Tyfu Cymru's virtual 'Plant Health in Horticulture' conference a success
Person in gloves planting a seedling
Events

Published on

October 27 2020

Tyfu Cymru have been busy over the last fortnight hosting the Plant Health in Horticulture Conference. The conference was a great success, with over 100 delegates and world class speakers such as Professor Nicola Spence, Pippa Greenwood and Dr Ana Perez-Sierra. There was also the opportunity to hear from some excellent and experienced horticulture businesses such as, Crûg Farm Plants, Springfields Fresh Produce and Bransford Webbs.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought an abrupt change to the planning for conference in its original format, but it also challenged the team to change their thinking and to embrace the technology available. Which is why the decision to move the plant health conference online was made. The team explored innovative new ways of delivery which enabled growers to dip in and out of sessions, from locations across Wales, at times that suit them.

The conference attracted over 100 participants, not only from Wales but across the UK and indeed the World, through being held online. Those attending have developed their knowledge from the wide range of topics covered, from biosecurity to disease diagnosis, and the fantastic virtual tours of Welsh plant nurseries.

Sarah Gould, Tyfu Cymru Programme Manager said: "The Conference speakers and nursery tours, along with the lively interaction by participants has shown, quite clearly, the breadth of the Welsh horticulture sector, providing the local food we eat and the plants for our gardens and parks, its expertise and especially its potential for further growth and investment."

The conference covered major issues surrounding plant health and biosecurity in commercial horticulture with a focus on Wales. It also described prevention, diagnosis, control and the mitigation of pests and diseases, giving growers information that they can apply directly to their business.

Opening on Monday 12th October, Kevin Thomas - Director, Lantra Wales and Professor David Skydmore - Senior Plant Health Professional gave an overview of the objectives and main themes of the Conference. Followed on Tuesday 13th October, with Pippa Greenwood - Broadcaster, Author and HTA Horticulture Manager who gave and introduction to the Role of Trade Associations and her perspective of commercial horticulture and the factors that may encourage or limit growth of the industry both now and, through horizon scanning, the future.

An exciting virtual tour of the renowned Crûg Farm Plants in North Wales was held on Wednesday 14th October, which included an interview with owners Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones, who are intrepid plant hunters who have explored the world to build their collections.

Curator of Horticulture, Will Ritchie, introduced the plant health practises routinely utilised at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire to help create a biosecure site on Thursday 15th. It covered some straightforward, effective, low-cost tips that horticulturists can use to maintain plant health within their nurseries.

On Friday 16th October the conference looked at biosecurity policy and legislation. Professor Nicola Spence, the UK Chief Plant Health Officer described the importance of maintaining biosecurity to prevent the spread of new pests and diseases and protect our industry. Plant Health is an area devolved to Wales; Martin Williams, Welsh Government then put the biosecurity legislation into the Welsh context.

Plant Healthy Alliance has produced the Plant Health Management Standard and developed the voluntary Plant Healthy Certification Scheme which will enable businesses to demonstrate they comply with the Standard. The session on Monday 19th October gave an opportunity for growers to be introduced to the standard and scheme.

It is essential that pests and diseases are identified correctly before they can be controlled efficiently, and their spread prevented. On Tuesday 20th October, Dr Ana Perez-Sierra described the processes of diagnosis and some of the new technologies involved.

Nick and Pat Bean successfully grow vegetables and soft fruit in Pembrokeshire and lead the way in business development. The case study on Wednesday 21st October described their involvement in a European Innovation Project, led by ADAS, which improved knowledge of integrated pest management to reduce pesticide usage and waste.

Bransford Webbs is one of the leading growers of ornamental plants in the UK. A case study on Thursday 22nd introduced Bransford Webbs use of biological pest control. Showing the nursery, the film outlined which pests are controlled with commercially available, introduced biological controls and how predators are used to proactively manage pest populations.

Closing on Friday 23rd October, Professor David Skydmore summarised the key messages and highlighted some of the limitations to the industry that had been mentioned during the Conference and what we may do about them. It concluded with an outline of the opportunities for the horticulture sector and the options for progress in Wales.

Dr David Skydmore who chaired the conference said: “The Plant Health in Horticulture Conference has had a stupendous line-up of experts giving presentations that have given invaluable information for the industry. Tyfu Cymru has done an exceptional job in bringing these speakers together from Government, the horticulture sector and research. Tyfu Cymru has provided one of the major events for the International Year of Plant Health, demonstrating  that Wales is at the forefront of promoting plant health and a sustainable horticulture sector. Those attending have developed their knowledge from the wide range of topics covered, from biosecurity to disease diagnosis, and the fantastic virtual tours of Welsh plant nurseries.”

Don't worry if you missed out, the conference sessions will be available to view on the platform: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/tyfuplant/1 (to select the session you would like to watch, click the 'more' button next to the schedule at the top of the page).

Tyfu Cymru would like to say thank you to all of the speakers and panellists, Dr David Skydmore for chairing the conference, and to the whole team involved in organising, producing and delivering the professional virtual conference.