A new requirement for the forestry sector will be piloted to combat the threat from pests and diseases and further strengthen UK biosecurity, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Forestry Commission have announced today (Wednesday, April 20).

The Biosecure Procurement Requirement means that, from June 2022, applicants for funding under the England Woodland Creation Offer and the Future Farming Tree Health Pilot must commit to sourcing their trees from suppliers who are either accredited under the Plant Healthy Certification Scheme or who have passed a Ready to Plant assessment, as provided by Fera Science Ltd.

This pilot, which will run for 12 months from June, will enable suppliers to demonstrate that their operational practices comply with the industry benchmark Plant Health Management Standard, Defra said.

This standard includes protocols which are key to developing a robust plant-health management system and sets out practical requirements for suppliers to help protect the plant supply chain.

The overarching aim of the requirement, however, is to address risks to biosecurity and minimise the net loss to existing treescape.

Commenting, Prof. Nicola Spence, UK chief plant health officer, said:

“Our biosecurity standards are among the highest in Europe. As we build back greener, we must consider new and ambitious ways to not simply maintain these standards but further strengthen them.

“By leading the way with this new pilot, we are addressing the significant and increasing threat of pests and diseases and building a strong biosecurity culture across the country.”

Sir William Worsley, Forestry Commission chair, added:

“Our nation’s biosecurity will be integral to the success of our tree planting ambitions.

“This pilot will ensure that the forestry sector plays its role in upholding rigorous standards of biosecurity and in doing so, safeguards our much-loved trees and forests for generations to come.”