News / Science & Technology

Crop Pests, Diseases Move to Higher Latitudes

Warmer conditions brought on by climate change are producing more hospitable environments for pests such as the emerald ash borer (seen here).
Warmer conditions brought on by climate change are producing more hospitable environments for pests such as the emerald ash borer (seen here).
Insects and diseases that attack food crops are moving to higher latitudes as climate change alters their habitats, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

With the bulk of the world’s agricultural production today taking place in the temperate zones, the study raises questions about future food security in a warming world.

Plant diseases alone claim an estimated 10 to 16 percent of the world’s crops in the field, experts say, and destroy another 6 to 12 percent after harvest.

Meanwhile, research has shown wild plants and animals are moving toward the poles as the planet gets warmer.

And the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting northward its map of zones suitable for growing certain crops.

“That got us thinking,” said biologist Dan Bebber at the University of Exeter in Britain. “Is a similar process occurring with pests and pathogens that attack our agricultural crops?”

Hundreds of pests

To find out, Bebber turned to reports of first sightings of new insects and diseases around the world. The data came from the agriculture research organization CABI, which began collecting the information from developing and industrialized countries about a century ago and now tracks hundreds of pests and pathogens around the world.

Bebber and his colleagues studied 612 of them - from viruses and bacteria to beetles and butterflies - and found that since 1960, they had shifted toward the poles at an average rate of about 3 kilometers per year.

That puts some of the most productive farmland in the world in danger.

“As new species of pests and diseases evolve and potentially the environment for them becomes more amenable at higher latitudes, the pressure on the breadbaskets of the world is going to increase,” Bebber said.

Invasive hospitality

Farmers have other emerging threats to deal with, as well. Invasive species introduced through global trade and mobility also are a threat to crops. Entomologist Gene Kritsky at Ohio's College of Mount St. Joseph said climate change may make the environment more hospitable for some invasive species.

“It means that species in other parts of the world that might do well in warmer temperatures can now do well in the breadbasket of America.”

Kritsky was not involved in the research, but said it confirms what he’s seen in the field. He added that more species will be able to survive the winters at higher latitudes as temperatures increase.

'We should do something'

Entomologist Christian Krupke at Purdue University in Indiana pointed out that the effects of these shifts will depend very much on the crop, the pest and the disease.

But he said that the research is another warning sign of what may be in store for the future.  

“I think a lot of these papers are all pointing in the same direction that are all saying, ‘OK, we should care about climate change. We should do something other than zero,’” he said.

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: John M from: Annapolis, MD
September 05, 2013 7:22 PM
Climate change is occurring at a faster rate than many species are able to adapt.

by: Babu G. Ranganathan
September 04, 2013 10:34 AM
Dr. Larry Vardiman (scientist and physicist) of the Institue for Creation Research says:

"One possible scenario may be found in a recent series of articles by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Marsh, cosmic ray specialists from Denmark, who have shown an indirect connection between galactic cosmic ray (GCR) intensity and global temperature.7,8,9 They are studying the influence of the Sun on the flow of GCR to Earth. The Sun's changing sunspot activity influences the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth permitting more GCR to strike the Earth during high periods of activity.

When the Sun is active, the intensity of GCR striking the Earth is increased, causing more ionization in the atmosphere, creating more carbon-14, and possibly creating more cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). This increase in CCN, in turn, appears to create more low-level clouds which cool the Earth. When the Sun is quiet the GCR intensity striking the Earth is reduced, allowing the Earth to warm. Svensmark and Marsh have shown a striking statistical correlation between sunspot activity and global cooling and warming over the past 1000 years.

The recent rise in global temperature may partially be due to current low solar activity supplemented by a recent increase in carbon dioxide concentration measured at Mauna Loa. The connection which still needs further study is the production of CCN and clouds by GCR." There is a good deal of science showing that global warming is not mad made. Yes, we still should have pollution controls, as we already do, but not to the extreme because it will unnecessarily hurt business. Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION
Babu G. Ranganathan
B.A. Bible/Biology

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs