Slawson backs more plant passports in Barcham Trees talk

A seminar at Barcham Trees run in association with the Landscape Institute Biosecurity Working Group, heard that the Government backs wider use of plant passports.

The tree health and the landscape seminar event, which attracted 60 landscape architects and arborists, heard David Slawson, head of the plant pest and disease programme at the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), speak on reducing future threats to trees.

Plant health checks are currently focused on the place of production and while there are border checks within the EU, some plants need a plant passport if they host serious 'quarantine' pests and diseases to facilitate movement between member states. 

This may change to require plant passports for all 'plants for planting' - a move with which Slawson would approve.

He said: "Threats are increasing, but the biggest threat to our landscape is probably unknown at present". He spoke of the huge damage citrus and Asian longhorn beetles have caused in the USA and hoped the one outbreak in the UK had been eradicated.

Slawson said FERA has brought in plant health legislation and is inspecting imports, woods and nurseries while campaigning to eradicate outbreaks.  It is also conducting research, raising people's awareness, encouraging best practice at all times and helping with surveillance. 

Slawson also expressed his concern about the progress of the emerald ash borer.  "It's in Moscow and moving west", he said.

Slawson said delegates should have an input into governance, such as via the Core Stakeholder Group, become familiar with legislation and the local Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) and keep as up-to-date as possible with all the latest information and adopt the highest standards of biosecurity.

Direct contact with landscapers is a new area for PHSIs, as they are more used to working higher up the production and distribution chains, according to Slawson.  "But it is important to talk to landscapers, contractors and designers about plant quarantine and other related matters", he said.  

Slawson said landscapers should always place plants from doubtful suppliers into quarantine. and should visit potential suppliers to check them out.  He said, where possible, use plants from the UK and be wary of large, 'ready made' trees produced in mainland Europe. 

He said boots should always be washed when moving from site to site.

Also speaking was Barcham's Keith Sacre who gave a presentation on tree populations and tree health. He cited New York's use of i-tree, valuing the economic contribution of each tree at an average of $122 per annum.  He urged all those with an interest in urban forestry to attend the Trees, People and the Built Environment II Conference to be held in Birmingham on 2-3 April 2014.

He said there is lack of genetic diversity in the trees we plant, preferring to use the same clonal selections time and time again.  He cited Pyrus Chanticleer as a prime example of such planting. Barcham Trees is working with Kew Gardens to find suitable, but uncommon new trees for urban planting.

He has been closely involved with the production of BS8545 From Nursery to Independence in the Landscape, which is expected to be published early in 2014. It is divided into seven categories of best practice and is designed as a benchmark for tree vitality, including physiological health tests through looking at leaf fluorescence, chlorophyll content and electrolyte leakage. 

Alan Simson, reader in landscape architecture and urban forestry at Leeds Metropolitan University, spoke on the place of trees in the city of the future. 

He believes the four main challenges facing cities are globalisation, social exclusion, urban governance and the urban environment and that the four main benefits of trees are environmental, economic, financial and social.

The day had begun with a presentation from Colin Moore, who sits on the Landscape Institute Working Group.  He said that until a year ago the Landscape Institute was either unaware of or complacent about new pests and diseases of trees. The Working Group's establishment in mid September 2012 was quickly overshadowed when Chalara hit the headlines at the end of September.  

He said the LI issued a briefing note in November 2012, issued a questionnaire to members, produced articles and has commented on the Chalara Management Plan.  It has also been represented at conferences on the subject, has run a photograph competition and has set up a pilot archive of photographs.

Moore reminded delegates there is a biosecurity page on the Institute's website and that it has contributed to the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan. A briefing note on pest and disease threat has been written, it has a plant health strategy and liaises with other landscape industry organisations. He finished by issuing a plea for volunteers to join the Working Group, which at the moment has four members.

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