Plant health data opened up by Defra

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has launched a website that aims to improve access to data on plant pests and diseases.

The portal will have information on plant disease – Photo credit: Flickr, Bayer Crop Science UK, CC BY 2.0 

The portal, which has been launched in beta, will bring together information on plant health from the government, charities and academic bodies like the Royal Horticultural Society.

“Protecting our country from plant and tree diseases is important for our economy, environment and health,” Nicole Spence, chief plant health officer at Defra, said.

“The Plant Health Portal means we can share expertise and information easily and ensure coordinated and effective responses to threats from all those who work with plants.”

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The portal was first proposed in the UK’s plant biosecurity strategy, published in 2014, and Spence said it would be an important tool in maintaining biosecurity, alongside a £37m investment in tree health research between 2012 and 2019.

“While we can’t eliminate all risks, we have stringent plans to deal with threats that are detected, and the portal will help make sure we are up-to-date, well-informed and effective,” she said.

The portal will include data on risk assessments related to pest and disease threats, links to other sites with data on plant health and information on plant health controls and services provided by government.

The department said there were already plans to add more data and to refine the site’s search functions during the beta phase, and asked for users to offer further feedback.

Defra’s efforts to improve access to, and use of, its data are often praised by open data campaigners, with the Open Data Institute’s chief executive Jeni Tennison saying recently that the rest of governent should learn from its example.

Earlier this year it announced that it had exceeded its self-imposed target of making 8,000 datasets open before June 2016 by more than 3,000, and its data programme last month revealed plans for three proof-of concept data projects.

These will be to use data to improve efforts to tackle bovine TB, mitigate flood risk and better manage Earth observation data from satellites.


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