Tree planting and tree health
2020 is about more than COVID. It’s also the year that the value of trees and nature was felt more deeply for many people around the world. But did you know that 2020 is the UN International Year of Plant Health? This article is about some simple steps we can take to protect nature.
I’m a forester, and in 2010 I helped plant a new community woodland in Oxford. It was a wonderful event with over one hundred people helping plant a new forest whilst enjoying each other’s company. I remember imagining people enjoying this forest long into the future.
Two years later, The Independent Panel on Forestry reported that over a twenty year period, around twenty new tree pests were detected in the UK. Modelling indicated that if no action was taken to tackle such pests, the result would be a degradation of ecosystem services, e.g. food and farming, carbon sequestration, flood alleviation, habitat for wildlife, and safe green spaces to walk, run or cycle in.
On morning runs I often pass through the woodland I helped to plant, and it’s with sadness that I see ash trees that have died due to ash dieback disease. This fungal disease was only detected in the UK in 2011. Ash trees and the light shade they cast creates unique ecological conditions.
What you should know
If tree planting, agroforestry, and forest restoration efforts are to last into the future, then we must act now to protect tree and plant health. This means reducing the risk that pests are introduced. Xylella Fastidiosa, for example, was recently introduced to Europe. This highly destructive bacterial disease, currently not present in the UK, can infect 595 plant species from garden ornamentals to woodland trees. To find out more, watch this video with Helen Mirren.
The good news is that we understand how these pests travel, and can stop them.
The highest risk route for plant pests is by moving live plants. And the highest volume of plant movement occurs through supply chains. In the UK, the voluntary Plant Healthy Certification Scheme was launched in 2020 by the Plant Health Alliance. The Alliance is a cross-sectoral group of land-use organisations representing Government, industry, and NGOs, who came together to address the threat that plant pests pose.
By supporting businesses and other organisations learn how to conduct pest risk assessment, the Plant Health Certification Scheme aims to safeguard entire plant supply chains, which includes plant nurseries, garden centres, landscapers, arborists and gardens. The overarching goal is to promote a culture that strives constantly to understand the threats from plant pests and enacts rigorous precautions to protect our gardens, farms, forests and other natural habitats.
Simple steps to protect tree and plant health
As a nature lover and / or gardener you can promote plant health by taking the following actions:
- Follow this advice from Forestry England, to help keep our woodlands and trees healthy.
- Source plants and trees from reputable sources and check that they have a plant passport or phytosanitary certificate.
- Pest and Diseases can hide on plants – please do not bring plants, seeds, fruit vegetables or flowers home from abroad – Don’t Risk It!
- The Woodland Trust have some really helpful resources to learn about tree pests and diseases.
- If you think a tree is infected check the advice of the Forestry Commission and report any pests to Tree Alert.
These are simple actions we can all take, to help protect nature.
Photo caption: Plant Healthy Certified – Forestry England’s state-of-the-art growing facility at Delamere Nursery in Cheshire, which houses 4 million seedlings to help maintain and expand the Public Forest Estate throughout the UK.