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

 - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is warning countries to step up monitoring, reporting and prevention of one of the world’s most ...read more
17/04/2014
 - Preventing transboundary diseases and pests and threats to the food chain saves lives, saves livelihoods, and saves money. Prevention includes actions such as vaccination, hygiene, good practices, ...read more
03/02/2014
 - Although the consumption of cassava in northern Uganda reduced during the 20 years of war and displacement, the crop is now back in the diet of ...read more
28/11/2013
 - Malagasy Migratory Locust swarm observed on 26/09/2013 at 115km northwest of Tsiroanomandidy (45,4°E/17,9°S) at around 3:00 p.m. This swarm flew over the survey team for more than ...read more
18/10/2013
 - Cultivated mainly on marginal lands by small-scale farmers, cassava is an inexpensive and essential part of the diet of vulnerable communities across Africa. Millions of people ...read more
10/10/2013
 - The future of cassava, one of Africa’s most promising and climate-resilient crops, may be under threat if efforts to renew the fight against diseases affecting the ...read more
16/09/2013
 - Reduce the risks of wheat rust diseases causing crop losses and threatening the livelihood of resource-poor farmers. This project was designed and implemented to provide technical ...read more
13/09/2013
 - In response to the armyworm outbreak, which affected Lesotho in January and February 2013, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) and the Food and ...read more
10/09/2013
 - Cassava production is under threat as two viruses are raging through the fields of small-scale farmers in East and Central Africa. The Regional Cassava Initiative, coordinated ...read more
22/08/2013
 - Cassava production is under threat as two viruses are raging through the fields of small-scale farmers in East and Central Africa. The Regional Cassava Initiative, coordinated ...read more
22/08/2013
1 2 3 4 5