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Scientists and experts team up for new Plant Health Centre

Scientists and experts at Plant Health Centre launch (image courtesy PHC)
"There has never been a more crucial time to pool resources and bring scientists and stakeholders together to act"

More than 60 experts and stakeholders from the diverse worlds of forestry, horticulture, the environment and agriculture gathered at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to hear about the aims and vision of a new virtual Plant Health Centre for Scotland.

Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland, Professor Gerry Saddler of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), spoke at the official stakeholder launch event having marked the occasion by planting a Sorbus arranensis tree – carefully and locally sourced to ensure its health and provenance.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the Plant Health Centre is an interdisciplinary consortium based around the strengths and expertise of ten leading research organisations: James Hutton Institute, Forest Research, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the universities of Strathclyde, Exeter and Edinburgh, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), SASA and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS).

First launched by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP in February, the Centre brings together experts and resources to tackle problems that would previously have been worked on in very different sectors.

At the centre launch, Professor Ian Toth from the James Hutton Institute, Director of the Centre, outlined how it will be Scotland’s knowledge hub for plant health, and announced the co-launch of the website

He said: “Plant diseases don’t respect borders and cause problems across all plant species, from iconic forest trees to the smallest of wild flowers and taking in ornamentals, garden plants and all our crop species as they go.

"With thousands of plant species in Scotland and 1000 novel pests and diseases listed on the UK plant health risk register, there has never been a more crucial time to pool resources and bring scientists and stakeholders together to act.”

As part of the Centre, a Science Advisory and Response Team (SART), drawn from ten organisations, provides immediately accessible expertise, and a broader knowledge base will be accessed and commissioned to provide comprehensive responses to identified needs.

The Plant Health Centre is structured in the following way:


  • Director: Professor Ian Toth, James Hutton Institute
  • Centre Management: Dr Sonia Humphris, James Hutton Institute

Sector leads

  • Environment/Horticulture: Professor Pete Hollingsworth, RBGE
  • Forestry: Professor Chris Quine, Forest Research
  • Agriculture: Professor Fiona Burnett, SRUC

Science Advisory and Response Team

  • Professor Karen Halliday, University of Edinburgh (plant responses to stress)
  • Professor Adam Kleczkowski, University of Strathclyde (epidemiology, modelling)
  • Professor Glenn Marion, BioSS (epidemiology, modelling, statistics)
  • Dr Steven Cavers, CEH (tree health, resilience in natural systems)
  • Dr Mariella Marzano, Forest Research (social science)
  • Dr Ruth Mitchell, James Hutton Institute (natural environment)
  • Dr Andrew Barnes, SRUC (socio-economics)
  • Dr Sarah Green, Forest Research (pathology)
  • David Knott, RBGE (horticultural plant health)
  • Dr David Kenyon, SASA (agriculture) 
  • Professor Sarah Gurr, University of Exeter (global spread, climate, food security)

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

Printed from /news/scientists-and-experts-team-new-plant-health-centre on 08/12/23 08:50:17 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.