Plant Production and Protection

About FAO's work on plant Production and Protection

Facts and Figures
Plants make up 80 percent of our daily calories and are responsible for 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe.

However, plant health is at risk due to biotic and abiotic threats, and plant production requires a transformation to sustain the increasing demand for food, feed, fiber and fuell.

Facts and Figures
By 2050, the global food production will need to increase by 50 percent to meet the needs of the growing population.

It is estimated that 80 percent of the projected additional food demand by 2050 will need to come from plant products.

Facts and Figures
Every year, up to 40 percent of global crop production is lost due to plant pests and diseases.

Each year, these losses cost the global economy over USD 220 billion, and invasive insects at least USD 70 billion.

Facts and Figures
The number of people effected by hunger increased from 811 million in 2020 to 828 million in 2021.


The global demand for food, feed, fuel and fibre is increasing, with estimates that the world will need 50 percent more food by 2050 to feed the increasing global population in the context of natural resource constraints, environmental pollution, ecological degradation and climate change. This means we have to produce more with less by increasing productivity and healthy diets, reducing crop and food loss, saving natural resources, minimizing agricultural chemical inputs, and mitigating the impact of climate change.

In this context, plant production and protection focus on:

Sustainable plant genetic resources management and seed systems

Farmers require quality seeds and planting materials of well- adapted improved crop varieties that are productive, nutritious, resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses and, in general, meet end-users’ preferences. This is because the cultivation of an improved crop variety can result in 50 to 90 percent increase in productivity.

Yet, in many food- insecure parts of the world, where crop productivities is extremely low, and countries do not appear on track to attain most of the Sustainable Development Goals, the rates of the adoption of improved crop varieties and the use of their quality seeds are extremely low. 


Sustainable Plant Production

Plant production is the foundation of food and agriculture. Upon this foundation humanity has built livelihoods and its civilization in a more food secure world. Plant production is a catalyst for economic and social development but must keep pace with the demand for safe and nutritious food produced in an environmental-friendly manner. In a global economy, sustainable plant production faces multidimensional and complex challenges, such as population growth, urbanization, and climate change.

By harnessing the power of knowledge, nature, technology and innovation, the work on plant production and protection promotes the transformation of agrifood food systems to be MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable. Through optimization and diversification of production systems while harnessing ecosystems interactions, farmers can achieve sustainable cropping systems with improved soil health and reduced reliance on agri-inputs. The work on plant production and protection focuses on diverse value chains including cacti, cereals, legumes, cover crops, horticultural, neglected and underutilized species, as well as in complex systems dealing with perennial production, agroforestry, protected cultivation and peri-urban and urban systems. 


Sustainable plant pest and disease management

Pests and diseases are a severe threat to food security, trade and livelihoods globally. Every year, up to 40 percent of crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases. FAO promotes sustainable and ecological approaches including integrated pest management to prevent and control the potential impact of pests and diseases through continuous monitoring, early warning, prompt response, innovative and environmentally friendly preventive control strategies to sustainably manage pests and diseases.

This includes coordinating desert locust monitoring, early warning, and forecasting. FAO’s current role in desert locust monitoring and control role dates to 1945 and to the establishment of FAO the Desert Locust Control Committee (DLCC) in 1955. In 2019, FAO also established a Global Action for Fall Armyworm control spanning over Africa, Asia and the Near East. FAO established a partnership with all stakeholders to provide all available support to the affected countries.

FAO hosts the secreteriat of the International Plant Protection Convention, dealing with quarantine pests, and actively coordinates and provides support to a multitude of projects covering transboundary plant pests and diseases. FAO also works on implementing projects on plant diseases like Banana Fusarium tropical race 4 and wheat rust. 

Sustainable pest and pesticide management

Sustainable pesticide management is imperative for better environment and health protection. The inappropriate use of pesticides may lead to increased risks to human health and the environment. Main challenges of global pesticide management include:

  1. Weak capacity of sound lifecycle management of pesticides in low- and low-middle-income countries.
  2. Insufficient elimination of harms caused by highly hazardous pesticides.
  3. Lack of sufficient policies, instruments, good practices and incentives for promoting alternatives to toxic pesticides and mainstreaming biodiversity.

An integrated approach would be applied to address all aspects of pesticide management throughout lifecycle of pesticides with multisector collaboration and engagement of all relevant stakeholders. 

Sustainable technology innovation and transformation

With climate change advancing fast, technologies and practices need more than ever to be locally adapted to meet the needs of producers of different ages and gender, for this and future generations. Research and science need to work alongside farmers to test new tools and approaches and co-create innovations. To do this, farmers should integrate locally adapted sustainable technologies into their farming systems and communities, to improve livelihoods while regenerating local ecosystems.

The FAO Plant Production and Protection Division works with agricultural mechanization technologies and related suitable and tested business models to ease and reduce hard labour, relieve labour shortages, improve productivity and timeliness of agricultural operations, improve efficient use of inputs and resources, enhance market access and contribute to mitigating climate- related hazards. These technologies, including conservation, digital, and precision agriculture are applied in open fields and protected cultivation systems along the value chain, covering all levels of production and processing operations. Mechanization makes agriculture more appealing to youth and allows building micro- and small business in rural communities (e.g. hire mechanization services, or value addition of food products).

FAO's work on plant production and protection also promotes the scaling of the farmer field school (FFS) approach to help farmers make better decisions about sustainable technologies and innovations suitable to their needs. Over the past 30 years, FFS improved the livelihoods of over 12 million farmers globally. The Global FFS Platform produces reference tools and documents; facilitates global exchange of knowledge and expertise; supports capacity development to harness digital and market innovations; and helps integrate FFS and participatory approaches in policies. 

These sustainable production and protection technologies can greatly contribute to ensuring food security and nutrition, promoting food quality and safety, supporting farmers’ livelihoods, protecting the environment and biodiversity, and facilitating safe trade and economic growth.

Achieving an environmentally sustainable increase of production and access to affordable healthy diets, while protecting and enhancing the livelihoods of the world’s small-scale agricultural producers and other agrifood system actors, is a global challenge. Moreover, agricultural production systems still lack integration, optimization, diversification, and innovation, while relying on the intensive use of chemical inputs and of natural resources.

In response to the current and emerging challenges, FAO developed a Strategic Framework 2022–31 endorsed by the 42nd Session of the FAO Conference in June 2021. This framework aims to transform to MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind. It serves as a guiding principle and an innovative business model for FAO support to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda. The Strategic Framework foresees the implementation of 20 Programme Priority Areas (PPAs) – five PPAs under better production and better nutrition, four under better environment and six under better life.

SDG 01 - No Poverty SDG 02 - Zero Hunger SDG 03 - Good Health and Well-Being SDG 05 - Gender Equality SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production SDG 13 - Climate Action SDG 15 - Life on Land
2023 Annual theme:

Enhancing sustainable plant protection through optimization and minimization

FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division developed a five-year communication strategy focused on annual themes that are directly linked to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By promoting these themes, the division wishes to highlight the links between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and FAO’s work on plant production and protection are highlighted.


Learn more about FAO's Plant Production and Protection division