Crop loss due to pests
07/06/2021

Tags:

Context:

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that at least 40 per cent of the world’s agricultural crops are lost to pests each year.

 About:

  • The report, titled Scientific review of the impact of climate change on plant pests, was prepared by the University of Turin in Italy. It was published on June 2, 2021.
  • The scientific review was prepared under the auspices of the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPCC) and was hosted by FAO
  • It is one of the key initiatives of the International Year of Plant Health, which will come to an end in June this year.
  • The United Nations declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health. The Year was extended until July 1, 2021, due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Invasive pests cost countries at least $70 billion annually and are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, according to estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
  • The scientific review analysed 15 plant pests and found that climate change will increase the risk of pests spreading in agricultural and forestry ecosystems, especially in cooler Arctic, boreal, temperate, and subtropical regions.

 Reasons:

  • Half of all emerging plant diseases are spread by global travel and trade, which have tripled in volume over the last decade. Such movements threaten food security in general.
  • The weather is the second-most important factor, according to the report. 
  • Use of methods and equipment that hamper the growth of plants because of introduced bugs in them.
  • The report noted that a single, unusually warm winter can be enough to assist the establishment of invasive pests.
  • A few pests such as fall armyworm, which feed on crops like maize, sorghum and millet and Tephritid fruit flies (that damage fruit and other crops) have already spread due to a warmer climate. 
  • Others, such as desert locusts (the world’s most destructive migratory pests), are expected to change their migratory routes and geographical distribution because of climate change.

 Impact:

  • Xylella fastidiosa is a deadly bacterium that attacks economically important crops such as olive, citrus or plum trees and grapevines. Since 2015, it's been rapidly spreading from the Americas to Europe and Asia.  
  • Once Xylella fastidiosa infiltrates a plant, it is there to stay - it starves the plant of water until the plant dies or becomes too weak to grow fruit.
  • The oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) has affected trees such as avocado, banana, guava and mango in at least 65 countries. In Africa, import trade bans due to oriental fruit fly infestations cause annual losses of around $2 billion. 

Recommendations:

  • When combating pests and diseases, farmers should adopt, and policymakers should encourage the use of environment-friendly methods such as integrated pest management.
  • There is an urgent need for more research as well as investment in strengthening national plant health systems and structures.
  • Regularly monitoring plants and receiving early warning information about emerging threats, helps governments, agricultural officers and farmers take preventive and adaptive measures to keep plants healthy.
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