Plant health status in agriculture, forestry and horticulture is good in Finland compared to other European countries. The control of plant health is based on the Act on Protecting Plant Health (702/2003), which aims to prevent the spread of dangerous pests to Finland and the eradication of observed occurrences. The control also ensures that marketed, imported and exported plant products meet the other requirements set in the Act on Protecting Plant Health and the Plant Propagation Material Act (1205/1994). In addition, forest health is monitored and ensured by the separate Forest Damages Prevention Act (1087/2013), which applies to conventional dangerous plant pests in forest trees that are already present in Finland.
Dangerous pests, known as quarantine pests, are harmful plant diseases and pests which may cause considerable financial damage. Controlled quarantine pests and diseases are defined in EU legislation.
Finland is a protected zone with respect to certain plant pests, as unlike other EU countries, these pests are not permanently present in Finland. The protected zone enables the laying down of tighter than usual restrictions on plants and plant products moving around in the internal market. Finland’s potato production was granted High Grade status, covering the core region of seed potato production, when Finland joined the EU, indicating that the area was free of harmful pests (Finland’s high quality seed potato production area).
Many factors explain Finland’s good plant health status. Plant pests, which are common further south in Europe, cannot survive in our harsh climate, very clean arable land is available for crop production, and the irrigation water required for production is pure. The high level of professionalism and diligence of Finnish farmers at various stages of plant production provide the basis for maintaining good plant health status.
Controlled domestic production of plant propagation material, free of plant pests, is an important prerequisite for ensuring healthy production. For example, all plants used in cucumber and tomato production are domestic and tested to ensure their health. Since the propagation material is healthy, biological control of pests can be used almost exclusively in the production of greenhouse vegetables, and chemical control is only resorted to in exceptional cases.
The number of harmful organisms present in European countries, 2017
Source: EPPO (European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization) Global database
Regulatory control also applies to the production of berry plants, free of both quarantine and ordinary plant pests that reduce the quantity and quality of crops. As a result of sound plant health status and good production methods, the use of plant protection products in Finland is among the lowest in the EU (Use of pesticides). This, in turn, ensures that there are no excess residues of plant protection products in the plants or foodstuffs produced from them. The risk of workers being exposed to the harmful effects of plant protection products remains low.
It is increasingly important to protect the current good plant health situation due to the higher risk of dangerous pests spreading. On the one hand, this is due to the higher volumes of international trade in plants and plant products, and on the other to the anticipated climate change, which will render conditions more favourable for quarantine pests. In the future, more new quarantine pests can be expected to enter Finland and survive here.
Photo in upper edge: Csaba Jansik