The United Kingdom has launched a Plant Health Information Portal, an online hub for information, data and resources, as part of its plant biosecurity strategy. This strategy emphasises that ensuring plant health is not only a matter for government but requires a partnership between all stakeholders, including citizens.
Created by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the portal includes sections on reporting pests or diseases, with links to the appropriate services in each of the four countries comprising the UK, and Defra contingency plans for the emergence of specific threats. In agriculture, this concerns the potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd) in potato, tomato and pepper crops.
The portal also includes pest and disease alerts, written by experts and offering detailed information on both quarantine (notifiable) and non-quarantine (non-notifiable) pests and diseases. Notifiable pests include, for example, the Epitrix potato beetle, Colorado potato beetle and tobacco whitefly, while among the notifiable diseases is flavescence doree in grapevine.
The site provides access to a range of factsheets with detailed information on various beetles, bugs, caterpillars, flies, mites, nematodes, snails and thrips, alongside details of Defra’s pest risk analysis and access to all the UK’s legislation.
An area of the portal is dedicated to citizen science, which encourages the public to become more involved in nature. This includes the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) system, organised by London’s Imperial College and funded through the UK’s national lottery.
Over the years OPAL has encouraged citizens to become involved in surveys (biodiversity, climate change, soil and earthworms etc), and has linked up with the Polli:Nation conservation project which is helping schools, community groups and individuals to combat pollinator decline by creating or improving pollinator habitats.
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