We’re not the only ones who want to eat our food; we compete with an intimidating list of insect pests, fungi, and bacteria that are looking for a free lunch, and a host of plant species that occupy our fields as weeds.
Crops lose the fight with pests and diseases every day. In fact, the FAO estimates that on average 26% to 40% of crop yields are lost annually due to weeds, pests and disease, going as far to say that if we remove crop protection practices, the losses could double. Double!
Farmers put up a good fight every day to secure a safe and plentiful supply of food.
Consider these facts:
OLIVES. Keeping olive trees well-fed and adequately watered is the best initial defence against pests and diseases, since vigorous trees are better able to withstand attack and less likely to suffer long-term damage.1 Unfortunately, before a young olive tree becomes a veteran at fighting pests and diseases it has a long row to hoe. Just recently a deadly disease, Xylella fastidiosa, first detected in Italy’s southern region of Puglia in 2013, has led to the infection of up to one million olive trees, many of them centuries old.
In fact, if EU farmers are denied access to certain pesticides, olive yields are expected to decrease by 40%.2
TOMATOES. Tomatoes are subject to attack by a large number of insect pests, from the time their seedlings first emerge, right until harvest. Even when grown in a greenhouse, tomatoes face many of the same pests. In fact, if EU farmers no longer had access to certain pesticides, tomato yields could decrease by 85%.3
DURUM WHEAT. Pasta, Italy’s central pillar of cuisine; has become a staple in homes around the globe. Did you know that all true Italian pasta is made from durum wheat? And without fungicide treatment, durum wheat – used in half of Italian pasta production – would no longer be a viable crop in Italy.4
CARROTS. These root vegetables grow below ground and, therefore, are particularly susceptible to soil-inhabiting pests such as wireworms and vegetable weevils. In fact, if EU farmers are denied access to certain pesticides, carrot yields are expected to decrease by 92%.5
ONION. The most well-known threat to the onion is leaf blight, also known as ‘blast’ because it spreads so rapidly. Leaf blight can devastate onion crops and spreads in prolonged wet conditions. In the UK, without pesticides, onion yields could be down as much as 50%.6
2. Steward Redqueen. Cumulative impact of hazard-based legislation on crop protection products in Europe. Final report. 21 July 2016, p.7.
3. Steward Redqueen. Cumulative impact of hazard-based legislation on crop protection products in Europe. Final report. 21 July 2016, p.48.
4. Horta Srl. and the University of Piacenza “Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore” (2012).
5. Steward Redqueen. Cumulative impact of hazard-based legislation on crop protection products in Europe. Final report. 21 July 2016, p.7.
6. The Andersons Centre, 2014, Crop Protection Technology: The effect of the Loss of Plant Protection Products on UK Agriculture and Horticulture and the Wider Economy, p.34.