California. "It would hurt the variety of plants we could get in," Nally said. Roberts said the situation would be much more serious if the government prohibited nurseries from going across state lines to buy plants and trees. But, if that happened, more Kentucky farmers would get involved with horticulture, which would be a plus for the state, he said. "In another 20 to 30 years you will be able to get most of anything you want from Kentucky," Roberts said. "Most of us are trying to buy more from Kentucky but not everything is grown here and that's what pushes you out to other states. I believe, in time, we will be able to get 60 to 70 per cent of our stock in state. But there's going to be 40 percent that's just not going to be grown in this state."