The persistent threat of emerging plant disease pandemics to global food security

Jean B. Ristaino, Pamela K. Anderson, Daniel P. Bebber, Kate A. Brauman, Nik J. Cunniffe, Nina V. Fedoroff, Cambria Finegold, Karen A. Garrett, Christopher A. Gilligan, Christopher M. Jones, Michael D. Martin, Graham K. MacDonald, Patricia Neenan, Angela Records, David G. Schmale, Laura Tateosian, Qingshan Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Plant disease outbreaks are increasing and threaten food security for the vulnerable in many areas of the world. Now a global human pandemic is threatening the health of millions on our planet. A stable, nutritious food supply will be needed to lift people out of poverty and improve health outcomes. Plant diseases, both endemic and recently emerging, are spreading and exacerbated by climate change, transmission with global food trade networks, pathogen spillover, and evolution of new pathogen lineages. In order to tackle these grand challenges, a new set of tools that include disease surveillance and improved detection technologies including pathogen sensors and predictive modeling and data analytics are needed to prevent future outbreaks. Herein, we describe an integrated research agenda that could help mitigate future plant disease pandemics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022239118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 8 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
J.B.R. thanks Dr. Fred Gould, member of the National Academy of Sciences, for his useful comments on this manuscript. The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Grant (NAKFIES9) and the Rockefeller Foundation provided funding for a Bellagio Conference Grant (88220) on “Emerging Infectious Diseases of Africa in the Context of Ecosystem Services.” Appreciation is also expressed to the North Carolina State University Provost’s Office; The Nusbaum Foundation; The Kenan Institute; The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the College of Sciences at North Carolina State University; and Research Triangle International and Novozymes for funding of a conference on “Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security,” where ideas were generated for this work ( We thank Shannon Jones for preparing Fig. 2, Xingli Ma for preparing Fig. 3, and Amanda Saville for formatting all figures. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily the views and opinions of the United States Agency for International Development or any of the authors’ institutions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


  • Emerging plant disease
  • Food security
  • Plant pathology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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