Controlling crop disease contributes to both food security and climate change mitigation

M. Mahmuti, Jon S. West, J. Watts, P. Gladders, Bruce D.L. Fitt

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Global food security is threatened by crop diseases that account for average yield losses of 16 per cent, with the greatest losses experienced by subsistence farmers in the developing world. Climate change is exacerbating the threats to food security in such areas, emphasizing the need to increase food production in northern European countries such as the UK. However, the crops must be grown in such a way as to minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with their production. As an example, it is estimated that production of UK winter oilseed rape is associated with GHG of 3300 kg CO2 eq. ha(-1) of crop and 834 kg CO2 eq. t(-1) of seed yield, with 79 per cent of the GHG associated with the use of nitrogen fertilizer. Furthermore, it is estimated that control of diseases by use of fungicides in this UK oilseed rape is associated with a decrease in GHG of 100 kg CO2 eq. t(-1) of seed. Winter oilseed rape cultivar disease resistance is associated with a decrease in GHG of 56 kg CO2 eq. t(-1), although this figure is an underestimate. These results demonstrate how disease control in arable crops can make a contribution to both climate change mitigation and sustainable arable crop production to ensure global food security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-202
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • adaptation to climate change
  • disease resistance
  • food security
  • fungicides
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • oilseed rape


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