Fall Armyworm infestation in maize, Sri Lanka. Fall Armyworm, a native of the Americas, has been spreading across Africa and Asia since 2016.
Photo: ©FAO/Lekha Edirisinghe


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Plants make up 80 per cent of our food but are under constant and increasing threat from pests and diseases. Promoting plant health is critical for reaching the SDGs; protecting plants from pests and diseases is far easier and more cost effective than plant health emergencies.

The United Nations’ International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) for 2020 was launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in December 2019. It aims to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development.

Every year, up to 40 per cent of global food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases. This leads to annual agricultural trade losses of over USD 220 billion, leaves millions of people facing hunger, and severely damages agriculture – the primary income source for poor rural communities.

This is why policies and actions to promote plant health are fundamental for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, FAO says.

Climate change and human activities are altering ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating conditions where pests can thrive. At the same time, international travel and trade has tripled in volume in the last decade and can quickly spread pests and diseases around the world causing great damage to native plants and the environment.

Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than dealing with full-blown plant health emergencies.

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