Last week, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization celebrated the first annual International Day of Plant Health—a tentpole built around investment and innovation aimed at boosting food security.
Eighty percent of our food comes from plants, but according to the FAO, 40 percent of food crops are lost due to pests and plant disease every year—a number that impacts food security and agriculture, both of which play crucial roles for rural communities and the health of the planet.
To emphasize this, the FAO has announced International Day of Plant Health, celebrated on May 12th.
International Day of Plant Health
“On this very first International Day of Plant Health, we reflect on plant health innovations for food security,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in a statement. Dongyu says more investments are needed into research to find “more resilient and sustainable” additions to the human diet.
Plants are under threat, particularly as a result of climate change and human activity, says the FAO. Dongyu says protecting plants from pests and diseases is more cost-effective than navigating “plant health emergencies.”
As diseases and pests establish in crops, they can be more difficult to eradicate, calling for heavier applications of pesticides and herbicides, the FAO says. Proactive health measures are more cost-effective and healthier for the ecosystems and humans.
“We need to continue raising the global profile of plant health to transform agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable”, Dongyu said.
Plant health priorities
The FAO has identified several key priorities, including the development and implementation of the international standards on phytosanitary measures in order to protect global plant resources while facilitating safe trade; focusing on sustainable pest management and pesticides through the promotion of green and digital plant protection; and creating enabling surroundings for plant health by enhancing the health of soils, seeds, and pollinators.
Governments are also being urged to prioritize plant health and sustainable management, including policies and legislation that protects plants and fosters greater awareness of plant health. FAO is also urging academia and research institutions to produce science-based solutions to the challenges plant crops face.
The new annual event is focused on five goals, including efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly the Zero Hunger goal (SDG 2); through the development of international standards, minimize the risk of spreading plant pests through trade and travel; strengthen monitoring and early warning systems to protect plants and plant health; enable sustainable pest and pesticide management that keep plants healthy while minimizing impact on the environment; and promote investment in plant health innovations, research, development, and outreach.
The annual event will see organized celebrations at global, regional, and national levels “and even potentially, down on a farm, near you,” the FAO says.
Lead Photo by Paz Arando on Unsplash