The scientific review examines 15 plant pests that have spread or may spread due to climate change. The risks increase, the authors warn, as a single unusually warm winter can provide conditions for insect infestation.
“The key findings of this review should make us all aware of how climate change can affect how infectious, widespread and serious pests can become around the world,” said Qu Dongyu, director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO), speak at startup.
“The review clearly shows that the effects of climate change are one of the greatest challenges facing the phytosanitary community,” he added.
Billions lost annually
The study was carried out by Professor Maria Lodovica at the University of Turin in Italy together with 10 co-authors from around the world under the auspices of the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention, which hosts the FAO.
About 40 percent of global crop production is currently being lost to pests, the UN agency said, and plant diseases rob the global economy more than $ 220 billion annually. Invasive pests cost countries at least $ 70 billion and are also a major contributor to biodiversity loss.
Because of the warmer climate, species like the autumn army worm, which feed on grains like corn, sorghum, and millet, have already spread. Others, like desert locusts, which are the most destructive migratory pests in the world, are expected to change their migration routes and geographic distribution.
Movements like these threaten overall food security, the report said, and smallholders and people in countries where food security is an issue are particularly at risk.
Plant health maintenance
The report is one of the key initiatives of the International Year of Plant Health, which ends this month.
“Plant health conservation is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Qu, FAO Director General. “Maintaining plant health is an essential part of our work for more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agricultural and food systems.”
The authors have outlined several recommendations for mitigating the effects of climate change, starting with stepping up international cooperation, as effective pest control in one country affects success in others.
With half of all emerging plant diseases being spread through travel and trade, improved measures to limit transmission and adjustments to phytosanitary policy are also crucial.
They also stressed the need for more research and more investment in strengthening national systems and structures in the field of plant health.