Dr Rajan Sharma, Head, Plant Quarantine Unit at ICRISAT, accepting an award for scientific achievement at IPPC2019. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Want to ensure food security? Outsmart climate change to protect crops from pests, diseases and weeds

Dr Rajan Sharma, Head, Plant Quarantine Unit at ICRISAT, accepting an award for scientific achievement at IPPC2019. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr Rajan Sharma, Head, Plant Quarantine Unit at ICRISAT, accepting an award for scientific achievement at IPPC2019. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Climate change makes the challenge of crop protection highly formidable, said Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), even as he called for a “global plan” for “global pests” like Fall armyworm at the inaugural of the 19th International Plant Protection Congress (IPPC), which was held for the first time in India.

“A segmented approach to tackling global pests will not work. We need a global plan. Integrated pest management approach has helped us increase yields thus far. We also need to further explore biological control mechanisms, enhance surveillance and monitoring, and exhaustively screen our crop germplasm for host resistance,” Dr Mohapatra said.

Entomologists, plant pathologists, nematologists and weed science experts gathered in Hyderabad to discuss crop protection against the backdrop of climate change. The congress is convened by the International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) every four years and this year was organized by ICRISAT and Crop Protection Societies in India. IPPC2019 was themed ‘Crop Protection to Outsmart Climate Change for Food Security & Environmental Conservation’.

Globally, insect pests, diseases and weeds result in 35 – 40% loss in crop yields, valued at over US$ 250 billion, despite application of pesticides costing nearly US$ 35 billion annually. In general, pest associated losses vary from 13.8% to 35.8%, which at times reach 100% during outbreaks.

Dr Hari Sharma, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee of IPPC2019, said, “It is heartening to note that the IPPC is being held for the first time in India in its 70-year history. The Congress will provide us a unique opportunity to learn about the advances made in crop protection internationally.”

IPPC2019 saw discussions around developing pest management strategies to mitigate adverse effects of global warming and climate change. Scientists also deliberated on identifying and developing crop cultivars that are stable in expression of resistance to target insect pests and diseases under variable climatic conditions, combine host plant resistance from germplasm that is stable across environments and place emphasis on developing crop cultivars that are hospitable to the natural enemies of the crop pests.

The sessions provided a greater understanding of the effects of climate change on efficacy of synthetic pesticides, their degradation and persistence in the environment, and develop pesticide formulations and application equipment that will be least affected by climate change.

Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT, spoke about pests invasions due to climate change factors like increasing temperature and changes in precipitation patterns. “Blast in pearl millet was not known about 10 years ago. Often, when we do crop modelling exercises we do not account biotic stresses to crops. But it is because of efforts of crop protection experts that those models work fairly well,” he said.

IAPPS also recognized five scientists with awards for distinction, scientific achievement and lifetime achievement during the inaugural session.

Prof Karim Maredia of the Department of Entomology, Michigan State University and Prof Charles Vincent, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada were honored with distinction awards for their contributions to pest management.

Dr Hari C Sharma, Ex-Vice Chancellor, Dr Yashvant Singh Parmar University of Horticulture & Forestry and Ex-Principal Scientist – Entomology, ICRISAT, was awarded for lifetime achievement.

Dr Rajan Sharma Principal Scientist, Cereals Pathology, and Head of ICRISAT’s Plant Quarantine Unit, and Dr Mukesh K Dhillon Principal Scientist – Entomology, Division of Entomology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, were awarded for scientific achievements at the Congress.

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