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Pests and pathogens could cost agriculture $540 billion each year

Staff Writer |
A report by scientists at Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in London warns that spreading pests and diseases could cost global agriculture $540 billion a year unless changes are addressed.

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Kew’s annual State of the World's Plants report warns that increases in international trade and travel are increasing the spread of invasive pathogens and pests.

This is in line with projections from leading climate scientists that climate change will see diseases and pests spreading into new areas.

With this in mind, Kew researchers also looked at different plant traits, to assess which are expected to cope best as climate change progresses.

They said plants with deeper roots and higher wood density are better able to withstand drought, while taller grasses and plants with thicker leaves fare better in higher temperatures.

Researchers said that, surprisingly, the traits associated with survival in a world of climate change are the same in regions, with Kew’s Professor Kathy Willis telling Reuters that beneficial adaptations are the same “in a temperate forest as in a desert.”

Willis said, “We are starting to see climate change occurring, we’re seeing droughts… we’re seeing increased temperatures, we’re seeing higher CO2. So, one of the questions we have is which plants are going to be the winners? What characteristics do plants have that enable them to withstand those climate variations that we’re seeing?

“There are particular plants that do provide some of the solutions to the global challenges that we’re all seeing, but we need to know what they are and where they are and then have proper management plans in place to protect them.”

128 researchers worked on the report, which also found that 1,730 new plant species had been discovered in the past year.

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