The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has unveiled a new grant fund of £800,000 aimed at fostering the development of innovative solutions and technologies to bolster the United Kingdom’s plant biosecurity. This initiative is a response to the increasing need to safeguard the UK from the threats of regulated plant diseases and pests.
This funding is a component of the Plant Biosecurity Strategy, which was published in January and outlines a five-year plan to protect plants from pests and diseases. The strategy is a comprehensive approach to enhancing the UK’s defenses against biological threats to its flora.
The grant will support businesses engaged in technological innovation across various sectors, including horticulture, forestry, agriculture, and those involved in the import and export of plants and plant products. The focus will be on developing technologies that improve the accuracy and efficiency of border inspections for traded plants, including wood and wood products, and on enhancing inland inspections and surveillance methods.
DEFRA emphasizes the use of passive and scanning surveillance as cost-effective and timely methods for detecting pests and diseases across different landscapes. Additionally, the fund aims to mitigate the financial impact of infestations by exploring alternative treatments to the destruction of plants upon the detection of quarantine organisms, thereby maintaining biosecurity without incurring significant losses.
Lord Benyon, DEFRA Minister for Biosecurity, highlighted the importance of plants and trees to the UK, contributing an estimated £15.7 billion annually to society. He stressed the necessity of protecting this natural wealth and maintaining the UK’s leading position in plant biosecurity technologies. This investment is part of the government’s broader commitment to leveraging new technologies to enhance biosecurity and stimulate economic growth, ensuring the protection of the nation’s plant life.