Three new UN resolutions focus on plant health, pulses and food safety

Identification of dry root rot in chickpea using Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification Method (LAMP). Photo: ICRISAT

Identification of dry root rot in chickpea using Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification Method (LAMP). Photo: ICRISAT

The United Nations General Assembly has declared two new ‘International Days’ and one ‘Year’ devoted to central issues in global food security and nutrition. With these it hopes to create a conversation and generate solutions to concerns about plant health, food safety and pulses.

2020 to be International Year of Plant Health

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 of the Food and Agriculture Organization (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. An International Plant Health Conference will be among thousands of plant health events to be held around the world during the course of 2020.

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).

World Pulses Day on 10 February

After the year 2016 as the International Year of Pulses, the positive momentum surrounding pulses – protein-rich, nitrogen-fixing legumes – will continue, with the UN declaring 10 February as World Pulses Day.

Growing pulses contributes to sustainable crop production and creating a viable market for them is essential to promote cultivation among smallholder farmers. For knowledge sharing regarding cultivation, processing and marketing of pulses, ICRISAT has conducted several training sessions for researchers and extension workers in India and other countries. Experts from the institution have also periodically given inputs to policy makers on sustainable approaches to achieve self-sufficiency in pulses.

World Food Safety Day on 7 June

Indian farmers with newly harvested pulses. Photo: ICRISAT

Indian farmers with newly harvested pulses. Photo: ICRISAT

An increasingly important issue in interconnected food systems, food safety gets highlighted by the UN resolution recognizing that “there is no food security without food safety”.

ICRISAT has focused on finding multipronged solutions for certain food safety concerns such as aflatoxin, which threatens about five billion people. From disseminating good agricultural practices to prevent aflatoxin contamination to developing new, aflatoxin-resistant groundnut varieties, ICRISAT researchers are at the forefront to combat threats to food safety.

Adapted from http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1175295/icode/

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