February 20, 2019

Hotter climate 'will cause an insect plague'

01 September 2018, 10:19 | Silvia Roy

Yields of maize and other crops could fall because of growing pest populationsRICCARDO GANGALE GETTY IMAGES

Yields of maize and other crops could fall because of growing pest populations

The US, the world's largest maize producer, could see an nearly 40 percent increase in insect-induced maize losses under current climate warming trajectories, a reduction of more than 20 million tons annually. Their populations can also increase.

This is bound to put pressure on the world's leading cereal crops, says study co-author Curtis Deutsch.

"Insect pests now consume the equivalent of one out of every 12 loaves of bread (before they ever get made). "First, warmer temperatures increase insect metabolic rates exponentially". "Rarely has it been attempted to link temperature responses of pest insects and the damage they cause under warming more widely, and never on a global scale", writes Markus Riegler in a related Perspective.

"Global warming impacts on pest infestations will aggravate the problems of food insecurity and environmental damages from agriculture worldwide", said co-author Rosamond Naylor, a professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University and founding director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment.

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The team put laboratory data from 38 insect species into the mathematical model. The effect is that warming would both boost insect populations, and speed up their metabolisms-a double whammy that would endanger local crops.

These insects could increase their consumption of these three crops by between 10-percent and 25-percent versus current levels....and those percentages are for every degree the temperature increases. The study also reveals that pest numbers may increase in our warmer future.

Which regions would be affected?

Not only will they spread more disease - they will eat more crops, researchers reported Thursday. The study predicts that crops losses will rise to about 50% by the end of 2,100 for wheat, while rice and maize will lose approximately 20% and 30%, respectively. "If you increase the temperature a couple degrees you can see the population growing much faster". Bug damage to Russia's rice crop would jump sixfold.

Image copyright SPL Image caption Voracious: The European corn borer is expected to expand its range in warmer climes How will things play out? It is, as of now, the most productive wheat farming region in the world and pest projected pest impacts on European wheat could yield losses of over 16 million tons. Grains make up an astounding 42% of the calories that humans consume, so if their yields are undermined, it would have a huge impact on global nutrition-unless we start preparing now for this future threat.

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Climate models suggest global surface temperatures could rise by 2-5 degrees by 2100. These factors include plant pathogens carried by the insects, changed rainfall patterns and increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

"It's a general model". Prof Tewksbury told the BBC.

Pesticides use is common in Europe and especially the UK.

Reduced yields in these three staple crops are a particular concern, because so many people around the world rely on them.

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Other adaptive solutions might include shifting planting dates, rotating crops more and planting crops that are more resilient to pests.

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