United to save our plants — and stop another eco-tragedy like ash dieback disease

James Fisher reports on Defra’s latest efforts to prevent the spread of plant diseases in the UK.

Last week, Defra announced a new biosecurity strategy aimed at “protecting native species and spurring economic growth.” The plan, developed in collaboration with the Forestry Commission and the governments of Scotland and Wales, sets out a five-year plant health vision focusing on monitoring online retailers and social media sites to prevent the import and trade of hazardous products. vegetable products. The strategy defines how more than 30 signatories such as NFU, RHS and Woodland Trust will implement “an ambitious program of behavior change in society through public participation.”

The new scheme builds on the work of a previous biosecurity strategy that was created in 2014 in response to an outbreak of ash dieback. “This strategy has leveraged many tools, approaches, processes, investments and opportunities that have enabled us to respond much better to new and emerging threats,” says Nicola Spence, chief plant health officer in the UK. Dr. Spence notes that the new strategy will focus on three key areas: devoting more resources to online trading, developing a voluntary certification scheme, and educating the public about what biosecurity means and what people can do to help.

“This new strategy builds on what we have developed and puts more emphasis on new and emerging deals, especially through social media and online retail platforms,” she says. “We are refining and expanding the web and sales arm of the Animal and Plant Health Agency so we can better respond to these new deals and pathways. We’re using new technologies and new systems – like the ones the police use to track criminal behavior – with people on the ground who can keep an eye on what’s going on. We are strengthening it all.”

How to help control pests and plant diseases

DO know what you are buying and where it comes from. Always buy from a trusted source.

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NOT bring things from travel. Even small pruning or seeding can threaten our plants and trees.

WHEN walking in the woods, you can potentially throw things from your boots, buggies or bikes. Keep them clean.

Defra also announced that as part of this strategy, it will work with the UK Plant Health Alliance to develop a new “five-year roadmap” for the Plant Healthy certification scheme. The certification, which is voluntary, will provide biosafety certification for nurseries, businesses and charities working in the horticultural sector. RHS Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire has become the first public garden in England to be certified Plant Healthy, in recognition of its work to prevent the introduction and spread of pests, diseases and invasive species, and to promote plant health. .

Dr. Spence also called climate change “one of the main drivers” of new and emerging threats. “We are seeing the pests moving further north,” she says. “We know that the extent to which they can take root has changed… We see crops growing in new places and becoming susceptible to pests and diseases.”

The new strategy is important not only to protect our factories, but also to business and the economy, Defra said. He estimates that the annual cost of horticulture is around £15.7 billion. It also points out that the pests can be costly, with the cost of the ongoing ash dieback epidemic likely to cost around £15bn.

“This landmark strategy defines how we will protect UK plants as government, industry and the public work together to address plant pest risks,” adds Lord Benyon, Secretary of State for Biosecurity. ‘[With] climate change, addressing these diverse and growing risks will be critical to maintaining our food security, as well as ensuring safe trade during difficult economic times.”

Our columnist Jason Goodwin is handed a jewel of the past, only to have it lead him to a dark

Mark Griffiths sings of the historic, beautiful and indefatigable native ash.

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