Pest dynamics, ecology and climate change: underpinning policy interventions for improved pest management among CARICOM member states.
Climate variability may enhance the establishment of pests into areas which had been previously unfavourable for survival and establishment because of unsuitable climatic conditions. Within the wider Caribbean geographic area, there have been several introductions of invasive pest species over the past two decades, many resulting in enormous economic loss to regional agriculture. One of the constraints to better management of these pests has been insufficient knowledge and understanding of pest-crop dynamics and the roles, for example, that beneficial organisms, climate changes and even agricultural policies may have on the actual pest populations and on the selection of appropriate pest management solutions. This paper considers aspects of pest (including weeds, arthropods and invertebrates, bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens) dynamics and crop interactions, reports on some recent pest introductions into the region including a case study of the pink hibiscus mealy bug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus) in the Caribbean, and briefly considers the impact of climate change on pests. Some suggestions for policy interventions by CARICOM Governments to deal with the threat of invasive pests in relation to climate change and weather variables are also given. It is recommended that (i) farmers should pay more attention to the impacts of low rainfall and resulting drought or too much precipitation and attendant flooding and the impacts that these events have on their production, and (ii) the Ministries of Agriculture, through their research and extension divisions and with the collaboration of their technical assistance partners, develop relevant programmes to inform the public in general and the farming community more specifically on the impact of climate change on pest activity and implementable mitigating practices.