What Can We Learn From COVID-19 Pandemic To Prevent Plant Disease Epidemics
The notorious COVID-19 disease has claimed millions of lives in the past few months. Besides posing as one of the greatest threats to human health, the pandemic has caused the widespread social-economic crisis. This has led to urgent and decisive action from governments, health authorities, scientists, and medical experts from all the countries to prevent the disease from spreading and protecting precious human lives.
While so much is done to prevent and tame the effects of COVID-19, there is an emerging threat in the form of plant epidemics. Since food is life, there is an urgent need to prevent the destruction of health and nutritious food staples, fodder grasses for animals, and beneficial medicinal plants due to plant diseases. Unless swift action is taken in this direction, the world may see deaths caused due to food scarcity in the same scale as COVID-19.
At the outset, it may be difficult to see both the COVID-19 pandemic and the plant endemics on the same wavelength. But this blog aims to bring into focus some important lessons one can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we will look into how adopting sustainable biological and eco-friendly solutions can help prevent the impending food crisis in different parts of the world.
Throughout history, plant disease epidemics due to plant pathogens have caused food crises leading to starvation, displacement, and deaths. The rust diseases of cereals in 700 B.C in ancient Rome are one of the oldest known examples. The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s was caused by Phytophthora infestans causing 1.5 million deaths as a result of famine or disease. In India, the Bengal Famine in the year 1943 was partly caused by brown spot disease in rice caused by Bipolaris oryzae.
Similar to how the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has spread throughout the world, the harmful micro-organisms like a virus, bacteria, and fungi-induced plant diseases along with insects and nematodes can colonize, develop and devastate crops in the entire region. As per an estimate, food production between 10% to 40% is destroyed due to pathogens and pests. Different plant species face a different level of threat depending upon characteristics like nutritional levels, genetic profile, stress factors, age, and genetic resistance against diseases.
The plant pathogens or viruses are spread in two ways. Firstly, from the clonal propagation of plant material where it grows by using the clones of the original plant and not true seeds. The pathogens are usually present in this material leading to plant diseases. The second way is by spread mediated by an insect vector. Epidemiologists believe that certain weather conditions also support pathogens to act in susceptible host plants. As far as pests are concerned, it can threaten a whole country or even the continent. One of the examples is the fall armyworm found in West Africa in 2016. One year later, it spread and reached South Africa. Therefore, just as COVID-19 spread can be controlled by preventing it by staying home, it is necessary to stop plant pathogens by carrying out measures necessary to prevent infections in host plants. This makes optimal agronomic practices and monitoring of the plant ecosystem of critical importance.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Plant Disease Epidemics?
First of all, it is important to recognize the threat of catastrophic proportions that can be caused by plant disease epidemics. Secondly, active and regular surveillance of the plant infestation must be carried out along with tracking the spread, removal of affected plants, and treatment of the nearby plant varieties. Having said that, prevention is the best mechanism for control of plant disease epidemics as plants cannot fight against the disease as it reduces the quantum of chemical required to stop its spread when used as curative measures. Therefore, the most efficient solution can be using products and solutions that can empower plants to naturally fight against pathogens or in other words, develop a strong immunity to combat disease. The use of biological seed treatment and biostimulants in agriculture can be helpful in this effort. Adverse use of chemicals has reduced natural immunity and made it weak against pathogens.
Organica Biotech’s wide range of products like MagicGro Super, natural herbal repellant SUCKOON, and MagicGro Nemacare are effective sustainable farming solutions to prevent plant disease epidemics and further boost productivity. MagicGro Super with a consortium of beneficial microbes enhance natural immunity in plants and reduces the dependence on chemical inputs. This reduces the rate of infection by pathogens too. SUCKOON boosts plant strength by strengthening plant cell walls which make it difficult for pests to penetrate and prevent infestations. MagicGro Nemacare is an advanced biological solution that ably controls the nematode population in soil and boosts immunity. With such a wide variety of preventive measures, a reduction in disease prevalence is certain. The move towards sustainable measures in disease prevention can only mean good things for the planet.