The importance of plant health to food security

Abstract

Rapid food price rises have highlighted serious concerns about food security globally and have had a huge impact on achieving Millennium Development Goal 1. Since 2007, an estimated 100 million more people have fallen into absolute poverty. Most live in developing countries where low incomes (less than $1 per day) make it difficult to access food. Access to sufficient food for dietary needs and food preferences defines food security. However, whilst price rises have brought food security into sharp focus, underlying problems need to be addressed. Over the last three to four decades, there has been chronic under-investment in agriculture at all levels. Development aid to agriculture has declined and often in-country policies do not support the sector. Low crop yields are common in many developing countries and improved productivity is vital to reducing rural poverty and increasing food security. Whilst the causes of low productivity are complex, one major contributory factor is crop losses due to plant health problems. Often accurate information on the extent of these losses is missing but estimates of 30–40% loss annually from “field to fork” are common. Any future solution regarding improved global food security must address these losses and that means improving plant health. Two trans-boundary diseases, wheat stem rust race Ug99 and Coffee Wilt Disease of Coffea are highlighted. CABI has a number of plant health initiatives and one radical approach (Global Plant Clinic) involves partnership with in-country services to deliver plant health advice to farmers at the point of demand. Such innovations are entirely consistent with a proposed new “Green Revolution” which would need to be “knowledge intensive”.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my colleagues Dennis Rangi, Dannie Romney, Eric Boa and Gretel White for valuable discussions.

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Correspondence to Julie Flood.

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Flood, J. The importance of plant health to food security. Food Sec. 2, 215–231 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-010-0072-5

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Keywords

  • Millennium Development Goal
  • Food security
  • Plant health
  • Crop productivity
  • Ug99
  • Coffee Wilt Disease
  • Global Plant Clinic
  • COPE