On 2 December 2019, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) named the year 2020 as the United Nations’ International Year of Plant Health. Click here for more information: http://www.fao.org/plant-health-2020/home/en/

The key objectives of the year are:

  • To raise awareness about plant health being key to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • To highlight the effect of plant health on food security and the ecosystem
  • To share best practices to keep plants healthy while protecting the environment.

With up to 40% of global food crops lost annually due to plant pests, the importance of fostering healthy plants is crucial. Plant diseases and invasive insects cost the global economy around $220 billion and around $70 billion annually, respectively.

Ms Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources, FAO, says, “The International Year of Plant Health is a key initiative to highlight the importance of plant health to enhance food security, protect the environment and biodiversity, and boost economic development.”

FAO, along with the International Plant Protection Convention Secretariat, will spearhead activities related to the International Year of Plant Health, which will include the International Plant Health Conference at Helsinki during 5–8 October 2020.

ICRISAT’s role

ICRISAT researchers have been working to develop processes and technologies to promote and maintain plant health. Recently, Microsoft awarded the AI for Earth grant to ICRISAT for using artificial intelligence, cloud computing and other methods to improve models for pest forecasting and prediction and farm advisory services to support sustainable agriculture in developing parts of the world. Simple, easy-to-use equipment to detect plant diseases have the potential to save hard-earned crops of smallholder farmers.

Furthermore, the fight against the dreaded Fall Armyworm has also seen serious efforts from ICRISAT entomologists. Besides, for decades, the Germplasm Health Units at ICRISAT have been playing a substantial role in carrying out safe, pest-free exchange of plant genetic resources (PGR).

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