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Climate change also results in more agricultural pests and diseases, farmer says

Published in Kaieteur News, 7 Oct 2013

October 8, 2013

The impact of climate change on the Caribbean is not limited to shrinking coastlines, more frequent and intense droughts and increasing floods and landslides.

Farmers are facing specific challenges as the pests and diseases that affect their crops continue to evolve as the climate changes in the region.

As Caribbean Week of Agriculture continued here on Sunday, Antiguan Pamella Thomas gave a farmer's perspective on managing current and expected impacts of pests due to climate change.

Thomas, who is a member of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), explained that a physically stressful environment in changing climate will impact negatively the diversity and abundance of insect-pest.

She told a workshop on combatting the threat of pest outbreaks under climate variability and change that such a situation will ultimately negatively affect the extent of damage caused in economically important agricultural crops.

"This will encroach perilously on the agricultural production and livelihood of farmers, especially in tropical and subtropical countries, in particular, those countries where large proportion of work is directly dependant on agriculture," she said.

"No doubt, climate change induces challenges that farmers have to face in managing harmful insect pest, coupled with socio-economic impacts on the entire society. Therefore, we must engage in planning and developing adaptive strategies to lessen the yield losses and thereby safeguarding the food security of our nations," Thomas further stated.

Thomas outlined some of the current effects of climate change on crop-pest management.

Higher temperatures increases the incidences of certain soil borne diseases, such as pink rot of potatoes.

She also mentioned the negative effects of broad mites on peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes and added that wet conditions increases the incidences of diseases such as blights and bacterial conditions.

She mentioned loss of ecological biodiversity, expansion of geographic ranges of pests and diseases, increase in the number of generations, the risk of introducing invasive alien species, and reduced effectiveness of biological control agents.

Regarding the socio-economic impacts of changing pest scenario, Thomas said climate change driven changes in populations of insect-pests and resultant crop losses will have serious environmental and socio-economic impacts on rural farmers whose livelihoods depend directly on agriculture.

She also spoke of new and intense pest problems, reduced effectiveness of pest management strategies and the implications for food security.

The challenges for agriculture in the Caribbean in the face of these realities is to develop climate-resilient varieties, rescheduling of crop calendars, and the screening of pesticides with novel mode of actions, she said.