Update: Plant Health News (26 Aug 15)

With the help of sustainable irrigation, crops in Honduras are able to thrive despite the drought © CIAT (CC BY-NC-SA)

Sustainable water use helps Honduran crops to thrive despite the drought ©CIAT(CC BY-NC-SA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the risk of invasive pests spreading across Africa as a consequence of irrigation, research into genetic markers for disease resistance and salt tolerance of rice in Vietnam, and farmers in Honduras adopting sustainable methods to deal with increasing drought.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: Plant Health News (12 Aug 15)

A forthcoming article in the International Journal of Climate Change is expected to show that climate change will cause a reduction in maize yields in SSA. Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT).

A forthcoming article in the International Journal of Climate Change will outline the effect that climate change will have on maize yields in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT).

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the potential impact of climate change on food security in Sub-Saharan Africa, the use of biocontrol to manage fruit fly in Kenya and the impact of Fusarium on banana production in Honduras.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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New FAO Report: Climate change and what it means for food systems

selling carrots in Wangige Market, Nairobi, Kenya

Wakulima Market, in downtown Nairobi, whole sale market for vegetables and fruits coming from smallholder farmers up-country. Its starts early in the morning, lorries are offloaded, customers buy and bring their goods to local supermarkets, smaller markets near residential areas and restaurants.  Photo: Sven Torfinn/PANOS

How will climate change impact the future of food production, trade and consumption, and most importantly, what do leading scientists recommend as an appropriate policy response? In a newly released book from FAO, cross-sectoral insights from scientists and economists put the picture of food and food security into perspective in a changing climate.

The findings through collaborative research cover over two decades of climate change effects on agriculture. These include case studies on key crops and commodities that exemplify broader food system trends, as well as new pest and diseases which have caused reduced crops productivity-  those same issues which programs like Plantwise work to address. One key message for policy makers: smallholder farmers in developing countries will be most affected, as the local and regional food systems they depend on are strained by increasingly variable and unpredictable weather. The challenges unearthed in this report could better position decision makers to direct resources for solutions to improve smallholder resilience- a fundamental goal which underpins global food and nutrition security for the majority of the world’s growing population.

View the official press release and download the report.

Increased carbon dioxide levels in air restrict plants’ ability to absorb nutrients

1.Pollution over fields- could now be a threat to plant nutrition    (Photo by Ken Douglas )

1. Pollution over fields- could now be a threat to plant nutrition (Photo by Ken Douglas)

Contributed by Fiona Bunn

A recent study from the University of Gothenburg has shown that plants that are grown in air with a higher percentage of carbon dioxide (CO2) have reduced levels of nitrogen in their tissue, causing increased nitrogen deficiency and reduced growth. The study was conducted across four continents in large scale projects, and the plants showed the negative effects in all three major types of ecosystem: crops, grasslands and forests. The effects were even shown when fertiliser was applied, proving that CO2 restricts the plants’ ability to absorb the necessary nutrients, not the levels in the soil.  Read more of this post

Closing the gender gap for a food-secure future #AgGenderGap

Farmer with a bunch of AmaranthIn the video below, inspiring women share their views on closing the gender gap in farming under climate change. Read more of this post

Pests of the forest are spreading

Mountain pine beetle infested forest

Mountain pine beetle infested forest in BC, Canada © Simon Fraser University Public Affairs and Media Relations (CC BY 2.0 license)

Much is covered in the news about deforestation by humans, but less is widely known about the damage done to forests by pests and diseases. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) produces an assessment of the world’s forest resources every five years. Their last report highlighted the effect that climate change will have on forests and their pests.

“A changing climate will alter the disturbance dynamics of native forest insect
pests and pathogens, as well as facilitating the establishment and spread of introduced
pest species.”

There have already been incidences of pests spreading due to abnormally high winter temperatures. For example, the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, has been expanding its range in North America for the past fifteen years. Where it was once a pest of the southern Rocky Mountains and west of the American Continental Divide, it is now moving north and east where winters are becoming milder.

When trees suffer climate induced stress from increased drought and extreme climatic events such as storms, they become more susceptible to damage from pests. Also, a pest that establishes in a new territory doesn’t always have the natural enemies present to keep its population numbers in check, providing opportunities for severe outbreaks.

The increased connectivity between countries has facilitated the global spread of forest pests.

“The volume, speed and variety of global trade have increased the opportunities for
pests to move internationally.”

Phytosanitary measures at borders are important now more than ever, to ensure that movement of pests within shipments is limited wherever possible.

There is little information on the global distribution of forests pests, particularly in developing countries. This data is necessary to perform pest risk analyses and provide early warning systems for countries. With a changing climate, it is vital that countries work together to monitor and protect against these pests.

Find out more about forests for International Day of Forests: http://www.fao.org/forestry/international-day-of-forests/en/

FAO (2010) Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010. FAO Forestry Paper 163.

Crop diversification finds home for ‘orphan crops’

Farmer from Teso. Knowledge of orphan crops should conserved © Bioversity International/ Y.Wachira

Farmer from Teso, Kenya. Indigenous knowledge of orphan crops should be conserved © Bioversity International/ Y.Wachira

The term ‘orphan crops’ refers to plant species and varieties that of recent decades have been ignored by governments, seed companies and scientists due to their limited importance in global markets. Instead, only a few major staples have been of interest. From fruits and vegetables to grains and nuts, many orphan crops are highly nutritious, resilient to climate extremes and are well adapted to marginal soils. They are therefore of great significance for food security and the generation of income to the world’s poorest communities.

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