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Meet the special branch

Published Tuesday, 22nd May 2018 in Research news

Plant health centre group shot small
Prof Fiona Burnett (sector lead, agriculture), Sonia Humphris (centre manager), Prof Chris Quine (sector lead, forestry), Prof Gerry Sadler (Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland), Prof Ian Toth (centre director) and Prof Pete Hollingsworth (sector lead, environment and horticulture) at the official Plant Health Centre launch at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Professor Fiona Burnett, Head of Crop and Soils Research at SRUC, outlined her role as agriculture sector lead at the launch of Scotland’s new Plant Health Centre.

More than 60 experts and stakeholders from the diverse worlds of forestry, horticulture, the environment and agriculture were at the launch at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to hear about the aims and vision of the new Centre.

Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland, Professor Gerry Saddler of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), spoke at the 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 ten leading research organisations: Forest Research, the James Hutton Institute, The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 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.

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 ten organisations, provides immediately accessible expertise, and a broader knowledge base will be accessed and commissioned to provide comprehensive responses to identified needs.

To find out more about the Plant Health Centre, visit
Twitter: @PlantHealthScot

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