12 May shall mark the first International Day of Plant Health
The United Nations have declared 12th May as the International Day of Plant Health, mainly to raise global awareness on how protecting the health of plants contributes to maintaining biodiversity and nature and promotes economic development. Diseases and pests harmful to plants may spread in various ways, even in luggage. Therefore, do not risk bringing plants from abroad and help keep our plants healthy.
After the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) declared the year 2020 as the international year of plant health, they continue with raising awareness on the importance of plant health by declaring and commemorating the first international day of plant health. Healthy plants are the main prerequisite for life, the functioning of ecosystems and ensuring sufficient and safe food. Diseases and plant pests destroy crops, reduce the availability of food and increase its price. Sustainable health of plants protects the environment, the plants themselves and biodiversity, it reduces the impacts of climate change and helps reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty on the global level. The assessment of the United Nations for food and agriculture assumes that up to 40 per cent of global crops are lost every year due to disease and pests. Millions of people therefore suffer from insufficient food and losses have a severe impact on agriculture as well, which is the primary source of income in rural areas of poor countries.
Climate change, man’s impact on the environment, changed ecosystems, and reduced biodiversity are all creating new areas where pests have the ability to survive. Disease and pests are also expanding to new areas due to the major growth of international trade and mass travel, which have tripled in the last decade. The European Union has adopted strict laws in this area which, among other things, prohibit the import of plants, seeds, flowers, wooden packaging materials, and other plant materials without a phytosanitary certificate, through which pests could transfer to other plants and endanger the health of plants in the European Union. Only bananas, coconuts, dates, pineapple and durians may be brought in hand luggage, via regular or express mail without a phytosanitary certificate. Protecting plants against plant diseases and pests is more effective than implementing measures for their eradication because the latter requires much more effort, time and funds.
The organisms that are very dangerous to plants are called quarantine harmful plant organisms, which are generally of foreign type and may cause major damage for the economy, the society and for the environment in areas where they were not present before. Early detection of quarantine harmful plant organisms and new potentially dangerous diseases and pests is crucial for taking rapid and efficient action and immediate eradication in the event of their occurrence or outbreak. The following quarantine harmful plant organisms are already present in the European Union, which we have not yet detected in Slovenia, but could potentially endanger plants in our country: Asian long-horned beetle and citrus long-horned beetle, xylella fastidiosa and bursaphelenchus xylophilus (pine wood nematode). The dangerous tomato brown rugose fruit virus has been detected in Slovenia in greenhouses and on saplings, which is why caution should be observed when purchasing planting materials. Monitoring, observing and forecasting the occurrence of certain diseases and pests in agriculture which we cannot eradicate anymore on the basis of meteorological, biotic and other data, is one of the key tools for limiting the spread of other diseases and pests that have an impact on the quality and quantity of crops. Such prognosis of disease and pests is performed by public service experts in the healthcare of plants, who determine the degree of risk in plantations and crops and warn the producers or plant owners via prognostic notifications. Several experts in Slovenia are tasked with accurately determining a disease or pest. They conduct laboratory examinations in official laboratories with modern analytical methods.
Diseases and pests may be transmitted with fruits, vegetables, pot plants, saplings, scions, substrates, seeds for sowing, cut plants, branches, grains, wood, and other plant parts. Especially plants and plant products coming from countries outside the European Union which arrive via post or are transferred in the personal luggage of passengers represent serious risk for the health of plants in the European Union. Thus, the European Union prohibits the entry of fruits, vegetables, cut plants and, of course, saplings and plant parts into the Union without a phytosanitary certificate.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, together with the Administration for Food Safety, Veterinary Sector and Plant Protection and authorised organisations, has been monitoring the health of plants in Slovenia for many years. It also controls the transfer and import of plants and plant materials and adopts measures for the eradication or confinement of dangerous diseases and pests.
Help keep our plants safe, therefore:
- when you travel abroad, do not bring plants, seeds, fruits, vegetables or flowers with you back home because they may contain plant diseases and pests!
- if you notice signs of disease or harmful plant organisms when working in your home garden, orchard, vineyard or taking a walk, which may resemble quarantine harmful plant organisms, immediately notify the Administration for Food Safety, Veterinary Sector and Plant Protection and the authorised technical institutions.