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Climate Change and Fungal Disease Threatens Global Wheat Production: A Call for Urgent Mitigation Measures

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Ayanna Amadi
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Climate Change and Fungal Disease Threatens Global Wheat Production: A Call for Urgent Mitigation Measures

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The Threat of Fungal Blast Disease

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A new study predicts a bleak future for global wheat production as it faces a significant threat from a fungal blast disease. This disease, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, is on the rise due to climate change conditions, primarily in tropical regions. The study estimates that by 2050, this disease could lead to a 13% reduction in global wheat production. This translates to an annual loss of a staggering 60 million tons of wheat, wreaking havoc on global food security, particularly in South America, Southern Africa, and Asia.

The Growing Concern of Wheat Blast

Discovered in Brazil in the 1980s, wheat blast has since spread to both neighbouring and distant countries, causing remarkable yield losses. The disease thrives in warm, humid conditions, making it an imminent threat under climate change scenarios. The study combines data from a simulation model for wheat growth and yield with a newly developed wheat blast model, taking into account environmental conditions and plant growth data. The research found that disease pressure is notably sensitive when the ear matures, and other climate change consequences could further diminish yields.

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The Impact on Wheat-Dependent Populations

In many regions, populations heavily rely on wheat-based diets. In particular, South America, Southern Africa, and Asia are set to be the most affected by the disease. Up to 75% of the wheat cultivation area in these regions could be at risk in the coming decades, with new cases of the disease being registered in previously untouched areas. This leads to concerns about micronutrient deficiencies in these populations, exacerbating the existing food insecurity caused by the direct consequences of climate change.

Addressing the Impending Nutrition Crisis

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The study calls for urgent action to address this impending nutrition crisis. It emphasizes the necessity of adopting mitigation strategies, which include ensuring the resilience of new cultivars, identifying and integrating disease management strategies, and equipping farmers with the tools they need to combat this crisis. The researchers also highlight the importance of increasing crop diversity for food supply to adapt to the disease threat caused by climate change, reducing reliance on a single crop type.

Looking for New Solutions

The potential challenges posed by reduced wheat production underscore the urgency of finding new solutions to ensure nutritional adequacy in the affected regions. These could include switching to more robust crops to avoid crop failures and financial losses. As the affected regions are among the areas most severely impacted by the direct consequences of climate change, farmers and policymakers alike must confront this threat head-on to secure future food production and, ultimately, global food security.

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