As the world copes with the pandemic, it becomes more and more important for all of us to promote plant health, especially in Hawaiʻi and other geographically isolated Pacific Islands that currently import more than 80% of our food. Hawai'i is also home to almost 1,400 native plant species, 90% of which grow only here.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health. The purpose of this designation is to raise global awareness of the inherent relation between protecting plant health and helping to end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development—all of which are so crucial right now.
The CTAHR ‘ohana has the subject-matter expertise to significantly raise our community’s understanding, at a very critical juncture. CTAHR has long been in the forefront of protecting plant health, whether by diagnosing new diseases, introducing bio-controls for new pests, or conducting routine diagnoses for farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders. We have a timely opportunity to show a whole new generation of students how fascinating and worthwhile it is to study agriculture. Letʻs recruit our young people to join this “critical infrastructure” industry and be part of an essential team that benefits the community.
The IYPH website has plenty of ideas and resources on raising awareness, as well as potential careers for students in plant health. Right now, PEPS students are hard at work on IYPH videos, and we will post them soon. Stay tuned!
IYPH is also a trove of global agriculture data that further emphasize the importance of plant health to human health. For example, did you know…
- Plants make up 80% of the food we eat and produce 98% of the oxygen we breathe.
- Plant pests cause losses of up to 40% of global food crops, which equals trade losses exceeding $220 billion annually.
- The trade value of agricultural products has grown threefold in the last decade. It now equals $1.7 trillion—and this will only increase.
- Agricultural production must rise by 60% by 2050 in order to feed the growing global population.
- Our native forests protect our watersheds. The value of the water from O‘ahu's watersheds alone is over $4 billion.
- 366 species of our native Hawaiian plants are listed as threatened or endangered.
Weʻre all in this together!
Koon-Hui Wang, Ph.D., CTAHR Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, and James Friday, Ph.D., CTAHR Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Komohana Research and Extension Center