Posted 7 November 2012
Ash Dieback. Image courtesy of Fera.
Harper Adams Professor of Entomology Simon Leather will be part of the new Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce, convened in the light of an increasing number of plant biosecurity threats.
These threats include the current ash dieback outbreak, which scientists have warned has the potential to devastate the UK's population of 80 million ash trees.
Professor Ian Boyd, the Defra Chief Scientific Advisor, is convening the Taskforce, comprising 10 internationally-recognised experts covering plant and tree health, animal health, risk management, ecology, economics and social science.
The Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Taskforce will:
•provide an independent perspective on risks, costs and benefits as an aid to the setting of priorities and resource allocation;
•identify potential barriers, including the governance and implementation landscape, to improved plant biosecurity, and suggest ways of resolving them;
•suggest ways to make use of best international practice in biosecurity management; and
•make recommendations for next steps.
Defra said the Expert Taskforce would invite evidence from specific experts in plant health, forestry and relevant wider disciplines. This would be a rapid assessment with a view to highlighting areas worth further development. It would complement the work already underway as part of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan and draw on existing structures, frameworks and other relevant work as necessary.
Chalara dieback of ash is a serious disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Chalara fraxinea (C. fraxinea). The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and it can lead to tree death.
Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and MP for North Shropshire, said: “The Taskforce will have a key role to play in ensuring that disease in trees and plants is given the same priority as that in animals. An interim report will be produced by the end of November, with final recommendations expected in February. These recommendations will help hone our focus on the long-term threat to our plants and trees, as well as shaping our response.
“As someone who has lived in the countryside all my life and who is only too aware of the special role that trees play in our landscape, I am determined to use every means at our disposal to bear down on this disease.”