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Volume 3 Issue 1, January 2022

Biotic threats under a changing climate

Crop pest and disease (CPD) dynamics under climate change have been challenging to ascertain. The scale and extent of CPD dispersal cannot be well represented by field and laboratory experiments alone; models facilitate understanding of large-scale impacts but have simplified representations of CPD occurrence, highlighting the need to study CPD occurrence with long-term observational data.

The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) spread across 26 provinces in China in 2019 infesting more than 112 million hectares of cropland, and such pests pose a threat to China’s crop production and food security in the future. The analysis of historical data on CPD occurrence from 1970 to 2016 indicates that climate change has already been responsible for one-fifth of the increase in CPD occurrence observed, most prominently driven by warmer night-time temperatures.

This trajectory is predicted to develop. Scenario analysis to the end of this century indicates that China will experience increasing CPD occurrence and cropland damage. Appropriate management and application of technology may minimize impacts, should a policy environment support these advances.

See Wang et al.

Image: Mikhail Kochiev / Alamy Stock Photo. Cover Design: Tulsi Voralia


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Comment & Opinion

  • Capacity-enhancing fishery subsidies provided by emerging economies are supporting overfishing in the high seas and in the national exclusive economic zones of other states. Action must be taken to avoid detrimental impacts on livelihoods and food security across the Global South — before global fish stocks are depleted.

    • Kristen Hopewell
    • Matias Ezequiel Margulis
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • A new dataset that comprises more than 5,500 historical crop pest and disease records in China provides a unique opportunity to understand how climate affects crop pest and disease outbreaks.

    • Daniel P. Bebber
    News & Views
  • Feeding animals with low-opportunity-cost biomass — a principle of circular agriculture — may upgrade the role of cattle and pigs in sustainable and healthy food systems, as represented by the EAT–Lancet dietary recommendations.

    • Erik Mathijs
    News & Views
  • Animal-derived serum use in culture media is a financial, ethical and sustainability challenge for scaling up cultured meat production. Now, an omics approach has identified key cellular signals that allow myocytes to develop in the absence of animal serum.

    • Laura J. Domigan
    • Vaughan Feisst
    • Olivia J. Ogilvie
    News & Views
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  • Building productive relationships between farmers and scientists is critical to developing new innovation pathways to solve the challenges of contemporary agriculture. On-farm experimentation (OFE) is an effective approach that brings agricultural stakeholders to support farmers’ own management decisions for agricultural innovation, with digitalization playing a key role in motivating and enabling OFE.

    • Myrtille Lacoste
    • Simon Cook
    • Andrew Hall
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  • High-resolution satellite observations provide an accurate and cost-effective solution to monitoring national and global progress towards Sustainable Development Goals. With a new global cropland dataset, this study reports that during the first two decades of the twenty-first century, the global cropland area increased by 9%, whereas the per-capita cropland area decreased by 10% and the per-capita annual cropland net primary production increased by 3.5%.

    • Peter Potapov
    • Svetlana Turubanova
    • Jocelyn Cortez
    Article Open Access
  • The exact contribution of alternative diets to climate change mitigation depends on several factors, including where these diets are adopted. This study quantifies avoided greenhouse gas emissions that would result from a shift to EAT–Lancet diets in 54 high-income countries through agricultural production and the restoration of natural vegetation in saved lands.

    • Zhongxiao Sun
    • Laura Scherer
    • Paul Behrens


  • Conflicts are known to disrupt agriculture, food supply chains and the economy at large. Mapping and quantifying such disruptions, although key for aid planning, remains a challenge in war zones. This study uses daytime and night-time satellite data from Syria over 1998–2019 to assess the link between war-induced impacts on infrastructure and urban areas with cropland dynamics.

    • Xi-Ya Li
    • Xi Li
    • Xiao-Peng Song
  • Overexposure to ozone compromises crop yields, yet accurate estimates of such impact in Asia have been hindered by limited empirical data. This study assesses relative yield losses of three main crops in Japan, China, and South Korea through O3 exposure–response relationships based on monitoring data and experiment-based sensitivities.

    • Zhaozhong Feng
    • Yansen Xu
    • Xu Yue
  • Crop pests and diseases (CPDs) can substantially reduce attainable crop yields worldwide, but the understanding of CPD dynamics remains limited because CPD occurrence is complex and interacts with climate and agronomic practices. Using a historical dataset of CPD occurrence in China, the national average rate of CPD occurrence was found to increase by a factor of four during 1970–2016, and climate change will lead to a greater increase in CPD occurrence by the end of the century.

    • Chenzhi Wang
    • Xuhui Wang
    • Shilong Piao
  • In a circular food system, animals are solely fed with low-opportunity biomass, resulting in substantially smaller herds and lower animal production. Using a resource-allocation model, this study examines whether the adoption of circularity in the EU-27 + UK would meet requirements of the EAT-Lancet reference diet.

    • Benjamin van Selm
    • Anita Frehner
    • Hannah H. E. van Zanten
    Article Open Access
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Amendments & Corrections

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