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Doyle welcomes UN International Year of Plant Health 2020 adoption and calls for greater Forestry and Plant Health vigilance

Andrew Doyle TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Forestry and Horticulture, has welcomed the UN General Assembly’s adoption today of a resolution proclaiming 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Minister Doyle, who has been a strong advocate for the IYPH stated that “the International year would contribute to several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as well as supporting FAO’s strategic objectives around important issues such as world hunger and climate action.

He continued “In addition, the development of an FAO IPPC strategic framework for 2020 to 2030 for Plant Health and specifically those strategic objectives around trade development and facilitation, biosecurity and sustainable production, together with protecting the Environment can only be further enhanced through the awareness raising that the International Year of Plant Health will deliver.”
This year the Department embarked on developing a new Plant Health Strategy which will complement the International Year of Plant Health and further help raise awareness around the importance of plant health. The Minister urged stakeholders to continue to engage in the development of the strategy. A draft of the document will be available on the Department’s website shortly for public comment.

Commenting on the recently announced first finding in the wider environment of the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle Ips typographus in Kent in England the Minister stated “my Department is in close contact with both GB and Northern Ireland counterparts on this issue. Together with our Northern Ireland colleagues, we are implementing a coordinated approach on the island of Ireland in response to this recent finding in England. As the presence of the pest in England increases the level of risk of its introduction into Ireland, the Department will carry out additional risk based surveys in Ireland to provide added assurance that the pest is not present or introduced.”

The Minister concluded that “raising awareness among industry and citizens by campaigns such as the ‘Don’t Risk It’ campaign and being prepared for new challenges will be key to reducing the risk to forest and plant health in Ireland. I am calling on the forestry and horticultural sectors to be extra vigilant regarding maintaining Ireland’s good plant health status and to report any ill health concerns to the Department.”

Note for Editors:
Information on pests can be found on the Department’s ‘Don’t Risk It’ webpage Reports of unusual ill-health in trees should be sent to the Department at or by using the Tree Check App which is freely available at:

International Year of Plant Health (IYPH)
The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The aim of the year is to increase public and policy makers’ awareness of the importance of healthy plants and the necessity to protect them in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Today, up to 40 percent of global food crops are lost annually due to plant pests.  In terms of economic value, plant diseases alone cost the global economy around €220 billion annually. It is expected there will be events at Global, EU and National level to to raise awareness of plant health and engage stakeholders and wider interested public and its role in sustaining plant health protection for the environment, forests and biodiversity from plant pests, addresses the effects of climate change, and supports efforts to end hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Related Links
Watch the International Year of Plant Health video
Factsheet: “Championing an International Year of Plant Health
IPPC website

Finding of Ips Typogrphus in Kent
The UK Government has confirmed an outbreak of the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) in a woodland setting in Kent in the south of England.
The pest is widespread across Europe, however it is absent from Ireland, and was also absent from England up until this recent finding during routine surveillance activities.

DAFM Surveillance and Import Inspections
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine conducts surveys annually for the presence of Ips typographus through a network of Fixed Observation Points situated in forests across the country, and implements import provisions and inspections relating to plant passports and phytosanitary certificates, timber, wood packaging material (pallets, crates etc), forest plants, Christmas trees and other forest products. Regulated consignments must be accompanied by an official plant health statement which is a plant passport for EU trade and a Phytosanitary Certificate for countries outside the EU.

Ips typographus can be a serious pest of spruce, particularly Norway spruce, throughout mainland Europe. The Irish forest estate comprises over approximately 52% of Sitka spruce, and 4% Norway spruce. Ireland has protected zone status recognised by EU Council Directive 2000/29/EC to prevent the spread of Ips typographus into Ireland from other member states.

DAFM Plant Health Strategy
This year the Department embarked on developing a new Plant Health Strategy and the Minister urged stakeholders to continue to engage in the development of the strategy. A draft of the document will be on the Department’s website shortly for public comment.

Aims of the DAFM Plant Health Strategy include:

  • Development of a more effective, efficient, harmonised and co-ordinated framework within DAFM and with stakeholders for the organisation of all activities relating to Plant Health 
  • Preparedness for new Plant Health and Biosecurity challenges, threats and new official Control and Plant Health Laws. 
  • Greater awareness among stakeholder and the general public about the importance of Biosecurity and Plant Health for Ireland. 
  • Facilitation of economic growth and trade, enhance resilience & biodiversity, protection of the environment, forests and associated ecosystems. 

DAFM funded Research
In June 2016, DAFM awarded over €800,000 in funding to a large and multi-faceted research project led by UCD and also including Teagasc and NUIM. The project named FORM has three interlinked work-packages, one of which concerns analysis of potential pest threats to Sitka spruce.

This research was specified and funded in recognition of the importance of Sitka spruce in Irish forestry and the need to research potential pest and disease threats to Sitka spruce in Ireland. The research work which is nearing conclusion has already produced a number of important outputs. DAFM intends to host a project dissemination seminar for stakeholders in the first half of 2019.