In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The year 2020 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.
Plants are the source of the air we breathe and most of the food we eat. Keeping plants healthy is crucial to ensure sustainable agriculture and food systems, as well as to protect the environment and ecosystems. Healthy plants mean healthier people. However, we often overlook this important link. This can have devastating results.
For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that up to 40% of food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases annually. This leaves millions of people without enough food to eat and seriously damages agriculture – the primary source of income for poor rural communities.
Plant health is increasingly under threat. Climate change and human activities have altered ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating new niches where pests can thrive. At the same time, international travel and trade, which have tripled in volume in the last decade, can quickly spread pests and diseases around the world causing great damage to native plants and the environment.
Why International year of Plant Health?
As with human health, protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost-effective than dealing with full-blown plant health emergencies. Indeed, plant pests are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and managing them is time consuming and expensive. Prevention is critical to avoiding the devastating impact of pests and diseases on agriculture, livelihoods and food security.
For these and more reasons, 2020 has been named the International Year of Plant Health by the United Nations General Assembly.
What can be done?
Developing and supporting the implementation of international standards for phyto-sanitary measures is the core business of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) — a plant health treaty signed by over 180 countries including India. By adhering to IPPC standards, pest risks are effectively managed, ensuring safe and efficient trade of plants and agricultural products and supporting developing and developed countries in accessing new markets.
Because of the strong links between plant health and environmental protection, FAO encourages environmentally friendly ways of dealing with pests, such as through integrated pest management. Minimizing the use of poisonous substances when dealing with pests not only protects the environment, it also protects pollinators, natural pest enemies, beneficial organisms and the people and animals who depend on plants. Let’s pledge to make–in our own small way–the International Year of Plant Health 2020 the greenest one.