Plant Health

SASA provides the following scientific support on plant health to the Scottish Government in support of Scottish and EC plant health legislation.

If you wish to find out more information or contact us about a plant health issue, please email Plant Health at SASA.

Further information on plant health can be found on the Scottish Government's Plant Health webpages or the website.


SASA provides scientific and policy advice to the Scottish Government on:

SASA scientists also represent the Scottish Government and UK Plant Health Service nationally and internationally on committees, as editors and in consultancy work.


Potato quarantine

SASA runs the Potato Quarantine Unit on behalf of the UK Plant Health Authorities.

Pests and pathogen diagnosis and surveillance -

Plant health licensing

SASA issues plant health licences on behalf of Scottish Ministers for work with organisms and materials that are normally prohibited under Plant Health legislation.

Plant health research

SASA undertakes research projects in support of plant health functions.

Pest and pathogen diagnosis and surveillance

Pest and pathogen diagnosis is an essential part of the plant health support for the Scottish Government and is the basis of much of the plant health advice given.

Quarantine and other pests and pathogens are diagnosed:

Samples from Scottish Government inspectors are examined for pests and pathogens using microscopic, microbiological, serological, molecular, electron microscopic and bioassay methods. SASA collaborates internationally to introduce and develop new techniques for the diagnosis of quarantine and other harmful organisms and is involved with EC evaluation of existing and new methods (see the R&D section).

Plant Health Licensing

SASA issues plant health licences on behalf of Scottish Ministers for the following activities in Scotland:

Licences are issued following inspection of premises and assessment of the risks associated with the activities, in accordance with EC legislation. Particular attention is given to the containment procedures to be used when handling the licensed material and its disposal on completion of the work.  Please see the guidance notes or email Plant Health Licensing for further information.

Download the application form for soil, plant material and prohibited organisms and send the completed form to:

The Plant Health Licensing Officer
Roddinglaw Road
EH12 9FJ

For potato quarantine testing see the Potato Quarantine page or download the PQU Licence Application form.

The Scottish Government issues plant health licences for collection of wild plant material. Contact for further information.

For information on imports of plants and plant material, see the Plant Health Guide for Importers on the Scottish Government website.

SASA also provides advice to the Scottish Government in support of legislation on the contained use of genetically modified organisms.

Potato Quarantine

Entry of stolon- and tuber-forming Solanum material into the EU for further propagation is prohibited ( EC Plant Health Directive (2000/29/EC as amended). Material may, however, enter the EU under a derogation specified in Commission Directive 2008/61/EC. The material must undergo official post-entry quarantine testing.

In the UK potato quarantine testing is done at the UK Potato Quarantine Unit (UKPQU), a purpose-built facility at SASA.

A plant health import licence is required prior to import.

The UKPQU is overseen by an Inter-Departmental Committee comprising the Scottish Government, the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) on behalf of the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARD-NI), British Society of Plant Breeders and research and commercial interests.


Each unit of potato material is established as in vitro microplant cultures, observed over a growing season in the glasshouse for the presence of diseases and tested for specific pathogens. The testing done by the UKPQU exceeds EC requirements. 

Material released by the UKPQU is issued with a plant passport and may be planted without further testing anywhere in the EC. You can obtain a copy of our testing procedures from the Potato Quarantine Unit


Virus elimination and rapid multiplication services are provided for customers.

The UKPQU has been involved in quarantine testing programmes for true potato seed from UK gene banks. Tested seed is held in the Commonwealth Potato Collection at the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

The UKPQU collaborates with other potato quarantine scientists internationally to develop new methods, evaluate existing methods for pathogen diagnosis for potato quarantine purposes and to develop guidelines for the safe movement of potato germplasm.