Celebrating the International Day of Plant Health 2023

  • Celebrating the International Day of Plant Health 2023 image

The United Nations declared 12 May as the International Day of Plant Health to raise global awareness and take action to improve plant health and build a better future.

Plant health is key to the sustainable development of agriculture that is required to feed a growing global population by 2050.

Both our health and the health of our planet depend on plants. Plants are the source of the oxygen we breathe, much of the food we eat, the fibres that make our clothes and natural building materials. Yet, up to 40 percent of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases every year. This affects food security and agriculture, the main source of income for vulnerable rural communities.

“By protecting plant health through a robust biosecurity system, we can work together to end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development,” said Sarah Corcoran, CEO of Plant Health Australia (PHA).

Climate change and human activities also affect plant health by altering ecosystems and damaging biodiversity, while creating new niches for pests to thrive. International travel and trade, which has tripled in volume in the last decade, is causing pests and diseases to appear in places they were never seen before.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that agricultural production needs to rise by 60 per cent by 2050 to feed a larger and generally richer global population.

“Healthy plants constitute the foundation of all life on earth and we all have a role to play.” said Ms Corcoran.

2023 marked the second year of International Day of Plant Health and events were held around the globe to celebrate.

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry held an in-person science exchange. The event was chaired by the Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer Dr Gabrielle Vivian-Smith and had a variety of experts exchanging knowledge and innovations in plant health, environmental protection, and biodiversity.

The Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) held a contest for students and early career researchers. The contest called on students to submit a short video on a plant health related topic. The list of entries are available on the PBRI website here.

Finally, Plant Health Australia celebrated the date with a plant based high tea. Attendees enjoyed a variety of cupcakes, snacks, herbal teas and other drinks – all made thanks to the contributions of plants in agriculture.

These events confirmed the importance of plant health and biosecurity efforts. Plant health should not stop after one day. Plant health and biosecurity is an ongoing responsibility, one that remains a high priority.