Global warming could see China hit with twice as many crop pests and diseases by the turn of the century, threatening the country’s food security, scientists have warned.
An international team of researchers has said that if the world fails to limit greenhouse gas emissions, causing global temperatures to rise more than 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, there would have a doubling of pests and diseases of crops (CPD).
Why did an ancient civilization collapse? Scientists highlight the climate
But if the temperature increase could be kept below 2 degrees Celsius, there would be only a slight increase from 2020 levels, in which case agricultural technology would be key to pest management.
Do you have questions on the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new curated content platform with explanations, FAQs, analysis and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
“With the expected increasing risk of occurrence of CPD, the next priority would be to develop adaptive management of CPD… published in the journal Natural food this month.
China, with a population of 1.4 billion, is the world’s largest producer of the main grain crops (rice, wheat and corn), all of which are the main hosts of pests and diseases like fungi, according to the researchers.
Analysis by the team of scientists from the UK, China, France, Germany, Sweden and the United States showed that the prevalence of CPD nationwide quadrupled on average between 1970 and 2016, affecting all provinces in China.
The researchers said the problem is particularly severe in two of the main agricultural production areas, the plains of north China and the low-middle Yangtze plains to the east.
The team found that historic climate change was responsible for more than a fifth of the increased occurrence of CPD, especially in northern and southwestern China, and identified higher nighttime temperatures. hot as a major factor.
As an example of the risk facing the country’s agriculture, they cited the fall armyworm, which feeds on crops.
In 2019, the pest spread to 26 provinces, infesting more than 112 million hectares of cropland – and the team warned it “is expected to cause greater damage in the years to come.”
The researchers based their analysis on more than 5,000 investigative records reported by the China National Agricultural Technology Extension and Service Center.
“Good progress has been made”: Chinese climate advisor considers COP26 a success
They also said that lowering the number of frost days could dramatically increase the spread of pests and crop diseases in the “business-as-usual” scenario in which the world has done little to tackle climate change.
“The higher winter survival rate means a larger population of first generation pests the following year,” they said.
“Since most of the world’s breadbasket is located in temperate zones, fewer frost days per year in this region in a warming future may exacerbate the occurrence of CPD in major crop producing regions. crops, which may affect the global crop supply and international agricultural trade.
“When the nighttime temperature rises and the number of frost days – in which some pests might die – decreases, the environment becomes more favorable for these pests and host crops may suffer more,” said Wang Xuhui, co -author of the study. assistant professor at the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences at Peking University, said.
“In the face of future climate change, crops are at greater risk from pests and diseases, which could threaten food security.
“But crop loss could be limited if appropriate management and technologies could be applied to minimize the impacts of pests and diseases on crops,” he said, urging policymakers to further support future crop assessments. risks and advances in agricultural technologies.
More from South China Morning Post:
For the latest news from the South China Morning Post, download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.