More than 60 experts and stakeholders from the diverse worlds of forestry, horticulture, the environment and agriculture heard about the aims and aspirations of Scotland's new virtual Plant Health Centre.

The chief plant health officer for Scotland, Professor Gerry Saddler, of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), marked the occasion by planting a sorbus arranensis tree at the launch at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the centre is an interdisciplinary consortium based around the strengths and expertise of 10 leading research organisations – Forest Research, the James Hutton Institute, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the Universities of Strathclyde, Exeter and Edinburgh, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, SASA, and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland.

First launched by Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, in February, it will bring together experts and resources to tackle industry-wide problems.

Professor Ian Toth, from the James Hutton Institute and director of the centre, said: “Plant diseases don’t respect borders and cause problems across all plant species, from iconic forest trees to the smallest of wild flowers and taking in ornamentals, garden plants and all our crop species as they go.

"With thousands of plant species in Scotland and 1000 novel pests and diseases listed on the UK plant health risk register, there has never been a more crucial time to pool resources and bring scientists and stakeholders together to act.”

A Science Advisory and Response Team (SART) has been drawn from the 10 organisations to provide immediate expertise and a broader knowledge base will be accessed and commissioned to provide comprehensive responses to identified needs.