Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


More soil-borne plant pathogens in a warmer world


Scientists develop global map of future risk areas for plant diseases

Global warming will increase the proportion of plant pathogens in soils across the globe. Many of these plant pathogens also affect important food and medicinal plants, which is likely to have a long-term impact on the world population's food security.

Mid- and high-latitude ecosystems from the Northern Hemisphere are some of the ecosystems expected to be more affected by the increases in pathogen proportions. The picture shows forests in the west of the USA.

Picture: Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo

This is the result of an experimental study published in the journal Nature Climate Change with significant contribution by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU).

A teaspoon of soil contains millions of microbes. Most of these soil organisms are beneficial to humankind: They regulate our climate, support the fertility of our soils, and help us produce food and fiber. Others, however, are capable of devastating entire crops, resulting in important economic losses and even human starvation.

Diseases of widespread food crops regularly destroy entire harvests. At the end of the 1990s, one of the most common soil-borne cereal fungi, Fusarium, affected the wheat and barley production in North America, causing an annual loss of around one billion US Dollars.

A new study, conducted by an international team of scientists including researchers of iDiv, UL and MLU, provides experimental and global observational evidence that the proportion of soil-borne plant pathogens will increase in a warmer world.

The researchers reveal the most common fungal plant pathogens found in soils across the globe, and suggest that soils are a critical reservoir of some of the most important plant pathogens worldwide.

This is likely to affect many of the globally most important crops like wheat, sunflowers or vegetables, but also cosmetic or medicinal plants like Hibiscus and Aloe Vera as well as wild species serving as a food source for livestock.

Global atlas of soil-bound plant pathogens

The study also provides the first global atlas of soil-borne plant pathogens highlighting the locations on Earth where these organisms are more common today and will be in the near future. The projections take into account various so-called shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs), including sustainability, regional inequality and fossil-fueled development.

“The insights of this study are particularly valuable as they combine data from a global observation network with data from a targeted experiment,” says Prof Nico Eisenhauer, head of the Experimental Interaction Ecology group at iDiv and UL. “This allowed us to provide scientific proof for causal relationships between warming temperatures and increasing prevalence of pathogens in the soils across the globe.”

The researchers collected soil samples from 235 different locations across 6 continents and 18 countries, spanning an entire range of climates from deserts to tropical forests. Moreover, they used a warming field experiment located in Madrid. For the last decade, the experiment has been maintained by the laboratory of co-author Fernando T. Maestre, who cooperated with scientists at iDiv in 2019 during his sabbatical year at iDiv's synthesis center sDiv.

The team used DNA sequencing to investigate the association between the proportion of soil-borne pathogens and increases in temperature across different types of soil. The results made it possible to generate global maps showing the distribution of soil-borne pathogens today, and in thirty years’ time.

Highly populated world regions affected

This opens the door to predict what regions of our planet will be more vulnerable to future microbial plant pests. “Many of the soil-borne fungal taxa affect the health and productivity of economically important crops and wild species serving as food source for livestock worldwide,” says co-author Dr Carlos António Guerra, researcher at iDiv and MLU. “The impacts are likely to have implications for sustaining a growing human population especially in the least-developed countries, where the majority of people rely to a large degree on livestock and natural products supported by natural ecosystems.”

The study highlights that large regions of Asia, Africa, Australia and America contain high proportions of soil-borne plant pathogens. These regions correspond to warm climates such as those from hot deserts and tropical forests. The impacts of warming are particularly evident in soils across the Northern Hemisphere, towards the Arctic, as well as in South Africa, for which all the scenarios show a systematic temperature rise. Many of the affected areas also have a large human population as well as high growth rates, which might indicate potential future threats to their nutrition.

“Global warming is already here, and we will need to adapt to the consequences of decades of heavy fossil fuel consumption,” says the first author of the paper Dr Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo from the Pablo de Olavide University Sevilla. “Knowing more about how climate change is going to affect the microbial communities which control our capacity to produce food and fiber is fundamental for humanity, especially, if we are up to feeding a continuously growing global population.”

This study was made possible by iDiv’s synthesis centre sDiv, funded by the DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FZT-118).

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof Dr Nico Eisenhauer
Head of the research group Experimental Interaction Ecology
German Centre of Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 97 33167

Dr. Carlos António Guerra
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle, Jena, Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733174


Delgado-Baquerizo, M., Guerra, C. A., Cano-Díaz, C., Egidi E., Wang, J.T., Eisenhauer, N., Singh, B. K., Maestre, F. T. (2020): The proportion of soil-borne pathogens increases with warming at the global scale. Nature Climate Change.

Weitere Informationen: Short video about the topic

Volker Hahn | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rising water temperatures could endanger the mating of many fish species
03.07.2020 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Moss protein corrects genetic defects of other plants
03.07.2020 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

Im Focus: AI monitoring of laser welding processes - X-ray vision and eavesdropping ensure quality

With an X-ray experiment at the European Synchrotron ESRF in Grenoble (France), Empa researchers were able to demonstrate how well their real-time acoustic monitoring of laser weld seams works. With almost 90 percent reliability, they detected the formation of unwanted pores that impair the quality of weld seams. Thanks to a special evaluation method based on artificial intelligence (AI), the detection process is completed in just 70 milliseconds.

Laser welding is a process suitable for joining metals and thermoplastics. It has become particularly well established in highly automated production, for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

Latest News

Rising water temperatures could endanger the mating of many fish species

03.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Risk of infection with COVID-19 from singing: First results of aerosol study with the Bavarian Radio Chorus

03.07.2020 | Studies and Analyses

Efficient, Economical and Aesthetic: Researchers Build Electrodes from Leaves

03.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>