Professor Nicola Spence - BSPP Vice President

Last updated: January 2018


Nicola Spence

Professor Nicola Spence is Defra's Chief Plant Health Officer and is the Head of the National Plant Protection Organisation for the UK. She is an expert in plant health and international plant trade and was previously the Head of Plant Health and Chief Scientist at the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Nicola is an experienced research scientist and has worked on virus diseases of horticultural crops in the UK and internationally. She is a Visiting Professor at Harper Adams University, a member of Court at the University of York and a Trustee of The Yorkshire Arboretum.

She has a BSc in Botany from the University of Durham, an MSc in Microbiology from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Plant Virology from the University of Birmingham.

The Chief Plant Health Officer

The role of the Chief Plant Health Officer involves advising ministers, industry and others about the risks posed by plant pests and diseases, and ensuring that measures are in place to manage those risks and minimise their impact, as well as leading the operational response in the event of a disease outbreak. Although plant health is a devolved matter; the CPHO co-ordinates the UK response to European and International plant health matters and takes the lead on national plant health emergency response.

Key recent actions have included: development of a prioritised plant health risk register to achieve better pest risk prioritisation and management; and development and testing a plant health contingency plan to achieve better preparedness and control response. Other priority actions include improving public access to plant and tree health information by developing a digital information portal to provide comprehensive plant health information. There is an urgent need to address key skills shortages in plant health and Nicola is responsible for a plan to identify key education and training opportunities and develop career pipeline for plant health.