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UK: Defra announces plant health research and development plan

This plan sets out the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) plant health research and development needs and outlines our approach to delivering these over the next 5 years, from 2023 to 2028. It has been developed with stakeholders, including users and providers of plant health research and development, to provide a roadmap that communicates and shares our future priorities with others.

The terms ‘we’ and ‘our’ are referenced throughout this plan and in all instances, this refers to Defra.

This plan supports Defra’s delivery of the plant biosecurity strategy for Great Britain (2023 to 2028) published in January 2023, particularly outcome 4: An enhanced technical capability. It will also support delivery of Defra’s tree health resilience strategy (2018), which is planned for refresh later in 2023.

The plan identifies and aims to deliver 4 plant health research and development strategic objectives. These strategic objectives aim to:

  • enhance our understanding and knowledge of plant health issues and solutions to protect us from threats
  • provide evidence on which to develop risk-based policy approaches, and to enable our delivery partners and practitioners to make robust decisions and take action
  • develop and deploy innovation and new technologies in support of our plant health policy objectives
  • provide world class plant health research capability

We have organised the plant health research and development needs into 6 research themes. Each theme is divided into focal areas with indicative research questions to help describe our current priorities:

  • theme 1: risk assessment and horizon scanning
  • theme 2: inspections, diagnostics, and surveillance
  • theme 3: management of pests and diseases
  • theme 4: resilience and adaptation
  • theme 5: plant health related behaviours
  • theme 6: evaluation

Finally, the plan outlines our intended approach to deliver our strategic objectives through:

  • collaborative working
  • co-design, knowledge transfer and exchange
  • facilitating innovation
  • supporting a research skills infrastructure

We then describe how we manage projects throughout the project cycle to provide the highest quality outputs and outcomes.

The plan will guide the commissioning of Defra 's plant health research for the next 5 years, and the priorities of our research programmes and partnerships. 

Some aspects of ongoing management of plant pests and diseases are led by other Defra teams, particularly those relating to crops and food production. We briefly describe how we work and co-ordinate with these wider activities in chapter 2.

The plan has been developed in collaboration with stakeholders including both users and providers of plant health knowledge and technology. In sharing our plans, we aim to clearly communicate and share our future priorities with others. Additionally, it is hoped that this roadmap will also inform the investment decisions of research funders and the priorities of researchers in order to leverage additional impact beyond that of the research Defra directly commissions.

Click here to read detailed info on the plan

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