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Climate Changes and Pests and Diseases: a Quick Overview

July 20th, 2011

The effects of climate change on potential abiotic stresses are well known. Changes in CO2 concentration, increased temperature, increased drought, changing on rainfall patterns have all been documented in the IPCC reports (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml) and in several recent publications. The effects of climate change will be different in different parts of the world and there exist several studies from different angles and perspectives that describe climate changes consequences to agriculture (some very useful interesting information can be found at http://agrobiodiversityplatform.org/climatechange/). What is much less known and investigated is how pests and diseases, and therefore the biotic stress, will change under climate change scenario. All in all this has to do with food security which has a very strong social component, including education, land rights, global food prices, poor markets, poor market access among others. Nonetheless, having the capacity of producing enough food is a prerequisite to achieve food security and pests and diseases can reduce productivity of major crops by up to 50% (Oerke 2006).

To put things on perspective food production needs to increase by 70% by 2050 due to population growth (we will be 9 billion in 2050) and increase food demand from transition countries. This needs to be achieved under increased land degradation  and land conversion, under a reduced water availability. Increase in oil price will result in increase cost of fertilizers thus making them less affordable for farmers. It is evident that pests and diseases will also change and mutate under climate change. As any other species will be subject to natural selection and mutation to adapt to the new conditions. How this will impact on agriculture? Early in the year a full issue of plant pathology was dedicated to climate changes and plant diseases (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ppa.2011.60.issue-1/issuetoc). If you click the pest and disease and climate change document you find a quick summary of the major areas of interest and the program approach to this issue.

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