Plant health is essential for both human and animal life and is an important component of the complex connections between humans, animals, and the environment. Plants are the primary source of nourishment for animals and provide approximately 80% of the food consumed by humans. However, our plants are in more danger than ever before, and it is critical to raise awareness about the importance of plant health and the steps that must be taken to reduce the dangers of plant pests and diseases. A greater understanding of how to control the spread of invasive pests will help us strengthen the global food supply chain.
THREATS TO THE HEALTH OF PLANTS
According to the FAO, forty per cent of global crops are lost each year owing to pests and diseases. This could become a more challenging scenario, given our rapidly growing human population, challenges of climate change, and vulnerability of a long food supply chain.
Plant health issues can be caused by a variety of circumstances. Based on whether they are living or non-living, these elements can be separated into two groups. Environmental stress or cultural care are examples of non-living disease agents, sometimes known as abiotic agents. Microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria are examples of living disease agents, often known as biotic agents or plant pathogens.
Measures to prevent or treat infections, such as the use of pesticides, if not used in appropriate amounts and manner may be overused and influence on the health of agricultural workers and customers, as well as make pests resistant to the chemical.
HOW PLANTS NATURALLY PROTECT THEMSELVES
Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can make plants sick, just like any other organism. Insects, herbivores, and omnivores prey on them. Plants have been reasonably successful in surviving the combined attack of such a diverse group of species. While they are unable to fight or flee from a predator, they have evolved extremely effective ways of reacting.
Plants have walls around their cells that protect them from diseases and can produce chemicals that repel pathogens or attract defensive agents. They’ve developed an immune system that, when infected, can cause cell death, isolating infected areas.
EMERGENCE OF NEW PLANT DISEASES
Plant health is under threat as a result of an increase in the number and frequency of new and reemerging pests as a result of intensification, globalization, trade development, and climate change. We are already witnessing the spread of novel diseases, which are, in some cases, the result of climatic change that favors the spread of pathogens or their carriers.
New fungal diseases are wreaking havoc on cereal crops and banana trees, resulting in significant production losses. Bacteria such as Xylella fastidiosa damages Mediterranean fruit trees such as olive and almond trees, wreaking havoc with the livelihood of the farmers and tradesmen.
ALTERNATIVE PLANT HEALTH SYSTEMS
Farmers are well aware of the importance of cultivating plants in order to ensure their optimal health. Increasing plant resistance to diseases is the top issue for farmers in agriculture. They often use a variety of remedies to safeguard their crops, but these compounds can cause environmental or human health issues in some circumstances. Reduction of crop protection products is a top priority in many parts of the world.
Alternative plant protection strategies have been developed, such as integrated pest control or the use of transgenic cultivars that can combat insects. One of the most effective ways is to introduce resistant traits through selective breeding. This is also being done with the help of modern genome editing techniques.
Plant health is crucial in the face of global concerns, including climate change, among many other challenges. Competition between crop resistance and disease adaptation has always existed between plants and pathogens. It is our responsibility to use the greatest research available to better understand these interesting biological processes and to give breeders and farmers the tools to help them grow healthier plants in their fields. We need to focus on building robust plant ecosystems to safeguard the environment and biodiversity, as well as to improve livelihoods and help create sustainable growth.