scientific review 15 looks at plant pests that have spread or may be spread due to climate change. The risks are increasing, the authors warn, with a single, unusually warm winter able to provide suitable conditions for insect infestation.
“The key findings of this review should alert all of us to how climate change can affect how infectious, distributed and severe pests can become around the world,” said Qu Dongyu (Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)FAO), speaking at the launch.
“The review clearly shows that the impact of climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the plant health community,” he said.
Billions of losses annually
The study was produced by Professor Maria Lodovica at the University of Turin, Italy, with 10 co-authors from around the world under the auspices of the Secretariat of the International Convention on Plant Conservation, which the FAO hosts.
The United Nations agency said that nearly 40 percent of global crop production is currently destroyed by pests, and plant diseases have robbed the global economy of more than $220 billion annually. Invasive pests are worth at least $70 billion in countries, and they are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss.
Species such as the fall armyworm, which feed on crops including maize, sorghum and millet, have already spread due to the warm climate. Others, such as the desert locust, the world’s most destructive migratory insect, are expected to alter their migratory routes and geographic distribution.
The report said such movements threaten food security as a whole, and smallholder farmers as well as people in countries where food security is an issue are particularly at risk.
protection of plant health
One of the major initiatives of the report is international year of plant health, which ends this month.
“Protection of plant health is fundamental to achieving sustainable development goals”, said Mr. Q, Director General of the FAO. “Maintaining plant health is an integral part of our work towards more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems.”
The authors outline a number of recommendations for mitigating the effects of climate change, beginning with increasing international cooperation, as the effective management of plant pests in one country trumps success in others.
Half of all emerging plant diseases are spread through travel and trade, with better measures to limit transmission, while adjustments to plant protection policies are also important.
He also stressed the need for more research and more investment to strengthen national systems and structures related to plant health.
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