International Plant Health Day

The May 12th is the international day of plant health (IDPH). IDPH aims to spread awareness around the world. By protecting plants, we can achieve several goals: ending hunger, reducing poverty, safeguarding the variety of life on Earth (biodiversity), and even growing economies!
Human well-being and the health of our planet are inextricably linked to the well-being of plants. They are the foundation of life on Earth, providing the oxygen we breathe, a significant portion of our food supply, and the natural fibers forming our clothing and building materials. However, a substantial portion of global food production, estimated at up to 40%, is lost annually due to plant pests and diseases. This significant loss has a detrimental impact on global food security and agricultural productivity, which is the primary source of income for many vulnerable rural communities.

plants’ biggest environmental problem
Throughout the past 10000 years, cultivated crops have endured a persistent challenge: a multitude of harmful pests that significantly diminish agricultural yields. This consequent reduction in food production has the potential to induce widespread food insecurity and even societal unrest. Classical examples of the damage caused by crop and forest diseases include the Irish potato famine caused by Phytophthora infestans in the 1840s, the devastating impact of coffee rust in Ceylon caused by Hemileia vastatrix in the 1860s, and the Great Bengal Famine in 1943 caused by Helminthosporium oryzae.

Climate change and it’s effect
Climate change refers to a long-term rise in average temperatures across the Earth’s surface, including both land and oceans. This increase is typically measured over 30 years. Scientists often use the period 1850-1900 as a benchmark, representing pre-industrial temperatures. Compared to this baseline, global temperatures have risen by an estimated 0.87 degrees Celsius during the decade 2006-2015.
Environmental factors, particularly temperature, significantly influence the life cycles of insect pests, pathogens, and weeds. These factors impact survival, reproduction, and dispersal, often working in combination.  Temperature holds particular importance as it directly affects the physiological processes of most pest species (Juroszek et al., 2020). For instance, warmer temperatures can favor both plant viruses and their insect carriers, until a critical maximum temperature is reached (Trebicki, 2020).
Field studies support this connection. A three-year experiment on maize crops in the tropics (Reynaud et al., 2009) demonstrated a strong correlation between temperature, the incidence of maize streak disease (caused by a virus), and the abundance of its leafhopper vector. While both increased rapidly above 24°C, temperatures exceeding 30°C appeared detrimental to the leafhopper population and subsequent virus transmission (Juroszek and von Tiedemann, 2013c).  These observations suggest that global warming may promote populations of many insect vectors and the viruses they transmit, at least within a specific temperature range. 

What should be done
Securing plant health requires a collaborative effort from various stakeholders.
• Policymakers: Prioritize plant health legislation that prevents outbreaks, promotes sustainable pest control, strengthens monitoring, and facilitates safe trade with international standards. Invest in research, capacity building, and empowering plant protection organizations.
• Public: Be aware of pest risks when bringing plants across borders, especially through e-commerce channels. Purchase from reputable companies with phytosanitary certification.
• Media: Communicate plant health messages in local languages to a broad audience.
• Schools: Educate children about plant diseases, their impact on food security, and the dangers of “hitchhiking pests.” Encourage them to inform their families about these risks.
• Farmers: Use certified pest-free seeds, monitor crops regularly, and report unusual pests. Adopt environmentally friendly pest management practices, including biological controls that protect pollinators.
• NGOs and Cooperatives: Raise farmer awareness of best practices, provide practical support, and coordinate actions among local stakeholders.
• Donors: Invest in new and existing plant health initiatives and technologies.
• Private Sector: Promote eco-friendly products and practices, invest in phytosanitary research, and contribute to developing international standards.
• Transportation and Trade Sectors: Implement international standards, comply with existing regulations, and adopt innovative solutions like electronic phytosanitary certificates.
on 12 May 2023, Plant health took center stage around the globe as over 40 countries came together to observe the second International Day of Plant Health. In the lead-up to the International Day of Plant Health, a global effort reached over 34 million people. This impactful campaign employed various educational tools. Virtual webinars and plant health clinics disseminated knowledge on safeguarding plants from pests and diseases. Schools fostered engagement through plant health outings and activities, instilling in children the importance of plant health. Additionally, cities hosted public parades and rallies, effectively raising awareness for this crucial cause.

How to get involved
• Make plant health a commitment this #PlantHealthDay. Get people talking by posting interesting plant health facts on your channels this #PlantHealthDay.
• Organize an event such as a morning tea or promotional activity to get involved.
• Invite national or local media to cover your event or to talk about your organization’s work on protecting plant health.
Everything you need to create your own event and promote International Day of Plant Health is right here, Keeping plants healthy is essential for life on earth and all of us have a role to play. Join us for the global call to action this #PlantHealth Day on 12 May 2024.

Hiwa Sabir

Hiwa Sabir

Erbil - Local Media Officer