Plant health

Combating plant pests

Various types of plant pests including insects, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, viruses, viroids and phytoplasma may cause significant damage to agricultural, horticultural and forest plants. If damaged plants are not managed properly, pests can reduce crop yields, significantly increase production costs, and even lead to the complete failure of an entire cropping system. Losses due to pests and weeds reduce annual world crop yields by an average of 30%. Plant pests generally pose no direct risk to humans or animals.

Most plant pests are not regulated by any legislation. Growers manage these non-quarantine pests through methods including crop rotation, biological control and the application of plant protection products.

Presence of some pests in plant propagating materials affects the intended use of those plants with an economically unacceptable impact. These pests are therefore regulated through the marketing and production of seed and plant propagating materials. These pests are known as regulated non-quarantine pests.

Quarantine pests are pests whose spread into new areas could have serious economic or environmental impacts, or pests whose distributions are limited to small areas in the country and are under official controls.

Keeping out new pests

As a member of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (WTO/SPS) and the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO), Finland follows these organisations’ recommendations and applies them in national legislation. These agreements aim to prevent the spread of plant pests and harmonise phytosanitary measures to minimise unjustified trade barriers.

Plant health legislation on quarantine pests is harmonised across the EU. Finland has been granted the status of a protected area with regard to certain pests that occur elsewhere in the EU but which have not established in Finland. Consequently strict controls are applied to prevent the spread to Finland of pests including Bemisia tabaci, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, Globodera pallida, Erwinia amylovora, Tomato spotted wilt virus, Impatiens necrotic spot virus and Beet necrotic yellow vein virus.

Finland’s Act on Protecting Plant Health aims to maintain good plant health in Finland so as to ensure favourable conditions for agriculture, forestry, horticulture and food production and to guarantee food safety and quality.

Responsibility for plant health

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for plant health policy and legislation. Plant health issues are controlled by the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira). Evira is working to enhance efforts to combat quarantine pests, and contingency plans have already been made for measures to combat the possible spread of pinewood nematode, fire blight, potato ring and brown rots, in collaboration with various stakeholders.

Finland’s National Plant Health Strategy 2004-2013 assigns responsibility for reaching national goals on plant health to various authorities, organisations and stakeholders. The main aims of the strategy are:

1) To build up our knowledge of plant health so that phytosanitary measures can be optimised with regard to cost-efficiency and safety with regard to health and environmental issues

2) To secure favourable operating conditions for primary production so that alternative control measures and sufficient amounts of safe plant protection products are available

3) To develop risk-based control in plant health in order to secure efficient allocation of resources and cost-effectiveness and quality of the control.

Research into plant pests is carried out in various Finnish universities, at MTT Agrifood Research and at the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla). The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is a partner in the European Phytosanitary Research Coordination Era-Net (EUPHRESCO Era-Net).