Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce Publish Final report

Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce Publish Final report

In the last few years, several new or previously unrecognised pests and pathogens have emerged as significant risks to the UK’s plants, including trees in woodlands, commercial forests and in the urban environment. Given this background, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser established an independent, expert Taskforce comprised of academics whose specialism is plant health, to provide advice on threats from plant pests and pathogens and to recommend how best to protect the UK from those threats. The taskforce have now presented their final report with recommendations on how best to address the threats posed by plant pests and pathogens to our trees and other plants. 

An interim report was published in December 2012 and, building upon feedback from the wider stakeholder community, the Taskforce reviewed the evidence base and the likely costs, benefits and practicality of implementation for each recommendation; leading to publication of this final report which contains eight inter-related recommendations for the Government:

  • Develop a UK Plant Health Risk Register;
  • Appoint a Chief Plant Health Officer to look after the Plant Health Risk Register;
  • Develop and implement procedures to predict, monitor, and control the spread of pests and diseases;
  • Review, simplify, and strengthen governance and legislation;
  • Improve the use of intelligence from EU/other regions and work to improve the EU regulations concerned with tree health and plant biosecurity;
  • Strengthen biosecurity to reduce risks at the border and within the UK;
  • Develop a modern, user-friendly system to provide quick and intelligent access to data about tree health and plant biosecurity; and
  • Address key skills shortages.

There report on combating tree and plant pests and diseases was given backing from Environment Secretary Owen Paterson during a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show  on 20 May.

The Chelsea Flower Show hosted a “Stop the Spread” show garden  part funded by Defra and the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), designed to show the importance of taking action now to tackle damaging plant pests and diseases.

The garden, created by award winning designer Jo Thompson, contrasts a healthy natural environment with a symbolic avenue of lifeless trees as a demonstration of what could happen if tree and plant diseases were left unchecked.

Commenting on the report during his visit to the Fera garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said that work would begin right away on the recommendations around developing a plant health risk register and implementing procedures to predict, monitor, and control pests and diseases. The rest of the recommendations will be examined and responded to later in the summer.

Read the full final report 

Professor Julian Evans FICFor

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