The global burden of pathogens and pests on major food crops

Nat Ecol Evol. 2019 Mar;3(3):430-439. doi: 10.1038/s41559-018-0793-y. Epub 2019 Feb 4.


Crop pathogens and pests reduce the yield and quality of agricultural production. They cause substantial economic losses and reduce food security at household, national and global levels. Quantitative, standardized information on crop losses is difficult to compile and compare across crops, agroecosystems and regions. Here, we report on an expert-based assessment of crop health, and provide numerical estimates of yield losses on an individual pathogen and pest basis for five major crops globally and in food security hotspots. Our results document losses associated with 137 pathogens and pests associated with wheat, rice, maize, potato and soybean worldwide. Our yield loss (range) estimates at a global level and per hotspot for wheat (21.5% (10.1-28.1%)), rice (30.0% (24.6-40.9%)), maize (22.5% (19.5-41.1%)), potato (17.2% (8.1-21.0%)) and soybean (21.4% (11.0-32.4%)) suggest that the highest losses are associated with food-deficit regions with fast-growing populations, and frequently with emerging or re-emerging pests and diseases. Our assessment highlights differences in impacts among crop pathogens and pests and among food security hotspots. This analysis contributes critical information to prioritize crop health management to improve the sustainability of agroecosystems in delivering services to societies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Climate Change*
  • Crops, Agricultural / microbiology
  • Crops, Agricultural / physiology*
  • Food Supply*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Mites / physiology*
  • Plant Weeds / physiology*