THE world’s leading authorities on plant health and biosecurity will come together for the world’s first-ever International Plant Health Conference (IPHC) in London this week.

Co-organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and Defra, the event will see more than 500 policymakers, academics and experts from over 74 countries convene to address current and future plant health challenges.

This will include the impacts of climate change, food security, environmental protection, facilitating safe trade, and new pest and disease pathways, such as e-commerce.

Held on 21-23 September at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, delegates will share knowledge and discuss global scientific, technical and regulatory issues, alongside actions to tackle these existential threats to our society, economy and environment.

Nicola Spence, United Kingdom chief plant health officer, said: “Plant health and biosecurity are fundamental to life on Earth.

Forestry Journal: Nicola SpenceNicola Spence

"Plants provide 80 percent of the food we eat and 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe. In a changing climate, ensuring their continued health and vitality will be critical to safeguarding food security, safe international trade and a thriving natural environment for future generations.

“The United Kingdom upholds amongst the highest standards of biosecurity in Europe but there is much more to do to secure our future resilience - here and around the world.

"I look forward to coming together with international experts from a range of disciplines to discuss how to tackle the varied and mounting challenges facing our precious plant life.”

Across the three days of the IPHC, plenary sessions will explore a range of scientific, regulatory and technical issues, including:

  • Regional perspectives on tackling ongoing pest and disease outbreaks, including Xylella fastidiosa, fall armyworm and coconut rhinoceros beetle.
  • How to increase the use of electronic phytosanitary certificates to make trade safer, faster and cheaper.
  • The development and adoption of early warning systems for pests and diseases to increase vigilance and preparedness for future outbreaks.

Moreover, the IPHC aims to promote positive behavioural change through greater public engagement with biosecurity issues.

For example, the importance of not bringing home plants, trees, fruit and seeds from overseas, as doing so could inadvertently cause pests, diseases and invasive species to be introduced or to spread in new areas. 

Jingyuan Xia, director of Plant Production and Protection Division, said: "Climate change and human actions have altered ecosystems and created new niches where plant pests and diseases can thrive. When combatting pests and diseases, farmers should adopt, and policymakers should encourage the use of, environment-friendly methods such as integrated pest management.

“Applying international plant health standards helps reduce the use of pesticides and poisonous substances, which kill pollinators, natural pest enemies and organisms crucial for a healthy environment. These result in healthier crops with less residues, leading to better human, plant and animal health."