Scientists reported in Nature Magazine that fungal diseases of the world’s five most important crops – rice, wheat, maize, potatoes and soy-beans destroy more than 125 million tons of these foods only. This loss of food is especially dramatic for poor people that are dependent on these foods for their daily calorie intake.
There are more than 1.4 billion people in developing countries, who live on less than 1.25 $ a day. Diseases like rice blast, soy-bean rust, corn smut in maize, late blight in potatoes and stem rust in wheat are amongst the most important fungal pathogens in crops. But fungal infections in other species also cause a great damage to the environment. Dutch elm blight and chestnut blight destroyed huge amounts of trees and fungal infections affect fish farming. If food epidemics were to hit all 5 major crops in one year this could lead to a loss of 900 million tons of food leading to a worldwide famine that would leave several billion people starving.
The full article was published in Nature:
Matthew C. Fisher, Daniel. A. Henk, Cheryl J. Briggs, John S. Brownstein, Lawrence C. Madoff, Sarah L. McCraw, Sarah J. Gurr. Emerging fungal threats to animal, plant and ecosystem health. Nature, 2012; 484 (7393): 186 DOI: 10.1038/nature10947