- May 6, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Subject: Science and Tech
Context: Increasing disease, aided by climate change, risk to global food security.
More on the News:
- A rapid surge in fungal attacks on the world’s most important crops, worsened by climate change, could become a “catastrophe” for the world’s food supply, scientists have warned.
- The five most important crops for humanity — rice, wheat, maize, soyabeans and potato — are vulnerable to fungal diseases such as rice blast fungus, wheat stem rust, corn smut, soybean rust and potato late blight, all caused by water mould oomycete.
- The Food and Agricultural Organization has identified hundreds of fungal diseases that affect 168 crops crucial to provide nutrition to humans. The devastating impact of fungal diseases will worsen due to climate change, the researchers pointed out.
- The rising temperatures are causing fungal infections to move steadily towards the poles, about seven kilometres a year. Citing an example, they said wheat stem rust infections, usually reported in tropical countries, have been found in England and Ireland.
- Fungus, which is primarily a pathogen, produce massive amounts of spores which can remain active in the soil for up to 40 years, they added.
- Higher temperatures encourage the development of new fungal pathogen variants. Extreme weather conditions such as storms or tornados can spread the spores in wider geographic ranges, they stated. For instance, wheat stem rust produces airborne spores that can travel across continents.
- The scientists further claimed that practising monoculture in modern agriculture had become ideal grounds for fungus to feed on entire crops and breed. Such cropping patterns have enabled the fungus to quickly evolve and develop resistance to the fungicides.
- The use of antifungals has spiked in agriculture, leading to more fungicide-resistant
- The researchers expressed fears that increasing temperatures due to global warming will change the relationship between plants and microbiomes, including the endophytic fungi and organisms that co-exist in a single host plant. However, these can develop into fungi as a response to environmental stresses.
- The fungus can threaten food security as the pressure on food systems increases with the growing human population. The global population is estimated to grow to 9.7 billion in the next 30 years.
- Despite the threats, the researchers hope to battle the situation by moving away from a single-target site fungicide approach to developing compounds that fight multiple pathogens.