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The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). This global declaration, which follows International Year of Soil in 2015, is meant to raise awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost the economy of many countries around the world.

Various organizations such as FAO and IPPC (International Plant Protection Convention) are planning activities and events to promote plant health throughout 2020 and beyond, with an emphasis on the prevention of crop pests and diseases, and responsible actions when outbreaks occur.

Plant health is often taken for granted, despite being the source of the air we breathe and much of the food we eat. Without a focus on plant health, however, crops can develop deficiencies that weaken and expose them to diseases and pest infestations. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that up to 40 per cent of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases annually.

Crop Pests and Diseases

Through the photosynthesis process, plants fix carbon and conjugate it with absorbed water to produce sugars that feed many living beings, including microbes, animals and humans. These sugars also make plants a target for pathogens and pests, which can have a devastating effect on agriculture.

In addition, harvested grains and produce can degrade during storage and transport due to the same or other pathogens and pests. Trade losses due to these challenges are estimated at over $200 billion annually, which directly impacts farmers’ income and can expose vulnerable populations to a shortage of food and widespread hunger.

Current high value food and field crops are the result of a lengthy process of breeding and the achievement of their genetic potential is very reliant on fertility and pesticide inputs. The pathogen populations and weed species have also evolved alongside these bred crops leading to outbreaks, high selection pressure on the commonly used chemistries and ultimately resistance.

Focusing on Plant Health

To meet these challenges, promoting crop health through the use of products able to elicit natural defenses has become a focus in recent years. This not only has the ability to produce healthy food in sufficient quantities but also prolong the efficacy and shelf life of effective pesticides. Some of these products have also advanced the knowledge on how to produce nutritious foods with health benefits for the populations that rely on them.

The entire food value chain – farmers, grain and produce buyers, governments, and others in the private sector – can save billions of dollars and ensure reliable access to healthy and quality food by preventing the introduction and spread of diseases and pest infestations into new areas. Although total prevention of the spread of diseases and pests into new areas is not always possible, implementing strategies, such as balanced fertility programs that promote crop health without building resistances to deployed resistance genes or actives, becomes more important than ever.

We Are the Plant Health Professionals

OMEX has developed fertilizer products with the ability to promote crop health and strengthen plant defenses against diseases and pests. Many of the nutrients included in our products play a crucial role in reducing the spread of diseases or fending off pests and, when used in association with commonly applied pesticides, these nutrients have the ability to prevent deficiencies, elicit defense responses and prolong the control of diseases and pests.

Do you want to learn more? The OMEX team has written volumes about the impact of each nutrient on growth and development, as well as on plant health promotion. Begin by reading our primer on the 16 Essential Elements required by plants, then explore the Know Your Nutrients series for practical tips on using OMEX products to grow healthy crops under a range of ideal and challenging conditions.

Talk to your local Ag retailer or get in touch with your OMEX representative to learn more about how the OMEX line-up of primers, starters, foliars, biologicals, PGRs and specialty products can help you grow nutritious and healthy crops that meet their full yield potential.