Comparative biology of different plant pathogens to estimate effects of climate change on crop diseases in Europe

Jon S. West, J.A. Townsend, M. Stevens, Bruce D.L. Fitt

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This review describes environmental factors that influence severity of crop disease epidemics, especially in the UK and north-west Europe, in order to assess the effects of climate change on crop growth and yield and severity of disease epidemics. While work on some diseases, such as phoma stem canker of oilseed rape and fusarium ear blight of wheat, that combine crop growth, disease development and climate change models is described in detail, climate-change projections and predictions of the resulting biotic responses to them are complex to predict and detailed models linking climate, crop growth and disease development are not available for many crop-pathogen systems. This review uses a novel approach of comparing pathogen biology according to 'ecotype' (a categorization based on aspects such as epidemic type, dissemination method and infection biology), guided by detailed disease progress models where available to identify potential future research priorities for disease control. Consequences of projected climate change are assessed for factors driving elements of disease cycles of fungal pathogens (nine important pathogens are assessed in detail), viruses, bacteria and phytoplasmas. Other diseases classified according to 'ecotypes' were reviewed and likely changes in their severity used to guide comparable diseases about which less information is available. Both direct and indirect effects of climate change are discussed, with an emphasis on examples from the UK, and considered in the context of other factors that influence diseases and particularly emergence of new diseases, such as changes to farm practices and introductions of exotic material and effects of other environment changes such as elevated CO 2. Good crop disease control will contribute to climate change mitigation by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture while sustaining production. Strategies for adaptation to climate change are needed to maintain disease control and crop yields in north-west Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-331
JournalEuropean Journal of Plant Pathology
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


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