Global warming likely to increase crop loss due to plant pathogens: study

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SYDNEY, May 12 (Xinhua) -- As global temperatures rise over the coming decades, crop loss caused by pathogenic soil fungi is likely to significantly increase, potentially costing growers billions of dollars and threatening international food security, research revealed on Tuesday.

The study sampled a variety of ecosystems, ranging from forests and croplands to deserts in 235 locations, concluding that as the temperature of both soil and air progressively rises over the next 30 years, it will favor the growth of pathogenic soil fungi species.

"Soil-borne plant pathogens already cause hundreds of billions of dollars in crop losses each year," study lead author, Professor Brajesh Singh from Australia's Western Sydney University explained.

"Our study suggests that common plant pathogens such as Fusarium and Alternaria species will become more prevalent under projected global warming scenarios, which will add to the challenges of maintaining world food production alongside other climate change-driven crises and a burgeoning human population."

By using modern DNA sequencing techniques, the team were able to identify which regions globally were more likely to experience the issue -- making it possible to implement interventions ahead of time.

"Combining multiple layers of data offers a very powerful means for pinpointing priority regions," Singh said.

"Since most soil-borne plant pathogenic fungi are difficult to control with chemicals, we can now focus our adaptation and resilience efforts more precisely by targeting the most at-risk regions."

Singh's team advocates for strategies that "promote plant and human health, build healthy soils and use non-chemical methods to win the battle between crops and pathogenic fungi." Enditem

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