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Plant Biosecurity 2017

Innovation in Plant Biosecurity 2017

15th - 16th March 2017, Sand Hutton, York

This major conference will bring together plant health professionals and invasive species experts from across Great Britain & beyond, to discuss novel strategies for improving plant biosecurity and establish a sustainable knowledge exchange. The conference is organised against the backdrop of the Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain, as released in 2014, and revisions to the EU Plant Health Regime, which are soon to be realised. Great Britain's forests, woods and trees are under threat from a growing number of pests and diseases. Many of these threats are alien; historically not present in the UK having been introduced from overseas. Some of these threats may reach the UK naturally i.e. as wind-borne spores from continental Europe; potentially one pathway for introduction of the disease ash die-back. The alternative and probably more common pathway of introduction is via human activity, especially trade; for example through the movement of infected plants (another pathway identified for ash die-back) or the shipping of goods associated with infested timber (as is suspected to be the case with the recent introduction of the Asian long-horn beetle into Kent in packaging crates for stone). These cases illustrate that existing biosecurity measures are vulnerable and that we need to do more to improve our nation's biosecurity and protect our plants and trees; both cultivated and in the wider environment.

Plant Biosecurity 2017

The benefits of increasing biosecurity come in the form of reduced losses from plant pests and disease through robust prevention, early detection and effective mitigation. There are a number of ways in which biosecurity innovations can be imagined and realised and these are reflected in the four main themes of the conference:

Emerging risks

How can we find out about new threats earlier, what can be done in the additional time and how beneficial is it?

Movement and borders

How can we work with the increasing scale and complexity of trade movements to reduce risk?


How can we understand, influence and nudge so as to adjust more bio-secure behaviours by stakeholders?


How can scientists produce tools that will be used effectively?

Emerging Risks

Emerging plant diseases present many serious issues for human well-being, whether in agricultural, forestry, environmental or regulatory arenas. An introduced pathogen in one region/country, or even continent, that leads to an emerging disease may have been endemic, widespread, and sometimes cryptic in another. There may be re-emergence of a disease which had long disappeared from the plant pathology canon. Genetic change through hybridisation or new encounters can lead to host shifts and adaptations. In some cases the emerging disease may be caused by a pathogen that is hitherto new to science. The temporal and spatial scales of plant disease emergence, as in related areas of invasion biology, are defining features related to local, national and global drivers. These include the introduction of novel crops, changes in production systems, interactions occurring at the landscape level, the increases in global trade, and the impact of climate change. Not least, there are issues related to human displacements and migration, often related to warfare, insurrection and the breakdown of civic society. These drivers taken together raise questions about the predictability of emerging plant diseases - or rather, from known and perhaps less-known threats, can the associated risks be ranked and regulatory action prioritised?

Movement and boarders

Protecting plants and trees from pests diseases is important for the economy, the environment and human health and increasing trade between nations means that our plants are at an increased threat from the spread of pests and diseases. In the UK we are committed to protecting our borders from pests and diseases and building the resilience of our trees and plants. We can't eliminate all risks, such as risk from airbourne infection, but we have stringent plans to deal with threats, and take prompt action should they be detected.

We are also committed to doing all we can to prevent plant pests and diseases reaching our borders. We are promoting biosecurity internationally, at UK borders, and inland and there are regulations on importing plants and products from outside the UK where is it is known that certain pests or pathogens are present. Different regulations apply to commodities coming in from the EU, and outside of the EU. We work collaboratively with the international community, industry, NGOs, landowners and the public to reduce the risks of pests and diseases entering the country, and mitigate the impact of newly established pests.

Our approach to tackling Plant and Tree disease also includes identifying and assessing new threats using the UK Plant Health Risk Register and risk-based targeted import inspections at ports and airports combined with inland surveillance.


