Plant health controls
Plant health controls, imports and exports, certification schemes, plant passporting and listed quarantine plant pests.
There are many pests and diseases that can seriously damage crops and plants in the UK. To protect plant health, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) sets policy and enforces controls and restrictions on the import, movement and keeping of certain plants, plant pests and other materials such as soil.
The Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) is part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and implements and enforces plant health policy in England, and in Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government. If you want to grow, import, export or move certain plants or plant material, you will need to use the PHSI’s services.
Plant health legislation controls the import and movement of certain plants, seeds and organic matter - such as soil - and certain plant products, including fruit, potatoes, vegetables, cut flowers, foliage and grain.
Controls differ according to the species - and whether or not they are classified as quarantine organisms - but could include the need for classification, a phytosanitary certificate, a plant passport and/or inspection requirements.
There are two main elements of plant health control relevant to growers and crop farmers:
- protection against quarantine organisms - measures to prevent the introduction and spread of harmful plant pests and diseases which are not established in the European Union
- certification - ensures that high-quality planting material which is free from specific pests and diseases is available to growers
If you find or suspect a quarantine organism, you must contact your local PHSI office immediately.
You should also check our topical issues page for current issues related to plant health and the trade of plants, fruit, vegetables or plant material.
Some plants and plant produce are prohibited from entering this country from outside the EU while others must meet certain requirements and be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate.
Importers must check if a plant or plant product requires phytosanitary certification to be allowed entry into the EU. You must register with Defra before you import any controlled plants or plant products. These certificates confirm that the goods have been inspected in their country of origin and meet EU standards on the absence of pests and diseases.
Read the guidance on importing plants, fruit, vegetables or plant material to the UK.
Read the guidance on importing trees and plants to England and Wales from the EU
Read the Forestry Commission guidance on importing timber and wood.
The PHSI provide a range of chargeable services to help you export plants, plant products, fruit and vegetables, seeds, soil or agricultural machinery to countries outside the EU. All material must satisfy the plant health requirements of the importing country.
Read the guidance on exporting plants to non-EU countries.
Read the guidance on exporting grain to non-EU countries.
Requirements for forestry and wood are covered by Plant Health (Forestry) legislation. For more information about this, call the Forestry Commission Plant Health Service helpline on 0300 067 5155 or see the Forestry Commission website.
- Grain: certification of consignments
- Grain: phytosanitary certification
- Grain: certificate of treatment
- Plant products
- Used farm machinery
- Application for concessionary rates
- Growing season inspection
- Soil sampling for potato cyst nematode
- Plant material for re-forwarding
Certification is one of the two key elements of plant health control along with requirements on quarantine organisms. Certification schemes ensure that growers and farmers have access to high-quality planting material to meet prescribed standards on freedom from plant pests and diseases.
- The statutory Seed Potato Classification Scheme (SPCS) ensures that seed potatoes marketed meet the specified standards. It also protects purchasers by ensuring that seed potatoes are healthy, good quality, true to variety and free from mixtures.
- The Plant Health Propagation Scheme (PHPS) is a voluntary scheme which promotes the production and use of healthy, proven planting stock. It covers soft fruit (e.g. strawberries, berry fruit, currants), top fruit (e.g. apples, pears, cherries, plums), hops, cobnuts and bulbs (e.g. narcissus and iris).
Requirements on quarantine pests and diseases are one of the two key elements of plant health control, along with certification.
Quarantine measures help to keep foreign pests out of areas where they could damage crops, trees, wild plants and ecosystems. Under plant health legislation a number of plant pests and diseases are classified as quarantine organisms and are therefore subject to statutory control.
For further information about pests and diseases, see the Plant Health Portal.
Potato brown rot
Potato brown rot is a serious bacterial disease of potato which is not present in the UK but is a threat to the potato industry.
APHA annually monitors potatoes and has a programme of sampling watercourses to check for the organism (Ralstonia solanacearum) which causes potato brown rot.
Restrictions are put in place if the organism is found. For watercourses this means that the irrigation and spraying of potato and tomato crops is only possible using an approved method, such as winter abstraction and storage, or water treatment.
Growers or companies interested in developing or using an approved technique must first contact APHA.
See the rivers currently under restrictions for irrigation and spraying of potato and tomato crops (PDF, 85.1KB, 4 pages) .
What to do if you identify a quarantine pest or disease
Early identification is important to help combat quarantine pests and diseases. If you find a quarantine organism or suspect one may be present, you should contact your local PHSI immediately to alert them.
For information on tree-related notifiable pests and diseases, you can call the Forestry Commission helpline on 0300 067 5049 or the Forestry Commission Wales on 0300 068 0300.
If you’re based in England and Wales and you’re moving plants or plant products in the EU that can host quarantine pests and diseases, they may need plant passports.
Plant passports may only be issued by businesses who are registered and authorised for the purpose.
Read the guidance on issuing plant passports to trade plants in the EU.
Application for plant health registration (PHAR2) (PDF, 1.63MB, 2 pages)
It may be possible to import, move and keep normally prohibited material into England and Wales under the authority of a licence issued by APHA, subject to detailed quarantine and containment conditions.
The rules relating to the issue of licences are set down in Commission Directive 2008/61/EC which allows importation of normally prohibited material only for:
- scientific research purposes;
- trialling; or
- work on varietal selections.
Read the guidance on moving prohibited plants, plant pests, pathogens and soil.
Application for authority to send licensed material (PHI 10) (PDF, 116KB, 1 page)
eDomero is an online plant help service enabling you to electronically apply for exporting, plant passporting, potato classification, certification and import licensing without need for paper applications. You can find information and register for online plant health services using eDomero. If you have any queries about registering for eDomero, you can call the Plant Health Imports helpdesk on 0300 1000 313.
- The Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2015
- The Plant Health (Fees) (England) Regulations 2014
- The Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2014
- The Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2013
- The Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2005
- The Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Order) 2004
Rural Payments Agency helpline
0345 603 7777
Forestry Commission helpline
0300 067 5049
Plant Health Imports helpdesk
0300 1000 313
APHA Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate
01904 405 138
03459 33 55 77
Chemicals Regulation Directorate helpline
0300 003 1747
0345 607 3224
Forestry Commission Plant Health Service helpline
0300 067 5155
Forestry Commission Wales
0300 068 0300
Published: 7 September 2012
Updated: 30 November 2016
- Updated link to the Plant Health Portal
- Updated links to new detailed guides.
- Fixing references to specialist guides
- First published.