I am delighted to be the BSPP President for 2020, which is also International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). I was appointed as Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer (CPHO) in April 2014 in response to the ash dieback crisis. My role is to advise ministers, industry and others about the risks posed by plant pests and diseases, ensuring that measures are in place to manage those risks and minimise their impact, as well as leading the operational response in the event of a disease outbreak. Although plant health is a devolved matter; I also co-ordinate the UK response to European and International plant health matters and take the lead on national plant health emergency response. I enjoy it immensely and having a plant pathology background helps give me confidence in the technical advice I give to a range of different audiences. I can also make a real difference in providing policy advice to ministers to secure better protection for our plants and trees.
I was previously a research plant pathologist and worked on virus diseases of horticultural crops in the UK and internationally for over 20 years. I worked at HRI, Wellesbourne for many years followed by becoming Head of Plant Health and then Chief Scientist at Fera near York. As well as being President of the BSPP, I am also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, Honorary Professor at the University of Birmingham and a Director of the Birmingham Institute for Forest Research, Visiting Professor at Harper Adams University and a Trustee of The Yorkshire Arboretum. I have a BSc in Botany from the University of Durham, an MSc in Microbiology from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Plant Virology from the University of Birmingham. The subject of my PhD was Bean Common Mosaic Virus in Phaseolus beans in Africa.
The IYPH is a once in a generation opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development. BSPP has planned several major activities to mark IYPH including: ‘Write Now!’ Residential course on popular writing about plant health at Oxon Hoath in Kent; ‘Our Plants, Our Future’ Conference at the Royal Society; the RHS International Plant Health Garden at Chelsea Flower Show and ‘Protecting Plants, Protecting Life’ BSPP Conference at the University of Birmingham. Given the Covid-19 global pandemic the events are being re-scheduled and more details will be available at the BSPP website www.bspp.org.uk once new dates are confirmed.
You can find out more about other IYPH planned in the UK planned at the website: https://www.yearofplanthealth.co.uk/ Many countries all around the world are planning a number of events and activities to highlight and promote IYPH – see the FAO’s official website for more information.
Professor Nicola Spence