CABI compiles list of worst plant pests threatening world crops

Agricultural pests have long been considered one of the greatest threats to food security. Insect pests and diseases cause about a 40% loss in global production each year. And scientists warn that the problem will probably get worse.

In a November article on the BBC News, Dr. Matthew Cock, chief scientist for CABI, a UK-based agri-environment research organization, presented his list of the worst plant pests that threaten crops throughout the world. His intent was to raise awareness of the diversity of pests and diseases that threaten crops, not to recommend where government funding should go. If you would like more information about Dr. Cock or to address him with your concerns, go to his Plantwise blog.

The list below does not necessarily represent the priorities of the Southern Region IPM Center.


Worst historical pest:

  • Desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, an insect that flies in from time to time, consumes a very wide range of crops and strips a field bare in an hour.
  • Human beings, for introducing invasive pests to habitats both accidentally and sometimes deliberately (as in the case of witches’ broom disease of cocoa in Brazil)

Hardest pest to control:

  • South American rubber blight, Microcyclus ulei
  • Coffee wilt disease, Fusarium xylarioides

Most expensive pest to control:

  • Western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera, a highly resistant pest to GM crops, although there are recent signs that resistance may be breaking down.

Pest of greatest human impact:

  • Potato blight, Phytophthora infestans, which caused the Irish potato famine (1845-1852), decreasing the population in Ireland by 24%.
  • Coffee leaf rust, Hemilaea vastatrix, said to have led to the switch to tea drinking in the UK.

Worst stored product pest:

  • The Khapra beetle, Trogoderma granarium, which feeds on a variety of dried materials and is resistant to insecticides. Infestations can cause up to 70% grain loss.

Worst climate change threat:

  • Mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, which has killed 13 million hectares of lodgepole pine forest in British Columbia, Canada, releasing an estimated 270 million tons of carbon.

Most imminent threat:

  • Wheat stem rust strain Ug99, Puccinia graminis tritici

Most resilient pest:

  • Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, which has developed resistance to 52 compounds belonging to all major insecticide classes.

For the entire article and explanation, go to the original BBC article.

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