Iowa State Expert to Speak at Senate Climate Change Briefing

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University plant pathologist X.B. Yang will speak Monday, Sept. 29, before a U.S. Senate committee on climate change impacts on crop pests and diseases. The Congressional briefing for the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry was organized by Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and Global Environment. The briefing, titled The Potential Impacts of Climate Change on U.S. Agriculture and What Can Farmers Do About It, is scheduled for 1 p.m. in 328A Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. Yang was asked to make a presentation about climate change effects on crop diseases and pests. Also scheduled to speak are experts on climate change, carbon sequestration and wind energy. "Disease microorganisms are sensitive to climate changes and the number of major crop diseases have doubled over the last 15 to 20 years," Yang said. "Outbreaks are related to extreme weather events." As weather extremes become more common, conditions for pests and diseases become more favorable, he said. Drought, wet weather or warm winters encourage different types of disease and pests that affect crops. Scientists have made progress developing crops that are resistant to one or two diseases and/or pests, but Yang said the difficulty comes in choosing varieties based on weather predictions with questionable accuracy. "We have been unable to develop varieties with resistance to more than four common diseases or pests," he added.