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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Landmark climate change report will bring new concerns for food security

Food security and climate change

Sanjit Das/CABI

Tomorrow, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its fifth global warming report predicting indicators of climate change for the coming years. The expectation is that the temperature is set to increase even more dramatically than the last report predicted in 2007, causing a domino effect on weather conditions, oceanic trends and the multitude of ecosystems which are dependent on them.  “We believe the assessment of new publications will help us fill up some existing gaps and add to the body of knowledge that already exists in this entire field,” says IPCC Chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri.Often for the public, gaps in understanding of global warming and its predicted effects still remain. Climate change conjures up images of polar bears drifting on icebergs across expanding oceans, or hurricanes spiralling over tropical islands, waves crashing past highway barriers, and entire countries left immersed underwater. But less often do the effects of climate change seem to trickle into the everyday.  We know what we can do about it (recycle, bike to work), and how policy-makers have struggled to act on it (curbing temperature increase, agreeing on a unified response) but do we know how global warming and the IPCC predicted scenarios will really affect humanity? Do we know how this will impact the most basic human needs, namely our access to sufficient food and nutrients? Read more of this post

A Tale of Two Worlds: Favourable Projections, Looming Dearth

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the season of plenty, it is the season of famine – in short, it is that time when the positive medium term outlook for world agriculture is tempered by the “usual suspects.”

For the fourth month running, the FAO Food Price Index – a measure of the monthly change in the international prices of a basket of food commodities – dropped in August reaching its lowest level since 2012. The decline in the index was the result of sustained falls in the international prices of cereals and oils. Together with the Food Price Index, FAO also released a new forecast of world cereal production in 2013. In this forecast, world cereal production was raised to 2,492 million tonnes, up 14 million tonnes (or 0.5 percent) from the July forecast. The rise is predicted to be driven by an expansion of coarse grain output as well as a rise in wheat production. Paradoxically, as FAO was giving relatively favourable prospects for world agriculture, there was a mood of gloom and despondency in Kenya and Zimbabwe! Read more of this post

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