CGIAR Germplasm Health Units organize Phytosanitary Awareness Week

8 November 2020

As part of measures to address the inadvertent spread of pests experienced with germplasm distribution while creating awareness on phytosanitary safety, Germplasm Health Units (GHU) in CGIAR launch a week-long awareness program, 9-13 November. Plants and seeds are known to harbor various pests such as pathogens, insects, nematodes, and other harmful biotic agents that can spread into new territories along with germplasm transportation.

Phytosanitary Awareness Week 2020

This is a source of major concern for CGIAR Centers that, to a major extent, supply germplasm to developing countries, and biodiversity hotspots, lacking sufficient phytosanitary capacity to prevent pest entry or respond to pest outbreaks. In recognizing the hazards of pest risks, the Centers also set up Germplasm Health Units to avert the spread of quarantine pests with CGIAR germplasm transfers, prevent pest outbreaks, and safeguard biodiversity.

The CGIAR Phytosanitary Awareness Week was organized in partnership with the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), Regional Plant Protection Organizations (RPPOs), National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs), and Crop Trust, with the theme Phytosanitary Safety for Prevention of Transboundary Spread of Pests and Pathogens. It comes at a time when the UN has declared the year 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH 2020), to raise awareness about plant health and the impact of healthy plants and forests on food security, poverty, economic development, and sustainability.

The week-long event features a series of webinars planned to discuss the state of global efforts to contain the spread of invasive transboundary pests; best practices used in CGIAR Germplasm Health Units; engagement and collaboration with national and international plant health organizations, and others. These webinars will also look at future scenarios and needs for protecting germplasm health and biorisk mitigation during germplasm transfer events.

Recognizing the hazards of pest risks, the CGIAR Centers have set up Germplasm Health Units to ensure the safe and efficient transfer of germplasm as this is crucial for the Centers’ international programs and delivery of public goods under the FAO International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and national quarantine regulations enforced by the NPPOs.

These GHUs also serve as the Centers’ gateway for germplasm exchange by ensuring compliance with the IPPC procedures and the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) used by NPPOs to prevent the introduction, and control the spread of pests along with plants or plant products.

The webinars will focus on the challenges and opportunities existing in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and African regions. The key experts and advocates that will be attending will also explore ways to work together with national and global phytosanitary communities to prevent the spread of transboundary pests; compliance to phytosanitary controls in seed production and international seed distribution activities; and knowledge and technological advances in phytosanitation and diagnostics.

The GHU seminar series kicks off with a global plenary session focused on three presentations on IYPH; FAO-CGIAR international collaboration in tackling transboundary pests; and the role of CGIAR Germplasm Health component of the Genebank Platform in preventing the transboundary spread of pests and pathogens and safe international transfers of germplasm for food and agricultural R4D initiatives around the world.

The Asian session on day 2 will focus on phytosanitary implications of global exchange of crop germplasm, and emerging crop pests and pathogens in Asia. New plant pests and pathogens can have potential impact on livelihoods and food security. Locust outbreaks and increasing infestation of fall armyworm are of great concern in the region. Wheat blast, Fusarium oxysporum Tropical Race 4, Bactrocera zonata (the peach fruit fly), brown plant hoppers (BPH)—a major pest of rice, and UG99—a virulent strain of wheat stem rust, are the other potential threats to agriculture. The seminars highlight the collaborative role of CGIAR GHUs and NPPOs in preventing the introduction and spread of pests of quarantine significance.

The Latin American session on day 3 will focus on phytosanitary issues of importance in Latin America, where climate change and new invasive pest introductions such as potato purple top disease, Fusarium oxysporum Tropical Race 4, and citrus Huanglongbing are changing pest dynamics and threatening crops across the continent. The seminars highlight the role of CGIAR GHUs and NPPOs and RPPOs in preventing the introduction and spread of these pests.

The African session on day 4 will focus on emerging pest and pathogen threats to food staples, trees, and forages in Africa. The sub-Saharan Africa has been grappling with several introduced exotic threats such as maize lethal necrosis, banana bunchy top, Fusarium oxysporum Tropical Race 4, fall armyworm, cassava brown streak, Tuta abosluta. The seminars highlight the role of CGIAR GHUs and NPPOs and RPPOs in prevention and containing the transboundary spread of emerging pests and pathogens.

The closing session on day 5 will present key findings and recommendations from each webinar session, followed by an expert panel discussion on the needs for enhancing phytosanitary safety to prevent the transboundary spread of pests and pathogens, and key recommendations and way forward for GHU future action.

With the GHUs having facilitated 3,900 events of international germplasm transfers from genebanks, and breeding programs, across the world, reaching about 100 countries per year, the GHU Phytosanitary Week will strategize on future pest risk scenarios in the context of climate change, and identify the technologies, and partnerships appropriate for addressing current and future biorisks to plant and germplasm health.


Hashtags and handles: #cgiarGHU #IYPH2020 #PhytosanitaryWeek2020 #PlantHealth Virology – Germplasm Health Group

@CGIAR @IITA_CGIAR @CropTrust @ippcnews @FAO @ICRISAT @GenebankICRISAT @Cipotato @ICRAF @ICARDA @AfricaRice @CIMMYT @BiovIntCIAT_eng @l_lava


Lava Kumar, Virologist and Head, IITA Germplasm Heath Unit (GHU),