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Crop pathogens and pests reduce the yield of agricultural production, causing substantial economic losses and reducing food security. Yet, their global burden and their variation over time and among different agroecosystems remains poorly quantified. New research, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, by a collaboration between the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Cornell University, Penn State University, University of California, Davis and the University of Twente has documented the losses associated with 137 pathogens and pests in five major food crops—wheat, rice, maize, potato and soybean—worldwide.
Crop pathogens and pests (P&Ps) constitute a burden to food production worldwide. Plant diseases and pests are frequent causes for crop losses – losses in quantity or in quality of harvests – irrespective of the agrosystems, whether in small-scale, diverse, single-cycle, "traditional" agriculture, or in large-scale, genetically uniform, monoculture-based, "intensive" systems. Yet, while P&Ps are widely considered an important cause of crop losses, and sometimes a threat to food security, precise figures on these crop losses are very hard to produce.
Losses - Reasons - P - Ps - Parts
Estimating losses is difficult for two reasons. One is because P&Ps are integral parts of the human-made agrosystems, in which they have co-evolved with crops over millennia. As a result, the effects of P&Ps in agriculture are very hard to disentangle from the complex web of interactions among factors at play within agrosystems. The second is due to the sheer diversity of P&Ps, which includes viruses and viroids, bacteria, fungi and oomycetes, nematodes, arthropods, molluscs, vertebrates and parasitic plants. This diversity means that the quantification of losses on an individual pathogen or pest basis, for each of the many cultivated crops, is a daunting task.
During the 10th International Congress of Plant Pathology held in Beijing in 2013, the recently created Crop Loss Subject Matter Committee of the International Society for Plant Pathology (ISPP)...
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