Crop Health and Its Global Impacts on the Components of Food Security

DOI: 10.1007/s12571-017-0659-1

Abstract: The literature on the importance of plant pathogens sometimes emphasizes their possible role in historical food shortages and even in famines. Aside from such major crises, plant pathogens should also be seen as important reducers of crop performances, with impacts on system sustainability, from the ecological, agronomical, social, and economic standpoints – all contributing ultimately to affecting food security. These views need reconciliation in order to produce a clearer picture of the multidimensional effects of plant disease epidemics. Such a picture is needed for disease management today, but would also be useful for future policies.

This article attempts to develop a framework that would enable assessment of the impacts of plant diseases, referred collectively to as crop health, on food security via its components. We have combined three different existing definitions of food security in order to develop a framework consisting of the following six components:

  1. Availability. Primary production;
  2. Availability. Import – Stockpiles;
  3. Access. Physical and supply chain;
  4. Access. Economic;
  5. Stability of food availability;
  6. Utility-Safety-Quality-Nutritive value.

In this framework, components of food security are combined with three attributes of production situations: the nature of the considered crop (i.e. food- or non-food), the structure of farms (i.e. subsistence or commercial), and the structure of markets (i.e. weakly organized and local, to strongly organized and globalized). The resulting matrix: [Food security components] × [Attributes of production situations] provides a framework where the impacts of chronic, acute, and emerging plant disease epidemics on food security can be examined. We propose that, given the number of components and interactions at play, a systems modelling approach is required to address the functioning of food systems exposed to plant disease risks. This approach would have application in both the management of the current attrition of crop performances by plant diseases, and also of possible disease-induced shocks. Such an approach would also enable quantifying shifts in disease vulnerability of production situations, and therefore, of food systems, as a result of climate change, globalization, and evolving crop health.

Download the journal article here.