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Protecting crops

Shifting climate patterns are giving rise to the emergence of new pests and disease – a situation that requires ever more vigilance. ICARDA’s response: practical and sustainable approaches to pest and disease management that maximize protection while safeguarding the environment.

While disease- and pest-resistant crop varieties help, strengthening protection and resilience requires a broad strategy that includes farming practices, integrated pest management, and the use of bio-control agents. Dry land countries also need national action plans that prioritize preparedness and ensure quick and effective responses to epidemics.       

Proven techniques to tackle pests and disease:  

  • Surveillance, preparedness, and rapid reaction: effective approaches include national and regional networks to provide early warning and information exchange on the spread of disease. Because diseases cover a lot of ground in 24-48 hours, these local networks are a vital first line of defense
  • Diversified cropping strategies: Diversified cropping – avoiding the sowing of mega varieties across large cropped areas – is another potential line of defense. Reliance on the same varieties over a prolonged period means that disease races can mutate and new ones can emerge more rapidly, overcoming resistance
  • Crop research: The breeding of disease- and pest-resistance varieties is the chief line of long-term defense
  • New capacity and skills: in ministries, extension services, and at the farm-level, to develop effective strategies for managing rust diseases
  • Integrated pest management (IPM): A practical and environmentally-friendly approach to pest control that combines an extensive range of techniques to control and prevent the spread of pest populations. It emphasizes the use of cultural and biological interventions, and supports the targeted use of pesticides only when alternative methods have been exhausted, costs are not excessive, and there is no threat to existing agro-ecosystems.


Eradicating date palm pests: The testing, refinement, and transfer of IPM technology packages helped Iraqi date palm farmers eradicate destructive pests: Lesser Date Moths, Dubas Bugs, and Stem Borers. The packages included biological agents, traps, and environmentally-sustainable sprays. The results: significant decreases in the populations of pests, yield increases of up to 115%, and rising incomes – farmers who switched to the new control measures have the potential to earn a combined 75 Million USD each year.

Protecting Ethiopian wheat farmers from the threat of stripe rust disease: To combat Ethiopia’s recent wheat stripe rust epidemic, a fast-track crop research and extension partnership has developed rust-resistant wheat varieties and delivered them to farmers nationwide in record time. The benefits: protection from future rust epidemics and significantly increased yields.