Agricultural Risk

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Agricultural production is subjected to unpredictable risks from both abiotic (e.g., climate, soil and terrain) and biotic (e.g., pest, diseases and weeds) stress. The specific risk profiles faced by each farm may vary greatly depending on their geographic locations due to the intrinsic site-specific attributes of biological and environmental processes involved. To cope with agricultural risks, farmers rely on various mitigation strategies including farm management, fertilizer and pesticide use, irrigation, disease monitoring, as well as purchasing crop insurance to insure a stable income. Assessment of agricultural risks has important policy implications in guiding public and private R&D investment for securing global food supply.

Research Highlights

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Research Highlights

Wheat Multi‐peril Pathogen Risks

Chai, Y., S. Senay, D.M. Horvath, and P.G. Pardey. 2022. Multi‐peril Pathogen Risks to Global Wheat Production: A probabilistic loss and investment assessment. Frontiers in Plant Science.

Crop diseases cause significant food and economic losses. We examined the joint, probabilistic, long-term, bio-economic impact of five major fungal pathogens of wheat on global wheat production by combining spatialized estimates of their climate suitability with global wheat production and modeled distributions of potential crop losses. We determined that almost 90% of the global wheat area is at risk from at least one of these fungal diseases, and that the recurring losses attributable to this set of fungal diseases are upwards of 62 million tons of wheat production per year. Our high-loss regime translates to around 8.5% of the world’s wheat production on average—representing calories sufficient to feed up to 173 million people each year. We estimate that a worldwide research expenditure of $350-$974 million (2018 prices) annually on these five fungal diseases of wheat, let alone other pathogens, can be economically justified, equivalent to 2 to 5 times more than the amount we estimate is currently spent on all wheat disease-related public R&D.

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Maize Multi-peril Pest Risks

Senay SD, Pardey PG, Chai Y, Doughty L and Day R. 2022. Fall armyworm from a maize multi-peril pest risk perspective. Front. Insect Sci. 2:971396.

We assembled 3,175 geo-tagged occurrences of fall armyworm worldwide and used that data in conjunction with information about the physiological requirements of the pest to spatially assess its global climate suitability. Our analysis indicates that almost the entire African maize crop is grown in areas with climates that support seasonal infestations of the insect, while almost 92% of the maize area supports year-round growth of the pest. In contrast, rich-country maize production largely occurs in temperate areas where only 2.3% of the area may allow the pest to survive year-round, although still subject to worrisome seasonal risks. This means the African maize crop is especially susceptible to damaging infestation from fall armyworm, on par with the risk exposure to this pest faced by maize producers throughout Latin America. We show that the maize grown in Africa is also especially vulnerable to infestations from a host of other crop pests. Our multi-peril pest risk study reveals that over 95% of the African maize area deemed climate suitable for fall armyworm, can also support year-round survival of at least three or more pests. The spatial concurrence of climatically suitable locations for these pests raises the production risk for farmers well above the risks posed from fall armyworm alone. Starkly, over half (52.5%) of the African maize area deemed suitable for fall armyworm is also at risk from a further nine pests, while over a third (38.1%) of the area is susceptible to an additional 10 pests. This constitutes an exceptionally risky production environment for African maize producers, with substantive and complex implications for developing and implementing crop breeding, biological, chemical and other crop management strategies to help mitigate these multi-peril risks.

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