Updates about the Horticulture Wales project, along with industry news and opinion.

Risk Register Published Following Plant Health Strategy Summit

22 January 2014

An initial list of 700 potential threats to UK plants and trees has been launched as plans to develop a new plant health policy move one step closer to fruition.

Ornamental nursery (640px * 480px)Horticulture Wales Project Director Dr David Skydmore, Glyndwr University’s Academic Head of Biology and Environment, attended DEFRA’s latest Plant Health Stakeholder Summit in London (January 20), where experts from industry, academia, woodland groups, and the Government met to help draft the biosecurity strategy, which is expected to be finalised later this year.

The conference, which aimed to encourage a coordinated approach to tackling pests and diseases, also saw the unveiling of the first phase of an official risk register highlighting around 700 possible threats to the nation’s trees and plants. Available online via the FERA website, the UK Plant Health Risk Register is intended to not only help identify potential threats in timely fashion, but also provide a framework for nurseries and woodland managers to consider and manage risk effectively.

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley told the summit that “safeguarding the future of our trees and plants is enormously important”, not just environmentally but economically too.

He said: “It is vital for us to work with those outside of government to get this plant health strategy right and successfully protect our environment from biosecurity threats. The register is an essential step forwards in helping us to identify all potential threats and plan against them.”

Creating a risk register was one of eight recommendations put forward last May by the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce, a group of scientific experts chaired by Professor Chris Gilligan that was convened by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson MP to address current and future threats to tree health following the UK outbreak of Chalara fraxinea (ash dieback) in 2012.

Phase one of the risk register includes 668 organisms, which FERA’s Plant Health Risk Group will update on a monthly basis. Phase two is set to coincide with the launch of the final plant health strategy later this year, possibly in June.

Delegates at the Plant Health Stakeholder Summit were also informed of the creation by DEFRA of a new Chief Plant Health Officer role to oversee the risk register and contingency planning.

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