Bridging the knowledge gap on insect-climate interactions
DAPA presented climate change research in the keynote speech to open the Colombian Entomological Society annual conference in Manizales today. Beyond the normal background on climate change, some results were shown on how climate change might affect the distribution of some insect pests affecting cassava, and also some results from CIP’s modelling of potato late blight which was recently showcased in the CCAFS blog.
There are lots of anecdotes around about how climate change is already impacting on insect problems in crops (including suspicions that the arrival of cassava mealybugs to Asia was also caused in part by climatic changes), but there is very little hard scientific evidence showing causality. Priorities for research on climate change and entomology needs to focus on understanding the relationships between insect biology and climate, and then frame this in the much more complex dynamics of an agroecosystem. If we can better understand the processes that drive insect presence, absence and prevalence, then adaptation options can be designed that address the challenges that climatic changes bring about. The options are endless, from more resistant crops, to improved management strategies and IPM.
One big gap is the link between crop models and insect models. With CCAFS we’re actively looking for solutions to this, by pragmatically bringing together the two modelling worlds to find means of better integrating. One anecdote that highlights this is related to rubber in the Colombian savannas. I’m told that rubber plantations in that region suffer water stress during the dry months, and the trees weaken their natural resistance to a particular pest which then wreaks havoc on the plantation. Unfortunately this is only an anecdote at this point, but we lack the tools to really test this scientifically as insect models are not linked with plant models. We see the filling of this gap as a key component to improving our ability to predict, understand and adapt.