From June 2022, applicants to government tree planting grants must source saplings from approved suppliers, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Forestry Commission have announced.
The Biosecure Procurement Requirement means that, 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.
The threat of pests and disease is growing due to globalisation and climate change, and the introduction of the Biosecure Procurement Requirement Pilot is set to address these risks to UK biosecurity, minimise the net loss to existing treescape, and serve to realise the Defra’s and the Forestry Commission’s long-term vision for trees and woodlands.
Professor Nicola Spence, UK Chief Plant Health Officer, commented: “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.”
The 12-month pilot is set to enable suppliers to demonstrate that their operational practices comply with the industry benchmark Plant Health Management Standard, which includes protocols that are ‘key to developing a robust plant health management system’ and sets out practical requirements for suppliers to help protect the plant supply chain.
England Trees Action Plan, published last year, included a commitment to introduce a new biosecure procurement criterion for suppliers of plants and trees to government contracts.
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.”
More information about the pilot is available on the Defra website.