Africa: Pests On the March As Climate Change Fans Spread of Crop Destroyers

Nairobi — Up to 40% of global crop production is lost to plant pests and diseases, says the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization

Ravenous pests are on the march to colder regions as climate change lures crop eaters to new territories, threatening jobs and exacerbating world hunger, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

From fall armyworms to desert locusts, the pests mostly menace crops in hot countries but the rise in world temperatures was now fanning their expansion, the U.N. said, with all the risks that entails for farmers and their families.

“The impact of climate change is one of the greatest challenges the plant health community is facing,” Qu Dongyu, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, said after releasing a study covering 15 invasive pests and diseases.

With up to 40 percent of global crop production already lost to pests, according to FAO estimates, any migration into new land could see the scale of that destruction shoot higher.

“Some pests, like fall armyworm (which feeds on a growing number of crops, including maize, sorghum, millet) and Tephritid fruit flies (which damage fruit and other crops), have already spread due to warmer climate,” said a statement by the FAO.

“Others, such as the desert locust (the world’s most destructive migratory pest), are expected to change their migratory routes and geographical distribution because of climate change.”

There was an increased risk of pests spreading in agricultural and forestry ecosystems, especially in cooler Arctic, boreal, temperate and subtropical regions, it said.