European corn borer not so boring

Jeremy had a post recently on how to keep track of emerging pests and diseases. Certainly services like ProMED-mail and HealthMap are incredibly valuable. But perhaps even better would be a way to predict what a disease might do before it actually does it, for example as a result of climate change. That’s what some Czech researchers have done for the European corn borer, a pest of maize.1 They modelled its life cycle on the basis of daily weather data, both current, to see if the model fit reality, and possible future, to predict what the pest might do under different climate change scenarios. The result was that the corn borer will cover the entire agricultural area of the country by 2040-2075, by which time “maize is expected to partly replace traditional cereals (e.g. winter wheat, rye, etc.).” That’s a frightening prospect. Better start planning – and breeding – for it now.2

  1. There’s also an assessment of the risk of spread to new areas in a recent study of the root-parasite Orobanche crenata, but that paper did not specifically consider climate change in any detail. []
  2. A recent paper on wheat spot blotch in the East Gangetic Plains of India, Bangladesh and Nepal describes how breeding has made good resistant varieties available, but adds that climate change is tilting the playing field in favour of the disease, which means that breeders can’t afford to rest on their laurels. []

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