Held in Toulouse, France, in October, the workshop “Assessing the State of Global Plant Health in Natural and Cultivated Ecosystems” was sponsored by the Cooperative Research Program of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on the management of biological resources for sustainable agricultural systems. and the International Society of Plant Pathology. These international not-for-profit organizations face social, economic and environmental challenges.
Plant health is linked to human and animal health and economic stability, noted Paul Esker, associate professor of field epidemiology and pathology in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology at the College of Agricultural Sciences.
“It is essential that we have a full understanding of what is happening in various parts of the world – and why – so that we can direct resources, improve extension, prioritize research and develop public policies to improve plant health. “, did he declare.
Esker added that the workshop was an essential step in the Global Plant Health Assessment, a project initiated with support from the International Society of Plant Pathology. The aim is to provide a very first comprehensive assessment of plant health in the world’s natural and man-made ecosystems.
At the workshop, experts from academia, industry, non-governmental organizations and government agencies presented reports focused on different plant systems and ecoregions from around the world. Themes included climate change and plant health, plant health and global food security, the economics of plant health and plant health within ‘One Health’, which is an initiative to achieve optimal health for people, animals and the environment.
All terrestrial ecosystems were considered, ranging from agrosystems to urban vegetation. Recognizing that it is difficult to assess each specific disease, the reports used a qualitative assessment based on scientific and evidence-based data and relied on teams of experts who provided assessments on the general state of health. plants for a given plant system, Esker explained.
These reports covered plant systems such as cereals; fruit trees and grapes; peri-urban horticultural systems and allotment gardens; urban forests and trees; and roots, tubers, bananas and plantains.
On a positive note, cereal crops such as wheat, corn and rice received a good score. However, Esker said that there are situations where provisioning services – which are benefits obtainable from an ecosystem such as food and fiber, drinking water and timber – are in decline in some. parts of the world, especially in Western Europe, South America and sub-Saharan Africa.
He added that in East Asia, growing trends in phytosanitary services and procurement are underway for wheat production.
Trends in fruit trees and grapes suggest poor to good ecosystem services and plant health. Over the past 10 years, however, the trajectories have only been stable or declining, Esker said. An exception to this is for South Asia.
Peri-urban agriculture, which is the production and distribution of food, fiber, and fuel in and around cities, has poor prospects, possibly due to challenges in managing major plant diseases that affect plant species. primaries such as tomato.
Overall, the phytosanitary status of urban forests and trees is fair.
“Although ecosystem services are good to excellent, the trend has been for services to decline over the past 10 years, especially in the Western Hemisphere,” Esker said.
Root vegetables, tubers, bananas, and plantains scored the lowest among the groups, receiving poor to fair plant health. Potato, banana and plantain crops are under threat in Western Europe, South America and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, Esker pointed out, although cultivation and production practices have improved in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. the last decade.
There are many reasons for the decline in plant health; however, changing weather conditions, limited access to extension education and resources related to disease and pest management, and lack of field data are among the main factors.
Another problem is the lack of global plant health policies that call for funding for extension systems and research, address the impact of climate change on plant health, encourage breeding for disease resistance. plants and support the mitigation of unsustainable pesticide use.
“These discussions are important to address critical needs and opportunities to define policy related to global plant health,” said Esker. “The workshop brought together the best of the best in plant health who share the same goal: to save the plants of the world. “
The Global Plant Health Assessment can be found online here.