The Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security cluster will improve local and global efforts to manage emerging pests and pathogens that threaten crop production and lead to food insecurity. NC State has a strong history in conducting international agricultural research and outreach. Many emerging “armed and dangerous” plant diseases and pests threaten U.S. and global agriculture and reported outbreaks have become more severe with trade and changing climate. In the mid-1800’s, late blight of potato caused widespread famine in Ireland. Today this disease and others pests and diseases such as cassava brown streak, stem rust, Black Sigatoka and Panama disease of banana, and maize lethal necrosis threaten food security in South East Asia and Africa. Outstanding NC State faculty have research programs on many of these emerging plant pathogens and have been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA Foreign Agriculture Service and USAID to conduct basic and translational integrated plant science research that impacts global food security. Our strong team of existing distinguished and new cluster faculty will focus on both pandemic and emerging pests and pathogens that are responsible for large yield gaps.
This cluster will create new knowledge and tools to understand the fundamental basis of emerging infectious diseases caused by pests or pathogens of plants, enabling a more rapid response to contain and limit potential damage by these emerging threats. The proposed team builds upon existing faculty strengths in multiple departments, centers, and other clusters, and expands our engagement across multiple colleges. Four new faculty will be hired to conduct integrated research on emerging diseases and develop a new graduate certificate in global food security across four colleges. College-specific connections include
- Agriculture and Life Sciences: Make significant impacts on improvements in crop production and play a lead role in developing breakthrough technologies to manage pests and diseases of plants and food-borne pathogen outbreaks.
- Engineering: Develop sensing and detection devices for pathogens and use these devices in combination with robotics to deliver devices to the field.
- Sciences: Develop bioinformatic tracking tools and workbench applications for modeling spread of genotypes of pests and pathogens.
- Natural Resources: Develop new geospatial analytic tools to monitor “real-time” disease emergence, sources of outbreaks and spread using “big data” mining tools and mathematical modeling.
Through its unique combination of expertise in biological sciences, geospatial analytics, bioengineering, evolutionary biology, epidemiological modeling, bioinformatics, and humanities and social sciences, this cluster will develop and deploy next generation plant disease management knowledge, tools and technologies and train a new generation of globally-engaged scientists. Our work has the potential to impact humanity on an enormous scale—reducing crop losses from pests and diseases and increasing farmer incomes, improving nutrition and food safety, improving human health, and increasing people’s overall quality of life. In an interconnected and interdependent world, we also see our work as supporting policy reforms and greater gender equity through the development of sustainable, climate-smart food production.
Cluster Website: http://globalfoodsecurity.ncsu.edu/