, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 113-132
Date: 16 Apr 2010

Emerging infectious diseases of crop plants in developing countries: impact on agriculture and socio-economic consequences

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Abstract

Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) caused by plant pathogens can develop into unexpected and very serious epidemics, owing to the influence of various characteristics of the pathogen, host and environment. Devastating epidemics, having social implications by increasing the rate of urbanization, occurred in the past in Europe, and many other EIDs still occur with high frequency in developing countries. Although the ability to diagnose diseases and the technologies available for their control are far greater than in the past, EIDs are still able to cause tremendous crop losses, the economic and social impact of which, in developing countries, is often underestimated. In the present article, four of the most important EIDs in developing countries are considered from the standpoint of their origin, characteristics, symptoms, mode of spread, possible control strategies, economic impact and the socio-economic consequences of their dissemination. They are Cassava Mosaic Virus Disease, capable of reducing yields by 80–90% and causing the suspension of cassava cultivation in many areas of East Africa; Striga hermonthica, a parasitic weed affecting cereals in an area of at least 5 million hectares in Sub-Saharan Africa; Xanthomonas Wilt of Banana, a bacterial disease that caused around 50% yield losses at the beginning of 21st century in Uganda and is threatening the food security of about 70 million people owing to its impact on an important staple crop; and race Ug99 of the rust fungus Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici, which is having a tremendous impact on wheat in Uganda, and is also threatening most of the wheat-growing countries of the world.

Authors have contributed equally to the preparation of the manuscript. Dr. Bonciani prepared the paragraphs relating to the economic and social impact of the case-studies considered.
The paper has been derived from an invited oral presentation entitled “Emerging infectious diseases” during a Conference on “Socio-economic impact of plant disease” organized by the Accademia of Georgofili and held in Florence on 26 November 2009.