International Year of Plant Health


Image by Hans Braxmeier – Pixabay

Over the last 60 years the UN has highlighted a range of issues for international attention, beginning with World Refugee Year in 1969/1960. Since then we have had International Years for issues such as  Human Rights (1968), the welfare of Children (1979), Peace (1986) and the Eradication of Poverty (1996).  For some of these issues, such as peace and poverty, we clearly have a lot more work to do. The purpose of the International Years, though, has been more about highlighting, promoting and developing awareness about these issues rather than actually achieving a solution – that is a never-ending work in progress.

As a keen gardener and nature lover I was intrigued to discover that 2020 is the IYPH_Web_Button_Vertical_210x210px_ENInternational Year of Plant Health. Gardeners and farmers know that there are a lot of factors that can affect a plant’s health, from pests and diseases to soil health and weather conditions. It can be quite frustrating to discover fruit fly in your tomatoes or black spot on your roses, but globally, pests and diseases can have a far more serious impact on people’s health and well-being.

The UN sees the International Year of Plant Health as a

once in a lifetime opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.”

As such, the main focus will be on the strategies and practices that “control and prevent pests, weeds and disease causing organisms” from spreading into other areas, and on the role that human activity, such as international trade, has in the spread of pests and diseases in the first place.

Plant Health in Our Own Backyard

It might seem that there is little we can do about plant health and the spread of pests and diseases globally, but plant health is a local problem too. Our natural environment has already been severely impacted by the introduction of rabbits, foxes and cane toads, as well as numerous plant species that now grow wild. Add to that a severe drought and the current bushfires, it leaves an environment under great stress. The ground is bone dry. Trees are dying. Water sources have dried up.

Our recent move has provided an opportunity to establish a garden and care for the exisiting flora. Our new place, affectionately called The Last Stop, has plenty of open space and some native wildlife. We have a pair of resident blue wrens, who have been very curious about the new humans that have moved in. I have encountered a lizard enjoying the morning sun and a kangaroo taking advantage of a shady tree. And there is plenty of other birdlife too. 

Version 2

Our Blue Wren – photo taken by Bec

Sadly, the drought has had an impact. There is almost no grass and some of the trees have died. As water restrictions increase, gardeners are forced to make some tough decisions. What do we save? As some of our remaining trees are natives, their health is important for the local wildlife. It takes a long time to grow a mature tree, so keeping the remaining trees alive has become our top priority. We are fortunate in that we have the additional resources of rainwater tanks and a bore, but we still need to use them wisely and sustainably.

With some carefully targeted watering, new life is returning. The leaves on the trees and bushes look a bit brighter and some are starting to flower. And as a bonus, plants that we thought were dead have sprung to life. We’ve had to do a bit of tough pruning as well, to encourage new growth, but with a little patience and some TLC, our efforts are bearing fruit. And we’ve noticed a bit of extra bird activity!

South fenceline – Version 2

On the far left is a dry-looking bush that I thought was probably dead.

Version 2

Same bush today. Just needed some TLC.

Hopefully this drought will break soon and conditions will become more favourable for planting some new trees and shrubs, especially ones that will encourage birds and butterflies. We love taking food from the garden to the table, so a veggie patch and fruit trees is also high on the agenda. We might not be able to do much about the weather, but enriching the soil, nurturing our plants and taking care of pests and diseases in the most organic and sustainable way possible are just little steps we can take to improve plant health in our little corner of the world.

If you would like to know a bit more about the International Year of Plant Health, here are some links to get you started. 

IPPC and the International Year of Plant Health 

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, International Year of Plant Health 2020






2 thoughts on “International Year of Plant Health

  1. Hopefully there will be some rain this weekend. I am struggling to keep things going at the moment. I would love to plant more natives, also for the birds, maybe the autumn will be better, I am afraid summer is a complete right off unless we get some rain. My brother in law grows stone fruit and he has willy wag tails nest around his sheds, he claims the only time he has seen the wag tails raise two broods in a season is when there is a wet season coming and the wag tails have been raising double broods recently, it could just be he is being hopeful but it would be nice to think those little birds know something we don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting about the Willy Wagtails. Shows we should be paying more attention to the signs in nature. Yes, we’re waiting for autumn to plant anything new. It’s looking a little more promising for rain today but we’ve had our hopes dashed before. Where does your brother-in-law grow stone fruit? I grew up in SA and we always grew stone fruit, but we didn’t have fruit fly. I’d like to grow some here though – the fruit in the shops is always picked too early.


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