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Editorial

Climate change and plant diseases


Global atmospheric concentration of radiatively active
gases has been increasing largely due to anthropogenic
inuences. Rising concentration of CO
2
is affecting agri-
culture and natural ecosystems by directly inuencing
plant growth and productivity. Crop yield, for instance,
increases by an average of 17% from a fertilization
effect of elevated CO
2
. Other interacting elements of cli-
mate including temperature and rainfall are also chang-
ing. There is heightened concern for global food security
under a changing climate and many commentaries and
projections are available. But projections come from
studies that largely ignore the impacts of pest and dis-
eases. This is despite weather being a key driver of plant
diseases and many disease forecasting models routinely
use short-term weather data for disease management.
Plant disease epidemics have historically caused famines
killing and disrupting human lives and continue to ham-
per quality and quantity of agricultural produce and
thereby threatening food security.
Several reviews and books have speculated and
predicted how the adaptive capacity of agriculture may
be affected by shifting disease dynamics due to changing
climate. Much of the literature has been pre-occupied
with impact assessment and risk mapping. A synthesis of
current information on host and pathogen biology and
their interaction under changing climate to identify gaps
in knowledge has been lacking. More importantly, there
is precious little on strategies that may be required to
manage diseases under a changing climate. For instance,
whether the current physical, chemical and biological
control tactics including the disease resistant varieties
would offer effective protection or whether there is a need
to develop and deploy new management strategies have
never been addressed. This compilation of twelve reviews
and overviews on selected topics synthesises the limited
published literature and unpublished work, highlights
gaps in our knowledge and addresses ways to improve
understanding and management of plant diseases under
climate change.
While the emphasis has been on collating and review-
ing empirical evidence and approaches rather than pro-
jections frommodelling, various articles have not ignored
key aspects of modelling research in coping with com-
plexity and uncertainty in climate change, in dealing with
changing geographical distribution of hosts and their
pathogens or in modelling the dynamics of pathogens in
plant canopies. Internationally recognised contributors
have used their research experience and scholarly apti-
tude to critically reviewexisting knowledge, identify gaps
and offer opinions on the way forward. Contributions are
more than a review of literature; they offer opinion,
approach, strategy, critique and road map to help make
progress in this neglected eld of study. This effort will be
worthwhile if members of the plant protection commu-
nity including researchers, educators, plant protection
specialists and practitioners, policy makers and general
public interested in issues of climate change, plant disease
and food security nd it useful and benet fromthis com-
pilation. Inspiring students, researchers and specialists to
consider climate change in the context of plant pathology
researchand policy development will be an added bonus.
This special issue of Plant Pathology is dedicated to the
late Professor David F. Karnosky in recognition of his
signicant contribution to plant pathogens and diseases
under elevated CO
2
and O
3
. Dave was a visionary and
pioneer in global climate change research. He founded
the Aspen FACE research project and made signicant
contributions to global climate change science and for-
estry. The United States Forest Service has dedicated a
laboratory in Rhinelander, Wisconsin tohis memory.
My thanks and gratitude goes to all authors who have
generously given their time to contribute to this special
issue; the reviewers, who evaluated and offered countless
useful suggestions to improve the papers; Bruce Fitt for
editing the papers which I have co-authored; Richard and
Jenny Shattock for their inspiration, support and
patience; and to the British Society for Plant Pathology
and Wiley-Blackwell.
Sukumar Chakraborty
CSIROPlant Industry,
306 Carmody Rd,
St Lucia, QLD4067, Australia
E-mail: Sukumar.Chakraborty@csiro.au
2011 CSIRO
Plant Pathology 2011 BSPP 1
Plant Pathology (2011) 60, 1 Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3059.2010.02415.x