A new study says climate change is helping pests that attack crops to spread around the world.
Researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford have found that the crop pests are moving at an average of two miles (3km) a year across the world as is posing serious threat to the agriculture sector.
The team said these pests were heading towards the north and south poles especially the areas that were once too cold for them to live in.
According to the study, it is estimated that around 10 to 16 percent of the world’s crops are damaged due to disease outbreaks. The researchers suggest that the rising global temperatures could make the problem worse.
Dr Dan Bebber, the lead author of the study from the University of Exeter, said: “Global food security is one of the major challenges we are going to face over the next few decades. We really don’t want to be losing any more of our crops than is absolutely necessary to pests and pathogens.”
To investigate the problem, the researchers looked at the records of 612 crop pests and pathogens from around the world that had been collected over the past 50 years.
The study included fungi, such as wheat rust, which is devastating harvests in Africa, the Middle East and Asia; insects like the mountain pine beetle that is destroying trees in the US; as well as bacteria, viruses and microscopic nematode worms.
Each organism’s distribution was different – some butterflies and insects were shifting quickly, at about 12 miles (20km) a year; other bacterium species had hardly moved. On average, however, the pests had been spreading by two miles each year since 1960.
“We detect a shift in their distribution away form the equator and towards the poles,” explained Dr Bebber.
The researchers believe that the global trade in crops is mainly responsible for the movement of pests and pathogens from country to country. However, they said that habit and environment were the major factors for organisms to sustain in the areas.
Scientists further added that the warming temperatures have enabled the creature to survive at higher latitudes. “The most convincing hypothesis is that global warming has caused this shift,” Dr Bebber said.
The researchers however proposed a deeper study of the problem. The research is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.