Pest and disease epidemics – growing threats from climate changeApril 30, 2010 at 6:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
The Board was also alerted to emerging pest and disease epidemics in Syria and other countries in the Near East, North Africa and Central Asia, as a result of the adverse weather conditions this season.
A serious outbreak of stripe (yellow) rust disease is threatening wheat crops in at least six countries – Azerbaijan, Iraq, Morocco, Tajikistan, Turkey and Syria. There are concerns that the epidemic could spread to India and Pakistan, which suffered losses last season. National wheat harvests are expected to fall significantly, with potentially severe impacts on food security. The epidemic is caused by a new strain of wheat stripe rust, and was likely triggered by the combination of a very mild winter and high humidity.
“ICARDA scientists are working with partners in ten countries – Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – to develop prevention and control strategies,” Dr Solh said. “These include the quick introduction of resistant varieties, early and targeted application of fungicide sprays, and continuous monitoring of infected areas.”
Barley crops in northern Syria have been severely damaged by the barley stem gall midge, which is not normally prevalent in the country. The insect has caused problems in North Africa for many years, but in Syria the pest cycle is normally broken by freezing temperatures in winter. Because of mild weather this season, with temperatures remaining above freezing throughout November to January, a full generation of the pest has been able to develop. This is one more warning of how severely climate change could impact global food security.
ICARDA has begun screening for resistance to the stem gall midge at ‘hot spots’ in farmers’ fields; and is rearing the pest in its entomology laboratory in order to screen for resistance under artificial infestation. The Center is also conducting a survey across Syria to collect natural enemies (parasitoids) of the midge, for possible use in environmentally friendly biocontrol methods.