Non-provisioning ecosystem services underrated in the management of pests and diseases

Overview

Pest and diseases are a major constraint to crop production and a lot of resources are engaged world over in their management. These pests and diseases often eliminate swaths of cropped landscapes altering agrobiodiversity and multiple other ecosystem services. Changes in landscape composition can also be attributed to cultural management practices such as rouging of plants. In East and Central Africa, the banana bacterial wilt disease caused by the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris pv. vasicola and the banana bunchy top disease caused by the banana bunchy top virus are good examples of diseases that have devastating effects on landscapes. Landscapes devasted by these diseases for example experience an increased soil erosion, pollution of water sources, reduced carbon sequestration in addition to food, feed, and income insecurity.

Definition of pest and disease related problems and their ultimate management in agroecosystems has more often fallen short of addressing the broader range of ecosystem services, focusing entirely on the provisioning services (mainly food, nutrition, and income security). The management strategies, options and resource investments are as such limited to these provisioning services.

Through work in central Africa, we show the need to look broadly beyond the provisioning services to include the regulating, cultural and supporting services in assessing the risk and impact of pests and disease and development of strategies for their ultimate management. Such comprehensive strategies will require a change in the mindset of the research community that plays a crucial role in generating information that feeds the policy makers, extension body, farming communities and other players in the sector. Efforts are also needed in creating similar awareness on the importance of the little known or valued ecosystem services among other stakeholders along value chains of agroecosystems. This will promote development of appropriate policy measures and resource allocation for management of pests and diseases, correct messaging by the different players involved in information generation and ultimately more comprehensive mitigation packages at farm and landscape levels.

A field severely affected by Xanthomonas wilt disease, resulting in a low plant density.

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