New "virtual centre" for Scottish plant and tree health launched

Scotland's Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing launched a new virtual Centre of Expertise for Plant Health during a visit to SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) yesterday.

image: SASA
image: SASA

The Centre will bring together key plant sectors within agriculture, forestry, horticulture and the environment to co-ordinate plant health needs and activities across Scotland.

It will be headed by the James Hutton Institute’s Professor Ian Toth, along with partners from Scotland’s Rural College, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Forest Research, Universities of Edinburgh, Stirling and Strathclyde, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland.

Working with the recently appointed Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland, SASA's Professor Gerry Saddler, it is hoped the Centre will become the front line for plant health and provide rapid advice across all sectors.

"The Centre will enhance and complement existing structures to help to strengthen our resilience by bringing together scientific knowledge and capabilities across trees, crops and the natural environment," Ewing said.

"It will act as a focal point for disseminating knowledge and advice rapidly and building capacity to help respond to any new plant health threats."

He added: "Our approach will ensure timely scientific evidence continues to inform our policy decisions and puts Scotland in a strong position to minimise the impact of any future threats to our plant health."

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick added: "Our climate is changing, and that brings challenges, and there is an increasing number of channels – internet trading, personal imports etc – that pose plant health risks. We need to be ahead of the game and ready to combat these threats.

"We are therefore delighted that Scottish Government has today announced a Centre of Excellence for Plant Health which will keep Scotland’s crops in the best of health."

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