Impacts of changing air composition on severity of arable crop disease epidemics
Fraaije, B. A.
Shaw, M. W.
Fitt, Bruce D.L.
This review assesses the impacts, both direct and indirect, of man-made changes to the composition of the air over a 200 year period on the severity of arable crop disease epidemics. The review focuses on two well-studied UK arable crops, wheat and oilseed rape, relating these examples to worldwide food security. In wheat, impacts of changes in concentrations of SO2 in air on two septoria diseases are discussed using data obtained from historical crop samples and unpublished experimental work. Changes in SO2 seem to alter septoria disease spectra both through direct effects on infection processes and through indirect effects on soil S status. Work on the oilseed rape diseases phoma stem canker and light leaf spot illustrates indirect impacts of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, mediated through climate change. It is projected that, by the 2050s, if diseases are not controlled, climate change will increase yields in Scotland but halve yields in southern England. These projections are discussed in relation to strategies for adaptation to environmental change. Since many strategies take 10-15 years to implement, it is important to take appropriate decisions soon. Furthermore, it is essential to make appropriate investment in collation of long-term data, modelling and experimental work to guide such decision-making by industry and government, as a contribution to worldwide food security.