Organisations join forces for Scotland’s Plant Health Centre

A new organisation looking at the issues affecting Scotland’s plantlife has been officially launched.

More than 60 experts and stakeholders from the diverse worlds of forestry, horticulture, the environment and agriculture today (Tuesday) gathered at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to hear about the aims and vision of a new virtual Plant Health Centre for Scotland.

Chief plant health officer for Scotland, Professor Gerry Saddler of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), spoke at the official stakeholder launch event having marked the occasion by planting a Sorbus arranensis tree – carefully and locally sourced to ensure its health and provenance.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the Plant Health Centre is an interdisciplinary consortium based around the strengths and expertise of 10 leading research organisations: Forest Research, the James Hutton Institute, The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the Universities of Strathclyde, Exeter and Edinburgh, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, SASA, and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland.

First launched by Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing MSP, in February, the Centre brings together experts and resources to tackle problems that would previously have been worked on in very different sectors.

At today’s launch, Prof Ian Toth from the James Hutton Institute, director of the centre, outlined how the Centre will be Scotland’s knowledge hub for plant health, and announced the co-launch of the website

He said: ‘Plant diseases don’t respect borders and cause problems across all plant species, from iconic forest trees to the smallest of wild flowers and taking in ornamentals, garden plants and all our crop species as they go.

‘With thousands of plant species in Scotland and 1000 novel pests and diseases listed on the UK plant health risk register, there has never been a more crucial time to pool resources and bring scientists and stakeholders together to act.’

As part of the centre, a Science Advisory and Response Team (SART), drawn from 10 organisations, provides immediately accessible expertise, and a broader knowledge base will be accessed and commissioned to provide comprehensive responses to identified needs.

The sector leads at the Plant Health Centre directorate are Prof Karen Halliday, University of Edinburgh (plant responses to stress), Prof Adam Kleczkowski, University of Strathclyde (epidemiology, modelling), Prof Glenn Marion, BioSS (epidemiology, modelling, statistics), Dr Steven Cavers, CEH (tree health, resilience in natural systems), Dr Mariella Marzano, FR (social science), Dr Ruth Mitchell, Hutton (natural environment), Dr Andrew Barnes, SRUC (socio-economics), Dr Sarah Green, FR (pathology), David Knott, RBGE (horticultural plant health), and Dr David Kenyon, SASA (agriculture).

To find out more about the Plant Health Centre, click HERE.