climate-column-pathogens-and-parasitesBy Tom Somrack, NFU Government Relations Intern

Climate change affects the rate and spread of pathogen and parasitic diseases. According to the USDA Regional Vulnerability Assessments, warmer temperatures have resulted in insects, weeds, and crop diseases moving north and to higher elevations, or surviving winters that used to keep them in check. Overall, pest, weed, and disease pressures on crops are expected to continue and intensify. Livestock diseases are also subject to increase.

Based on your farming operation and the types of crops and livestock that you grow, this can affect your farm in several ways. According to the Northwest Climate Hub Assessment, cow susceptibility to illnesses may also increase, especially as pathogens and parasites have more opportunity to multiply with warmer winter conditions. The USDA Veterinary Services is responsible for regulating the importation and interstate movement of animals and their products to prevent the introduction and spread of foreign animal diseases of livestock. Veterinary Services links the increase in and movement of pathogens directly to climate change and the warming of temperatures.

According to USDA, changes in climate may allow some insect pests, and pathogens to expand their ranges farther north as the climate warms and the region loses some of the protection offered by a traditionally cold climate and short growing season. This increase in range of pests and pathogens increase the risk for susceptibility by livestock to attract diseases including ticks and mites.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has included in a part of their 2015 strategic plan to prevent the entry of agricultural pests and diseases. In one instance, APHIS is working in collaboration with several partners including farms along the border states to maintain a quarantine buffer preventing cattle fever ticks from becoming established in the United States, which prevents the spread of several diseases throughout the United States.

Have you noticed an increase in pests and pathogens on your farm? Let us know in the comments below. As challenges involving climate change persist, farmers are developing new ways to mitigate the effects and develop strategies for climate-smart agriculture. Learn more by staying posted with NFU’s blog and checking out USDA’s Climate Hubs.


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