National Plant Health Week begins today, with a focus on why plant health matters, the threats plants face, and plant health science.
Plants have many benefits, including boosting a person’s wellbeing. From learning how to look after plants properly, to purchasing plants responsibly and exploring plant research, there are plenty of ways to get involved with National Plant Health Week.
Plants are the source of the air we breathe and most of the food we eat, yet we often do not pay enough attention to keeping them healthy. This can have devastating results. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that up to 40% of food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases annually.
Why are Plants Important?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, nature and gardens became more important than ever as many people spent time outside, exploring parks and other outdoor spaces.
Healthy plants are vital for survival and provide many benefits, including:
- Producing food – 80% of food consumed comes from plants.
- Providing oxygen – plants produce 98% of oxygen breathed.
- Helping to fight climate change – trees are vital carbon sinks with a mature tree absorbing up to 150kg of CO2 per year (about the same as CO2 as electric tumble dryer used around two to three times per week generates per year).
- Reducing pollution – they help remove pollution from the air.
- Providing homes for wildlife – for example, oak trees in the UK can have over 2,300 different animals, plants and fungi living on and in them.
- Supporting the economy – in the UK, the value that our plants and trees provide to society each year is estimated at £9 billion.
- Supporting wellbeing – studies have shown that engaging with nature has a positive effect on a person’s wellbeing.
Raising Awareness of Plant Health
But, do people know how to keep plants healthy? Like people, plants can become sick from pests and diseases.
- Take care of plants at home or in the office.
- Buy responsibly – source plants from reputable nurseries and suppliers.
- Don’t bring back plants from abroad – they could become a dangerous invasive species.
- Report any unusual symptoms on trees or plants
- Clean your boots – especially after visiting woodlands and parks to help limit the spread of potentially devastating plant diseases
How can you Help?
Enjoy and care for plants
Get out and about to your local woods, parks and gardens to enjoy beautiful plants and trees. Or simply enjoy and care for your own plants at home, making sure you have the right plant in the right place and checking them regularly, all helps to contribute to healthy and thriving plants.
Become an ambassador for biosecurity
Biosecurity refers to action that is taken to stop the introduction or spread of organisms harmful to human, animal and plant life. There’s lots that you can do to help keep the UK free of harmful plant pests and diseases – whether you are travelling here from other countries, professionally growing or supplying crops, plants and trees, or gardening on your allotment – so that we can all continue to enjoy the benefits that plants and trees provide.
You can be an ambassador by:
- Practicing good biosecurity when you are out and about in woodlands, parks and gardens. Doing things like making sure you clean your boots and cycling equipment can limit the spread of potentially devastating plant diseases.
- Not bringing plants or plant cuttings home from abroad.
- Buying plants and trees from a responsible supplier who practices good biosecurity. Check the plant’s origin. Buy British grown where possible or, if a plant or tree is imported, make sure it comes from an area free from damaging pests and diseases. Consider the type of tree that would be best for a particular site – plant the tree in the right place.
Get to know your local trees and be aware of any unusual symptoms on them. You can report any suspect findings to the Forestry Commission’s Tree Alert website.
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