Farmers are well aware pests and plant diseases cause reductions in yield and quality, which result in not only economic losses but food security issues at household, national and global levels. A study that was recently published in the journal Nature, Ecology & Evolution lays out just what kind of impact pests and pathogens have on the global food production system. The report includes survey information from more than 200 crop health experts in 67 countries.
The data collected focuses on five of the world’s most significant staple crops: wheat, rice, maize, soybeans and potatoes. While pest and disease damage play a significant role in yield and quality reduction, precise figures on these crop losses can be difficult to determine. On a global scale, pathogens and pests appear to be causing rice losses between 25 and 41 percent, maize losses were measured as 20 to 41 percent, soybean losses ranged between 11 and 32 percent, and wheat losses are between 10 and 28 percent. Of the five crops examined, potatoes faired the best at losses from 8 to 21 percent.
Associate Professor of Plant Pathology at UC Davis and one of the co-authors of the report, Neil McRoberts noted that losing a significant amount of food to pests and disease is especially troubling at a time when a growing population demands increased food production.