Spread of Crop Pests Threatens Global Food Security as Earth Warms
News Sep 06, 2013
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change and carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Oxford, shows a strong relationship between increased global temperatures over the past 50 years and expansion in the range of crop pests.
Currently 10-16% of global crop production is lost to pests. Crop pests include fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, nematodes, viroids and oomycetes. The diversity of crop pests continues to expand and new strains are continually evolving. Losses of major crops to fungi, and fungi-like microorganisms, amount to enough to feed nearly nine percent of today's global population. The study suggests that these figures will increase further if global temperatures continue to rise as predicted.
The spread of pests is caused by both human activities and natural processes but is thought to be primarily the result of international freight transportation. The study suggests that the warming climate is allowing pests to become established in previously unsuitable regions. For example, warming generally stimulates insect herbivory at higher latitudes as seen in outbreaks of the Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) that has destroyed large areas of pine forest in the US Pacific Northwest. In addition, the rice blast fungus which is present in over 80 countries, and has a dramatic effect both on the agricultural economy and ecosystem health, has now moved to wheat. Considered a new disease, wheat blast is sharply reducing wheat yields in Brazil.
Dr Dan Bebber from the University of Exeter said: “If crop pests continue to march polewards as the Earth warms the combined effects of a growing world population and the increased loss of crops to pests will pose a serious threat to global food security.”
Professor Sarah Gurr from the University of Exeter (previously at the University of Oxford) said: “Renewed efforts are required to monitor the spread of crop pests and to control their movement from region to region if we are to halt the relentless destruction of crops across the world in the face of climate change.”
The study used published observations of the distribution of 612 crop pests collected over the past 50 years. It revealed that the movement of pests north and south towards the poles, and into new previously un-colonised regions, corresponds to increased temperatures during that period.
Energy Drinks Pose Health Risk for YoungstersNews
In a nationwide survey of Canadian youth, over half of those who had ever consumed an energy drink had reported experiencing an adverse health event, including rapid heartbeat, nausea, and in rare cases, seizures. Currently, Canadian legislation is meant to prohibit energy drinks from being marketed to children and energy drinks are not recommend to be used by people participating in sporting activities.READ MORE
Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria Are Unexpected Source of MethaneNews
An unexpected source of methane in the environment has been inadvertently discovered. Recent research reveals that the enzyme that allows microorganisms to fix nitrogen also enables them to convert nitrogen gas to ammonia and carbon dioxide into methane at the same time. The ammonia is the main product; the methane is only a sideline.READ MORE