Are we about to witness the biggest positive change to our industry in decades?

Horticulture is coming to the fore. From plant health, biosecurity, sustainability, quality standards, technology and labour, horticulture is at the heart of the solution to the environment and healthcare crisis that we are facing.

These key priorities were the focus of the Horticultural Trades Association’s (HTA) Contact Conference and dinner, sponsored by ICL, that took place on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 January 2020 at Horticulture House, Chilton.

HTA President, Boyd Douglas-Davies, said, “From the Government to doctors, celebrities to academics, the health benefits of plants are being told. We have 25 million environmentally aware gardeners and we should use this garden army to help drive change - #gardenarmy. Our industry is at the forefront of our nation’s ability to deliver part of the solution to the environmental crisis.”

Key points from the event:

Helen Ward, Head of Strategic Engagement (25 YEP) Natural Environment Strategy Team, Defra, introduced the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan which emphasises that horticulture is hugely important for the sustainability of the UK. The Government is looking to work with the horticultural industry to protect the environment and this is critical to the success of the plan.

Heightened public concern about the environment has seen the launch of the 2020 International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Lucy Carson-Taylor, APHA, told how this global campaign provides a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to educate people about the implications of plant health. A key milestone during the year will be National Plant Health Week – w/c 20th April 2020.

Professor Nicola Spence, DEFRA, outlined that in response to the new plant health regulations that came into force on 14 December 2019, a comprehensive biosecurity package has been developed providing more protection for the UK. She clarified that the Plant Passporting system works as an added biosecurity benefit to the industry.

Sally Cullimore, HTA Policy Manager, explained the complexities surrounding the recycling of the plastic pot, with David Chilvers, The Bransford Webbs Plant Company and Natalie Porter from Porter’s Fuchsias demonstrating how the industry is coming together to find a sustainable solution to the issue of plastic pots.

Martin Emmett, Strategy director at Tristram Plants and Chair of the HTA Ornamentals Committee, put it to delegates that labour is the main area limiting their business and this needs to be recognised by Government and moved up the agenda.

Closing the conference, James Barnes, HTA Chairman, told of key actions by the HTA - to lead in plant health, to produce a sustainability road map, to conclude key asks of Government and to outline how horticulture supports the 25 YEP.

Look out for more news from the conference in the February issue of HTA News, online at www.hta.org.uk/contactconference and on Twitter at #HTAContact.

Thanks to headline partner ICL and other partners Formbar, XL Horticulture, Citation, Melcourt, Dura-ID Horticulture and Crop and Soil Management.

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