British Society for Plant Pathology 25th Anniversary


The BSPP: Celebrating 25 Years

A first reaction is why only 25 years? Surely the country of Revd Miles Berkeley (1837-85), who is considered to be the father of British plant pathology, should have founded a society earlier than 1981! However, plant pathologists originally found a home in either or both of the Association of Applied Biologists (AAB, founded in 1904) and the British Mycological Society (BMS, founded in 1896). To cater more specifically for the interests of plant pathologists the two societies spawned the Federation of British Plant Pathologists (FBPP) in 1966. This proved not to be a very satisfactory arrangement for the organisation and representation of plant pathologist. However, the opportunity arose for a change when, in 1979, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), now the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), decided to divest itself of many of its publications, and among them was Plant Pathology.

The formation of the British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP) is inextricably linked to Plant Pathology. Those who are interested in the details can read about them in the paper published to mark the 50th anniversary of Plant Pathology in 2001 (Plant Pathology 50, 1-9). In summary, Blackwells purchased the journal from MAFF and BSPP was created to in order to sign a publishing agreement with Blackwells.

BSPP came into being on 8 April 1981 with charitable status. Former members of the FBPP were invited to make a financial donation to fund the new society and also to take out a subscription. Eighty nine of them made a contribution and became Founder Members. The journal was to make a major contribution to the financial stability of the Society.

Among the key events in the 25-year history of the Society must be the purchase of Plant Pathology on 1 January 1987 from Blackwells. In 2000, a new Web-based publication, New Disease Reports, was introduced and also Molecular Plant Pathology, initially trialled as a web-based publication in the mid-1990s, but with little success. Now, in paper format, it has achieved an impact factor of 2.8. The big public event was in 1998, when the Society organised the 7th International Congress of Plant Pathology in Edinburgh, where it played host to about 2500 scientists and accompanied persons.

One of the major changes to the Society was an alteration to its status. Because Members of Council, as the Societys trustees, were liable for any legal actions taken against the Society it was decided to apply for the incorporation of the Society as a charitable company limited by guarantee. The company's Memorandum and Articles of Association were to be based on the existing constitution of the Society. On 5 June 1998, the Society became a company limited by guarantee and on 10 September of the same year the company became a registered charity.


The signing of the publishing agreement for Plant Pathology with Blackwells.
Peter Scott, Philip Gregory, Bryan Wheeler
and Chris Rawlinson.

So, after 15 years gestation and 25 years of life, the Society goes from strength to strength, with well over 600 members from 54 different countries. It is running three very successful international publications, providing bursaries, fellowships and travel grants to members and a full programme of scientific meetings catering for all aspects of the science of plant pathology. In this age of changing climate, environmental issues and the ready movement of plants and their products in trade: protecting crops from the destructive power of diseases is a continuing and vital role in which the Society plays an important part by supporting scientists and providing a vehicle for debate.

Nigel Hardwick