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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Update: Plant Health News (06 Nov 13)

Bangladesh has started harvesting a bumper production from new stress tolerant rice varieties © IRRI (CC BY-NC-SA)

Bangladesh is harvesting a bumper production from stress tolerant rice varieties © IRRI (CC BY-NC-SA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a bumper harvest for Bangladesh from stress tolerant rice varieties, news that plant production could decline as climate change affects soil nutrients, and Autralia’s Minister for the Environment launches a new sustainability app for farmers.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: Plant Health News (23 Oct 13)

New survey reveals role of botanical gardens in achieving food security © Craig Elliott (CC BY-NC-ND)

New survey reveals role of botanical gardens in achieving food security © Craig Elliott (CC BY-NC-ND)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the role of botanic gardens in food security,  how grazers and pollinators shape plant evolution and a new soil testing kit designed for smallholder farmers.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: Plant Health News (09 Oct 13)

Crop diversification is common amoung farmers wishing to lessen their dependence on one crop © CGIAR Climate (CC BY-NC-SA)

Crop diversification lessens farmers’ dependence on one crop © CGIAR Climate (CC BY-NC-SA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a new rice variety to cushion farmers against crop loss through blast, a checklist of scale insect pests in Iran and Asian citrus growers looking to diversity their crop with bananas.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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