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.
Current plant health issues
Latest issues related to protecting plant health and the trade of plants, fruit, vegetables or plant material can be found on the pests and diseases page on the UK Plant Health Information Portal.
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 are different depending on 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 Great Britain
- 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 the UK Plant Health Information Portal for current issues related to plant health and the trade of plants, fruit, vegetables or plant material.
Some plants or plant products which host or can carry plant pests are prohibited from entering Great Britain 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 Great Britain.
Read guidance on how to import plants and plant products from non-EU countries.
Import plants and plant products from the EU
Great Britain is no longer part of the EU Plant Passport Regime.
The majority of plants and plant products entering Great Britain from the EU are now subject to plant health controls, such as certification requirements.
Consignments of some controlled commodities being imported from the EU must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued in the country of export instead of an EU plant passport.
Just as for imports from non-EU countries, importers must check if a plant or plant product requires phytosanitary certification to be allowed entry into Great Britain. You must also register with the relevant competent authority before importing any controlled plants or plant products.
Read the guidance on how to import plants and plant products from the EU.
The PHSI provides a range of chargeable services to help you export plants, plant products, fruit and vegetables, seeds, soil or agricultural machinery to countries outside Great Britain. All material must satisfy the plant health requirements of the importing country.
To get a phytosanitary certificate, your plants must be inspected. Read the guidance on exporting plants from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Requirements for forestry and wood are covered by Plant Health (Forestry) legislation. For more information about this, read Forestry Commission advice how to export wood and timber products.
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.
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 contact the Forestry Commission.
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:
If you’re based in England and Wales and you’re moving plants or plant products within Great Britain that are regulated for plant health purposes, they will need plant passports.
Plant passports no longer apply to Northern Ireland movements from Great Britain.
Information on movements to Great Britain from Northern Ireland can be found on Issuing plant passports to move regulated plant material in Great Britain.
If you’re based in Scotland, the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) website explains what you need to do.
For further information or to see if plant passporting applies to you, read the guidance on issuing plant passports to trade plants.
You can issue plant passports yourself, but you must be authorised by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
If you previously issued EU plant passports, you do not need to reapply to issue UK passports.
If you need a supplier document for planting material, you can use a plant passport.
You might also need a supplier document for marketing purposes.
Authorisations, previously known as licences, let you import, move and keep normally prohibited material in England and Wales. APHA issues authorisations subject to detailed quarantine conditions.
Read the guidance on moving prohibited plants, plant pests, pathogens and soil.
Read about fees for non-EU imports of plants and plant products to Great Britain and the changes from 1 April 2021.
Read about fees for EU imports of plants and plant products to Great Britain from 1 June 2021.
The following legislation sets out the fees for plant health services delivered by APHA in England and Wales.
Import inspection, plant passporting, seed potato and fruit plants and fruit plant propagating material certification, licensing, sampling of potatoes originating in Egypt and the Lebanon:
- Plant Health etc. (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020
- Plant Health etc. (Miscellaneous Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019
- Plant Health etc. (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019
- Plant Health etc. (Fees) (England) Regulations 2018
Export certification services:
- Plant Health etc. (Miscellaneous Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019
- Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2018
- Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2015
- Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2014
- Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2013
- Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Amendment) Order 2005
- Plant Health (Export Certification) (England) (Order) 2004
Contacts and further information
To contact APHA call the Plant Health Helpline.
Further information is also available on the following websites.
Last updated 1 March 2021 + show all updates
Updated the potato brown rot documents.
New section added on importing plants and plant products from the EU, registering as an importer on PEACH, removal of export application forms, advice on what to do if you identify a quarantine pest or disease, expanded section on plant passports, updated fees section.
Updated the potato brown rot notices
Added link to The Plant Health (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020
Update to importing wording
Fees legislation updated.
Title of guidance updated
Link added to the new plant passporting updates page
Updated fees section - new fees will apply from 6 April 2018
Updated potato brown rot restriction documents
Update to fees section on revised plant health charges for 2018
Added link to The Plant Health (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2018
Added sweet chestnut blight to demarcated zones section
Updated demarcated zones potato brown rot section
Updated link to the Plant Health Portal
Updated links to new detailed guides.
Fixing references to specialist guides