New research shows that climate change will increase the burden of crop diseases in some parts of the world and reduce it in others.
Researchers studied how crop yields and infection risk caused by plant pathogens will change in the future as climate changes. They found that, generally, crop models predict increases in yields for most crops at higher latitudes but predict little to no increases in yield at lower latitudes. They also found that pathogens would respond similarly to the host crops they infect, i.e., the risk of infection will likely increase at higher latitudes but decline in the tropics. Hence, changes in disease risk will “closely track” variations in crop productivity expected under global warming. Future crop models need to incorporate the influence of pests and pathogens. However, we know very little about the current burden of these organisms, which makes it difficult to model future burden.
Comments from Tom Chaloner, SWBio DTP student:
“Plant pathogens already threaten agricultural production globally and we need to prepare for how these threats will change in the future. A lot of plant pathogens – especially those currently found in tropical areas – are seriously under-researched. We need to invest in understanding these diseases, which could become increasingly prevalent in the key crop-growing areas of the world.”
Tom now works at the international agricultural organisation CABI. One initiative at CABI that he is involved in is the Global Burden of Crop Loss (GBCL). By bringing together all available evidence to quantifying the yield impacts and economic impacts of crop pests and pathogens, GBCL aims to provide evidence to enable the global plant health community to generate actionable information and lead to a dramatic reduction in crop loss, resulting in increased food security and trade.
Paper: Plant pathogen infection risk tracks global crop yields under climate change by Thomas M. Chaloner, Sarah J. Gurr and Daniel P. Bebber in Nature Climate Change