The International Year of Plant Health in Australia

The International Year of Plant Health is being celebrated around the world in 2020, and Australia is joining in.

The year was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018. The goal is to raise global awareness on the importance of protecting plant health.

The theme of the International Year of Plant Health is ‘Protecting Plants, Protecting Life’.

The focus is on preventing the spread of pests and diseases because they have the greatest impact on our crops, our environment and our way of life.

Read more about the international celebration of the International Year of Plant Health.

Did you know?

  • Global cost

    Each year plant diseases cost the global economy around US$220 billion annually and invasive insects cost around US$70 billion

  • Food crops lost

    Pests wipe out up to 40% of global food crops annually.

Why it’s important to protect and celebrate plants

  • Fall army worm
  • Pulses for sale
  • Woman harvesting
  • Coffea arabica
  • Xylella symptoms on olive trees

Mission statement for the IYPH

Plants are under constant attack from invasive pests. These pests can severely damage crops, forests, and other natural resources that people depend on. Every year, they cause billions of dollars of losses in crops and trade revenue, in addition to expensive eradication efforts. They are most often spread by people, especially through international travel and trade.

Despite declining resources for plant health protection services, international, regional, and national plant health organisations continue in their efforts to protect plants.

Plant health protection agencies are helping to address a number of critically important issues, both locally and globally.

By protecting plant health from invasive pests, they are helping to increase food security, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development, especially in low- and middle-income countries where agriculture is a primary industry.

International Plant Protection Convention Programmes

A sufficient and sustainable food supply is necessary for increasing food security and eliminating hunger, but achieving this has been difficult for many countries.

One threat to food security is invasive pests – experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimate that invasive pests are damaging as much as 40 percent of all food crops globally each year.

Using science, technology, and regulations, plant health organisations are helping to slow the spread of damaging pests into new areas. They are also fighting back against pests that are destroying food crops and other resources that are critical to long-term food security.

For most developing countries, agriculture is a primary source of income.

Studies have shown that growth in agricultural incomes can significantly reduce poverty. For example, agriculture played a key role in reducing Bangladesh’s poverty from 48.9 to 31.5 percent in 10 short years, according to a World Bank report.

However, invasive pests can have devastating effects on agriculture and natural resources.

By protecting plants against pests, plant health organisations are helping to increase agricultural productivity, improve rural incomes and reduce poverty.

Invasive pests are one of the main factors in biodiversity loss worldwide. When a pest is introduced into a new area, it can outcompete native species for resources because it may have no natural enemies.

Pest outbreaks have devastated crops throughout the course of history. For example, Phytophthora infestans triggered the Irish famine in 1845, and a severe outbreak of brown spot fungus destroyed the majority of rice crops in the Bengal area in 1942-43), and they continue to threaten food security today. Fall armyworm, native to the Americas and recently detected in Nigeria, has rapidly spread across sub-Saharan Africa, and a strain of Fusarium wilt disease, which has been causing serious losses in south-east Asia, has recently spread to the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

By preventing the spread of plant pests into new areas, plant health organizations are helping to preserve the variety of species within a given ecosystem. Their efforts to reduce the spread of invasive pests are also helping to curb the world’s use of pesticides, which affect bees and other pollinators.

When plants are not under constant attack from pests, farmers and home owners use fewer pesticides, which helps protect our environment and all life, including human life.

In 2016, the World Bank reported that 1.3 million square kilometers of forest was lost every hour between 1990 and 2015. According to a study by USDA economist Geoffrey Donovan, 21,000 people died in 15 USA states because there were fewer trees providing health benefits.

Local, regional, and global trade of plants and plant products is vital for many economies, especially in developing countries. Experts estimate that nearly half of the world’s population relies primarily on agriculture for income, and low and middle-income countries account for approximately one-third of global trade in food and agricultural products. According to FAO, trade in agricultural products is worth $1.1 trillion annually, but pests cause losses of around $220 billion a year. This trade provides job security and stimulates economic growth in the exporting country’s farm sector. However, trade can be limited by unnecessary plant health-related restrictions.

National, regional, and international plant health organizations play an important role in leveling the playing field for all countries. Working through the International Plant Protection Convention, plant health organizations establish globally harmonized, science-based plant health standards that help prevent pest spread. They also facilitate the trade of agricultural products without spreading pests, which allows countries, including developing nations, to grow their economies.