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.

Application forms

Certification schemes

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 statutory Fruit Propagation Certification Scheme (FPCS) ensures that top and soft fruit plants covered by the scheme meet specific standards. It protects purchasers by ensuring that fruit plants are healthy, good quality and true to variety and free from mixtures.

Quarantine pests

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.

Demarcated zones

Sweet chestnut blight

Sweet chestnut blight is a plant disease caused by the ascomycete fungus Cryphonectria parasitica. It does not pose any risk to people, pets or livestock, and is only known to seriously affect sweet chestnut (Castanea) species. Although the fungus can occasionally affect oak trees, usually when they are standing very close to heavily infected sweet chestnut trees, it does little damage to them. It does not affect horse chestnut (Aesculus) species.

Following an outbreak of sweet chestnut blight in Devon, restrictions are in place on the movement of sweet chestnut material.

From Friday 12 May 2017, there will be a prohibition on the movement of sweet chestnut material including plants, logs, branches, foliage and firewood out of, or within, 6 zones. Five of these zones are in Devon and one is in Dorset.

For further details, see the guidance on protecting plant health: topical issues.

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 following information about restrictions:

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.

Plant passports

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.

Scientific licences

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 forms

Online applications

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.


Following a public consultation on proposed changes to the charging structure and fees for plant health services delivered by APHA in England and Wales, new fees will apply from 6 April 2018.

Further information

Rural Payments Agency helpline

0345 603 7777

Forestry Commission England helpline

0300 067 4000

Plant Health Imports helpdesk

0300 1000 313

APHA Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate

01904 405 138

Defra helpline

03459 33 55 77

Chemicals Regulation Directorate helpline

0300 003 1747

PEACH helpdesk

0345 607 3224

Forestry Commission GB Plant Health Service helpline

0300 067 5155

Natural Resources Wales

0300 065 3000

Published 7 September 2012
Last updated 7 March 2018 + show all updates
  1. Updated fees section - new fees will apply from 6 April 2018
  2. Updated potato brown rot restriction documents
  3. Update to fees section on revised plant health charges for 2018
  4. Added link to The Plant Health (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2018
  5. Added sweet chestnut blight to demarcated zones section
  6. Updated demarcated zones potato brown rot section
  7. Updated link to the Plant Health Portal
  8. Updated links to new detailed guides.
  9. Fixing references to specialist guides
  10. First published.