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The plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometer



 
 
Measuring the plant health (phytosanitary situation)
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Measuring the plant health (phytosanitary situation)

  Within the concept of measuring the safety of the food chain, the plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometer is the third instrument that was developed by the Scientific Committee of the FASFC. It concerns an instrument which allows objectively to understand the evolution of the general plant health (phytosanitary situation) with time and to be able to communicate in a simple way on the topic. The advice 10-2011 of the Scientific Committee on the development of a plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometer forms the basis. As understood by its title, the scope of this plant health barometer is restricted to the absence of harmful quarantine organisms only (= harmful organisms regulated under the Law of 2 April 1971 on the control of organisms harmful to plants and plant products). The term “plant health” does therefore not cover the absence of nonregulated harmful organisms, namely the agents responsible for endemic diseases such as late blight, fusarium infection and rust etc. This term neither covers abiotic diseases such as those caused by the lack or excess of water, or of trace elements, or caused by the excess of salt or by frost. Consequently, it was also decided not to use data sourced from agricultural warning systems or statistics on the use of pesticides as a potential indicator. Both of these data sources are focussed mainly on endemic diseases (= diseases caused by the presence of harmful non-quarantine organisms).

The plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometer consists of a basket of 13 carefully chosen, measurable indicators (plant health indicators or PHI) which together reflect the overall (national) phytosanitary situation of plants and plant products. These indicators include all links of the plant production chain, namely : the suppliers, primary production, distribution/trade, the propagating of plants, the processing of plants (e.g. wood packaging materials, cut flowers etc.), forests and green spaces. The indicators concern also the different types of plants and plant products : fruit, vegetables, potatoes, cereals, ornamental plants (including trees), plants/seeds, cut flowers, wood packaging. The control of plants and plant products (on the presence of quarantine phytopathogen agents) as well as the control of processes (inspections and audits) are both included in the basket. The preventive approach (self-checking, compulsory notification, traceability (FR)) is also covered by the barometer. The majority of these indicators are measured within the context of the control programme of the FASFC, allowing a simple annual monitoring.

Given the different impact of these 13 indicators upon plant health (phytosanitary situation), their relative importance was weighted by the various stakeholders of the food chain, i.e. risk managers, the Advisory Committee (including representatives of other public administrations and of the various sector and consumer organisations) and the Scientific Committee of the FASFC. As such, the 6 ‘generic’ indicators, related notably to inspections and controls, were given more importance than the 7 ‘specific’ indicators.

An overview of the various indicators and their weighting factors is given in the table below. More details on the indicators can be found in the technical sheets presented in annex 1 of the advice 10-2011 of the Scientific Committee published on 26 September 2011. These weighting factors were validated by the Scientific Committee in the advice 11-2012 published on 4 May 2012.

Overview of the plant health indicators (PHI) and of their respective weighting factor :

Ref. Type of indicator Weighting factor
PHI1: Mandatory notification of plant diseases and harmful organisms 1,47
PHI2: Self-checking for plant production 1,43
PHI3: Phytosanitary inspections (physical checks) 1,91
PHI4: Phytosanitary inspections (traceability) 1,08
PHI5: Harmful organisms regulated and detected in Belgium 1,34
PHI6: Phytosanitary import controls 1,91
PHI7: Bursaphelenchus xylophilus (Pine wood nematode) 0,48
PHI8: Meloidogyne chitwoodi and/or M. fallax (Root-knot nematodes) 0,48
PHI9: Globodera rostochiensis and/or G. pallida (Cyst nematodes) 0,52
PHI10: Ralstonia solanacearum and/or Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus (Potato brown rot and/or ring rot) 0,78
PHI11: Pospiviroidae 0,69
PHI12: Diabrotica virgifera Le Conte (Corn rootworm) 0,39
PHI13: Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden oak death) 0,52

Based on the results of the plant health indicators and the weighting of the relative importance of these indicators a plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometer may thus be defined. This barometer measures the state of the general phytosanitary situation of plants and plant products in Belgium on an annual basis, and this with respect to the previous year. The result of the barometer must be expressed as a comparison to the state of a previous year as it is difficult to express plant health in absolute figures, since plant health depends, among other things, on standards or action limits defined on a policy-level and liable to changes.
Our mission is to preserve the safety and the quality of our food in order to protect humans, animals and plants.

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