Biotech Updates

Warming Climate to Increase Crop Losses Due to Insect Pests

September 5, 2018

Important food grains will have significant reduction in yield as the climate warms because rising temperatures boost the metabolic rate and population increase of insect pests, according to a study published in Science.

"Climate change will have a negative impact on crops," said Scott Merrill of the University of Vermont, one of the authors of the study. "We're going to see increased pest pressure with climate change."

The research team observed how the insect pests of rice, maize, and wheat would respond to various climate scenarios. Their findings showed that increasing global temperatures would lead to an increase in crop losses due to insect pest attacks, particularly in temperate areas. Losses are projected to rise by 10-25 percent per degree of increase in temperature. The researchers explain that the losses are due to the increase in insect metabolism and population growth rates. When it becomes hotter, the insect's metabolisms increase, so they tend to eat more. In terms of population growth, insect population grows best in an optimal temperature. If it is too cold or too hot, the population growth is slow. Thus, the losses will be greatest in temperate areas, but less severe in the tropics.

"Temperate regions are not at that optimal temperature, so if the temperature increases there, populations will grow faster," said Merrill, an ecologist who studies plant-crop interactions. "But insects in the tropics are already close to their optimal temperature, so the populations will actually grow slower. It's just too hot for them."

Read more about the study in Science.