As the climate continues to change, new research suggests the shift is favorable to pests and diseases that attack drops, BBC News reported .
As much as 16 percent of the world's crops are lost to disease outbreaks today and the researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford, U.K., warn that global warming trends will make the problem worse.
As the temperature rises, the pests are also spreading to areas where it was once too cold for them. The researchers said they are now averaging two miles of travel per year and are headed further toward the north and south poles.
"Global food security is one of the major challenges we are going to face over the next few decades," lead author Dr. Dan Bebber, of the University of Exeter, said."We really don't want to be losing any more of our crops than is absolutely necessary to pests and pathogens."
The study, published online Sunday for the journal Nature Climate Change , analyzed 612 crop pests and pathogens records from the past 50 years. Wheat rust has been especially problematic in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, whereas mountain pine beetles have been troubling trees in the U.S. Other sources of the problem included bacteria, viruses and microscopic nematode worms.
Various organisms shifted quicker than others, in fact, some butterflies and other insects were moving at 12 miles per year, but some fungi hardly moved.The average of it all was two miles per year.
"We detect a shift in their distribution away form the equator and towards the poles," said Bebber. "The most convincing hypothesis is that global warming has caused this shift."
The researchers said this shift is only possible when an environment has become warm enough for the pests to inhabit it and, unfortunately, that is what is happening.
"One example is the Colorado potato beetle," Bebber said. "Warming appears to have allowed it to move northwards through Europe to into Finland and Norway where the cold winters would normally knock the beetle back."
As more information is available, the researchers will know more precisely how far various pests have traveled and be able to better asses the problem.