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.

Protecting plant health: topical issues


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, plant produce and other objects which host or can carry plant pests 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, plant product or other object requires phytosanitary certification to be allowed entry into the EU. You must register with Defra before you import any controlled plants, plant products or objects. 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, plant material or other controlled objects to the UK.

Read the guidance on importing seed potatoes, 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, 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

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 contact the Forestry Commission.

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.

If you’re based in Scotland, the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) website explains what you need to do.

Plant passports may only be issued by businesses who are registered and authorised for the purpose.

For further information or to see if plant passporting applies to you, read the guidance on issuing plant passports to trade plants in the EU.

To be authorised to issues plant passports, either:

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.


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:

Export certification services:

Contacts and further information

To contact APHA call the Plant Health Helpline.

Further information is also available on the following websites.

Rural Payments Agency

Forestry Commission website


Chemicals Regulation Division

PEACH helpdesk

Natural Resources Wales

Published 7 September 2012
Last updated 13 August 2019 + show all updates
  1. Update to importing wording

  2. Fees legislation updated.

  3. Title of guidance updated

  4. Link added to the new plant passporting updates page

  5. Updated fees section - new fees will apply from 6 April 2018

  6. Updated potato brown rot restriction documents

  7. Update to fees section on revised plant health charges for 2018

  8. Added link to The Plant Health (Fees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2018

  9. Added sweet chestnut blight to demarcated zones section

  10. Updated demarcated zones potato brown rot section

  11. Updated link to the Plant Health Portal

  12. Updated links to new detailed guides.

  13. Fixing references to specialist guides

  14. First published.