Martin Ward, the chief plant health officer at the Department for the Environment, said scientists are working on a single disposable test kit. Already ‘lateral flow’ kits, much like a pregnancy test are used to detect other diseases in trees like sudden oak death. A tissue sample from a leaf is mixed in with a solution. The tester kit is then dipped into the liquid and a signal such as a blue bar shows if the result is positive.

The kits could be sent out to members of the public via the Forestry Commission or private organisations to speed up reports of the disease. Dr Ward said tester kits to spot chalara could be developed within “several months”.