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Focus on... Crop diseases

It is estimated that 40 per cent of crops are lost before harvest due to pests and diseases, causing significant losses to farmers and threatening food security. The spread of plant diseases has increased dramatically in recent years: globalisation, trade, climate change, and reduced resilience in production systems due to agricultural intensification have all played a part. But new diseases, as well as changes in existing pathogens, are also a serious threat.

In this edition we focus on some of the most destructive diseases and the latest approaches to controlling them, from renewed efforts to contain and clamp down on cassava witches' broom disease in Southeast Asia, to the implementation of a global wheat rust tracking system, the use of breeding to combat rice blast, and provision of training to extension officers in crop protection.

Risk assessment and surveillance for prevention of crop pest outbreaks - a new model for Africa

Risk assessment and surveillance for prevention of crop pest outbreaks - a new model for Africa

Julian Smith from the UK's Food and Environment Research Agency explains why many functions of the plant health and food safety services in Africa need to be devolved to the private sector and local communities. National institutes, meanwhile, need to refocus on policy and governance, and build strong communities at regional level to respond to disease and pest threats and pre-empt outbreaks.

Date published: January 2014

Witches' broom - a curse on cassava

Witches' broom - a curse on cassava

In Southeast Asia, a multi-pronged approach, which includes researcher and farmer training as well as strengthening response systems, is being adopted in order to contain witches' broom disease, which threatens up to 40 million smallholder farmers in the region who depend on cassava.

Date published: January 2014

Keeping track of rust

Keeping track of rust

'The disease that never sleeps' is how Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug once described wheat rust, a group of deadly, constantly changing fungal pathogens that pose a dangerous threat to food security worldwide. So to protect the world's wheat crop, scientists have implemented a global rust tracking system, to try to stay ahead of their evolving enemy.

Date published: January 2014

Beating blast

Beating blast

To effectively combat rice blast, a rice fungal disease, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has been working to combine different race-specific genes and genes conferring general resistance to all races.

Date published: January 2014

'Trading up' through plant health

'Trading up' through plant health

The newly launched Food Supply Chain Academy aims to improve the access of smallholder farmers to international trade by training extension officers and outgrower coordinators in crop protection and other trade-relevant topics. It will initially focus on improving supply chains for fresh and durable farm produce in South East Asia, including China.

Date published: January 2014

 

 

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