Climate change ‘driving spread of crop pests’

Rebecca Morelle at the BBC tells us about evidence that climate change is affecting crop pests. Crop pests are moving North in the Northern Hemisphere, South in the Southern Hemisphere.

Many crop pests are insects and other arthropods. They’re quite small. Others are tiny bacteria. So are they crawling slowly towards the Poles? Er, no. Many pests have wings and many are clever hitchhikers which get transported when people trade between countries. So pests can travel. But where they can settle to live? That’s limited not by their little short legs or their microscopic flagellae or cilia, but by the habitats they find.

As our climates change, the average pest is moving two miles (3km) each year. Me oh my. You might like to think of a place two miles from your home. If your garden or farm doesn’t have a certain pest, but your neighbour’s land has it, that pest might arrive for you next year.

For example you might get the pretty but devastating Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). If you see one of these in Britain, the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) wants to hear from you. In fact this is a notifiable pest. If you see one, the law says you have to tell FERA.

I’m grateful to my fellow blogger Finn Holding at The Naturephile for drawing attention to this.

[Edit] Another blogger, Bob Edlin at AgScience, tells us more. ‘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.

[Edit] Here’s another blogger, narhvalur at With the Sky as the Ceiling, telling us more. ‘Half of the pests are spread by humans, hitchhiking for instance on traded produce, and half are spread by the weather.’

About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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