Plant biosecurity represents an area in which innovation is required not just through new modes and deployment of technology, but in the ways we perceive and calculate risk and the manner by which we conceptualise our borders, develop relationships and implement regulatory policy. All of these pursuits demand engagement with and understanding of a wide range of stakeholders. This theme critically explores existing and novel ways of considering people and plants. The willingness of people to support and uphold biosecurity policy will be influenced by their perceptions of nature, forests, trees and more. What values do the public(s) hold in relation to plants and ecosystems and how are these influenced by culture, demographics, awareness campaigns and education? Who is involved in plant biosecurity (government departments and agencies, inspectors, private sector, practitioners in agriculture, forestry and horticulture, researchers, communities, 'the public'), what roles can they play and how can we promote and facilitate positive behaviours within and across these groups? How do we co-produce, share and implement new and old knowledges in this field? What policy support will provide a logical and acceptable statutory framework whilst encouraging adaptation, transparency and efficacy in biosecurity? What can we learn from other areas (geographical and topical) regarding the social science of biosecurity and promotion of sustainable behaviours? What is this notion of 'biosecurity' and how might radically different interpretations influence our intentions in this field? This theme is open to all disciplines across the social sciences, arts and humanities as well as interdisciplinary approaches that address these questions, or, perhaps, propose alternative relevant questions.


New technologies are being developed and applied across a range of diagnostic sectors. Many of these are finding applications in helping with improved plant biosecurity. The session will look at the commercial and intellectual property landscape for these technologies. Using cases studies it discuss some of the approaches being undertaken and the challenges being faced with successfully commercialising new technologies for these applications.


Conference sessions will be based around these themes. In addition, research findings from the LWEC Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative will be presented in a "Technology Fair" setting to garner feedback from a wide range of attendees.

Speaking at the event:

Professor Sir John Beddington - Senior Adviser, Oxford Martin School

Between January 2008 and March 2013, Sir John was the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office for Science. He reported directly to the Prime Minister and attended Cabinet Sub-committees and, on occasion, Cabinet. Sir John was Head of Profession for Science and Engineering in Government and founded the Government Science and Engineering Network; he also headed the group of Chief Scientific Advisers in Government.

Professor Nicola Spence - Chief Plant Health Officer, Defra and Head of the National Plant Protection Organisation for the UK

Nicola is an experienced research plant pathologist and worked on virus diseases of horticultural crops in the UK and internationally for over 20 years. She is an expert in plant health and international plant trade and was previously the Head of Plant Health and then Chief Scientist at the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Professor Helen Roy - Principal Scientist, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Helen's research focuses on the effects of environmental change on insect populations and communities, with a particular interest in the dynamics of invasive non-native species and their effects on biodiversity. Helen is the chair of a COST Action ALIEN Challenge and leads a project to produce a comprehensive information portal on non-native species in Britain.

Dr Rupert Osborn - CEO, IP Pragmatics Ltd

Rupert has worked in the field of technology commercialisation since 1996. His experience covers the commercialisation of different forms of intellectual property including trademark, copyright and patent licensing. He has particular expertise in the Agriculture and Biotechnology sectors having gained industry experience with Zeneca Agrochemicals (now Syngenta) prior to founding IP Pragmatics.

Dr Rehema White - Researcher, University of St Andrews

Rehema White is a sustainability generalist developing scholarship and pursuing sustainable development practice from the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She works in: 1) governance of natural resources (including multi-level collaboration, global North-South links, roles of community); 2) knowledge and sustainable development (including learning for sustainability, research modes); and 3) sustainability in practice (including tree health). She is exploring integrative analysis and novel links across these different fields, drawing on her experiences across the natural and social sciences.

Professor Michael Jeger - Emeritus Professor, Imperial College London and Senior Research Investigator, The Centre for Environmental Policy

Michael Jeger received his PhD from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where his research interests have been in quantitative plant disease epidemiology. In recent years he has worked on the epidemiology of acute oak decline in the UK and Phytophthora ramorum in the hardy nursery trade and semi-natural environment. More broadly-based interests on plant diseases include: the potential impacts of climate change, integrating natural social science perspectives on risk, and the development of network models for the nursery trade. Michael is also the Chair of the Plant Health Panel of the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, which provides pest risk assessments for the European Commission.

Peter McClure - TerViva Operations Manager, Florida

Peter McClure is a 4th generation Florida family farmer with extensive experience in plant nursery production, citrus development and management, forestry plantation management, agricultural research, and water resource management. He is a Florida Master Naturalist and earned a B.S. degree from Florida Southern College in Citrus Business. Peter has planted and managed over 6 million trees in 16 counties across Florida and has an intimate understanding of Florida's unique and varied soils, climate, and water management requirements. He is also an elected member of the Board of Supervisors of the North St. Lucie River Water Control District and has been awarded the Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award, the Florida State Horticultural Society's Outstanding Commercial Horticulturist Award, and the St. Lucie County Conservationist of the Year Award.

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