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Expert advises Government on ways to protect our trees from disease – University of Reading

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Expert advises Government on ways to protect our trees from disease

Release Date 22 May 2013

Professor Michael Shaw

A University of Reading scientist has been instrumental in new recommendations to the Government on how to protect the nation's trees from pests and disease.

Professor Michael Shaw, a plant disease expert from the University's School of Agriculture, policy and Development, formed part of a ‘task-force' of experts convened by the UK environment secretary in the wake of the recent ash dieback disease crisis.

Strengthening biosecurity at UK borders and a plant health risk register were among key recommendations made by the task-force.

Professor Shaw, who is also President of the British Society of Plant Pathology, said:

"The task force recommended several ways Government and the rest of us could improve management of plant diseases, especially of trees.  These include improving our ability to respond to new epidemics, improving our knowledge of what is likely to cause a problem and preventing entry of new diseases, and also ensuring we have the expertise and awareness to deal with problems both early and effectively.  

"One small example, but one which sends a strong message and will be visible to many of us, is the task force's suggestion to a complete ban on airline passengers bringing plants or soil with them from outside the EU.  To benefit us in the longer term, the task force recommended much more rigorous risk assessment when new types of trade in plants, or trade from new regions, starts.  For immediate threats, the EU ‘protected zone' rules allow tight regulation of imports which might bring disease.

"The University of Reading, a centre of excellence in many of the sciences involved, will play a full part in new training and research initiatives arising from the task force recommendations."


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