Variable climate suitability for wheat blast (Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype Triticum) in Asia: results from a continental-scale modeling approach
Crop fungal diseases constitute a major cause of yield loss. The development of crop disease monitoring and forecasting tools is an important effort to aid farmers in adapting to climate variability and change. Recognizing weather as a main driver of fungal disease outbreaks, this work assesses the climate suitability for wheat blast (Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype Triticum, MoT) development in Asian wheat-producing countries. MOT was reported for the first time in Bangladesh in 2016 and could spread to other countries, provided that environmental conditions are suitable to spore development, distribution, and infection. With results from a generic infection model driven by air temperature and humidity, and motivated by the necessity to assess the potential distribution of MoT based on the response to weather drivers only, we quantify potential MOT infection events across Asia for the period 1980–2019. The results show a potential higher incidence of MOT in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and some areas of India, where the number of potential infection (NPI) events averaged up to 15 during wheat heading. Interannual trends show an increase in NPI over those three countries, which in turns show their higher interannual variability. Cold/dry conditions in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan appear to render them unlikely candidates for MOT establishment. The relationship between seasonal climate anomalies and NPI suggests a greater association with relative humidity than with temperature. These results could help to focus future efforts to develop management strategies where weather conditions are conducive for the establishment of MOT.