Home > Emergencies > Plant pests and diseases

FAO in emergencies app

Download now!

Connect with us

Desert locust

Plant pests and diseases

Transboundary plant pests and diseases affect food crops, causing significant losses to farmers and threatening food security.

The spread of transboundary plant pests and diseases has increased dramatically in recent years. Globalization, trade and climate change, as well as reduced resilience in production systems due to decades of agricultural intensification, have all played a part.

Transboundary plant pests and diseases can easily spread to several countries and reach epidemic proportions. Outbreaks and upsurges can cause huge losses to crops and pastures, threatening the livelihoods of vulnerable farmers and the food and nutrition security of millions at a time.

Locusts, armyworm, fruit flies, banana diseases, cassava diseases and wheat rusts are among the most destructive transboundary plant pests and diseases. Plant pests and diseases spread in three principal ways:

  • trade or other human-migrated movement
  • environmental forces – weather and windborne
  • insect or other vector-borne – pathogens

Cassava virus diseases

Cassava Mosaic and Brown Streak virus diseases continue to affect the main food crop – cassava – throughout the Great Lakes region of Eastern and Southern Africa. In Africa, an estimated 70 million people are dependent on cassava as a primary source of food contributing over 500 kcal per day per person.

Cassava is produced mostly by smallholders on marginal and sub-marginal lands in the humid and semi-humid tropics. It is efficient in carbohydrate production, adapted to a wide range of environments and tolerant to drought and acidic soils.

The FAO strategic programme framework “Cassava diseases in central, eastern and southern Africa” (CaCESA) assists cassava-dependent vulnerable populations through better control and management of pests and diseases in central, eastern and southern regions of Africa. FAO provides technical assistance to national institutions to establish effective surveillance approaches, integrated management procedures, farmer training and capacity building. FAO initiatives promote integrated approaches, strengthening linkages among the stakeholders and promoting regional collaboration.

Desert locust

The Desert Locust migrates in swarms across continents and is a potential threat to the livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s population. This pest is a serious menace to agricultural production in Africa, the Near East and Southwest Asia. A locust can eat its own weight (about 2 grams) in plants every day. That means one million locusts can eat about one tonne of food each day, and the largest swarms can consume over 100 000 tonnes each day, or enough to feed tens of thousands of people for one year.

In 2012, the Desert Locust threat in the Sahel was controlled thanks to timely contributions of USD 8.2 million and a decade of strengthening national capacities and regional coordination in the framework of the FAO Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES), through the FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Western Region (CLCPRO).

FAO's Desert Locust Information Service monitors the locust situation and provides early warning to countries and donors on an on-going basis. Through the FAO Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES) and the three regional locust commissions, national capacities in early warning, early reaction and contingency planning are constantly being strengthened so locust emergencies can be better managed and the frequency and duration of Desert Locust plagues can be reduced.

Wheat rusts

Wheat rust diseases with continuous evolution of new pathotypes and airborne nature pose a serious threat to wheat production worldwide. Their impact is more pronounced across the major wheat growing regions including East Africa, North Africa, Middle East and Asia. It is estimated that 37% of world's wheat is under risk of potential epidemics of yellow, stem or leaf rust diseases.

FAO promotes and supports global efforts for monitoring and management of wheat rust diseases – as a member of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative. FAO provides technical support to countries at risk of rust epidemics. FAO assistance includes capacity building, surveillance and monitoring, seed systems, contingency planning, strengthening linkages among institutions and stakeholders, enhancing research–extension–farmer links, training of officers and farmers and emergency responses where necessary.

Related Topics

 - FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva calls on the international community for urgent support - a combination of immediate food assistance and food production support in ...read more
11/04/2017
 - The crisis afflicting the strife-torn Lake Chad Basin is rooted in decades of neglect, lack of rural development and the impact of climate change, and the ...read more
11/04/2017
 - Livestock ownership is of considerable importance for Yemen’s rural population. Households typically keep sheep, goats and cattle, and rely on the consumption and sale of their ...read more
10/04/2017
 - Six months ago, Haiti was severely hit by Hurricane Matthew. Here, as in the other departments of the southern part of the country, people have lost ...read more
10/04/2017
 - It is imperative to immediately ramp up humanitarian assistance to hunger-threatened rural communities in the strife-torn Lake Chad Basin region, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva ...read more
07/04/2017
 - FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva this week undertook his first ever official visit to Chad as part of urgent efforts to draw the attention of ...read more
07/04/2017
 - Key messages Restoring agricultural livelihoods is a priority to avoid a further deterioration of the food security situation of displaced people and host communities in the coming ...read more
06/04/2017
 - Highlights 26 new trainees embarked on the journey to become field epidemiologists – CFETPV 4th cohort 1st module on outbreak investigation. FAO and WHO in China gather partners ...read more
05/04/2017
 - Prince Charles of Wales today visited FAO where he was briefed by officials from the three Rome-based UN food agencies on the massive hunger crises facing ...read more
05/04/2017
 - Une vision commune Suite aux élections présidentielles de février 2016, la République centrafricaine est retournée à l’ordre constitutionnel, après près de trois ans de conflits armés et ...read more
05/04/2017