Future-proofing food from pests and climate change

Agriculture Victoria scientists studying the impact of climate change on food production, are looking at how making changes to fertiliser application can help in the future.

The research by Technical Assistant Eva Carreras Navarro and Research Scientist Piotr Trebicki, specifically looked at wheat under future projected levels of carbon dioxide and different nitrogen application rates, to understand the effect of these factors on the growth and quality of wheat and its susceptibility to insect pests.

Dr Trebicki said in the right conditions, higher levels of carbon dioxide can increase wheat yield, but can also diminish its nutritional value.

“The impact of these changes on insect behaviour is poorly understood” Dr Trebicki said.

“We grew wheat under current and future projected levels of carbon dioxide and added different amounts of fertiliser to see how it impacts wheat growth and its suitability as a host for insect pests, particularly aphids, one of the major pests of cereals in Australia and worldwide,” Ms Carreras Navarro said.

“Our research shows that future carbon dioxide levels decreased aphid pest population, but by adding more fertilizer it improved host quality for the pest and as a result increased the number of aphids.

“Identifying the effect of fertilizer application under predicted carbon dioxide conditions is extremely important to prevent counterproductive consequences affecting future wheat production”.

“With the pressure of a growing population, it is essential to continue investigating the impacts of climate change on food production”, Ms Carreras Navarro added.

The research was published recently and is the first of its kind internationally. The results will help Agriculture Victoria researchers to anticipate what can happen in the future and act, despite the complexity around maintaining food quality and keeping pests at bay.

You can read the full research paper ‘Elevated Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen Impact Wheat and Its Aphid Pest’ here www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2020.605337/full

Source: Agriculture Victoria