Professor Dan Bebber of the University of Exeter presented a special seminar “Global crop pest and pathogen risks,” in FABI on 19 January. Prof. Bebber is an expert on the distribution of pests and pathogens globally and how climate change impacts their spread and how this impacts agricultural production. He was visiting FABI ahead of his participation as a keynote speaker at the 53rd Congress of the Southern African Society of Plant Pathology, from 21-25 January. He is also part of the new CABI Global Burden of Crops Loss initiative that aims to generate comprehensive, authoritative evidence on the causes and risk factors of crop loss worldwide. This will allow agricultural research, policy, funding, and interventions, to maximise impact through improved targeting and relevance.

In his presentation, Prof. Bebber explained how crop yields have increased dramatically since the 1960s but climate change will impact agricultural production globally. He explained that 2023 was the hottest year in the past 120,000 years and 2024 is expected to be even hotter. Crop models predict that crop yields will increase at higher latitudes but decline in the tropics but this presents an opportunity as currently we are only achieving a fraction of the crop yields in some regions of the globe. But with this change also comes challenges form pests and pathogens, with fungi moving the most and fastest, globally. He used several examples of how climate change has allowed the rapid spread of pests and pathogens globally.

Prof. Bebber also participated in a round table discussion with various FABI researchers, to discuss individual projects, but also to consider future engagements between himself and FABI.