plant pathology

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Related to plant pathology: plant disease, phytopathology

plant pathology:

see diseases of plantsdiseases of plants.
Most plant diseases are caused by fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Although the term disease is usually used only for the destruction of live plants, the action of dry rot and the rotting of harvested crops in storage or transport is similar to the rots
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Plant pathology

The study of disease in plants; it is an integration of many biological disciplines and bridges the basic and applied sciences. As a science, plant pathology encompasses the theory and general concepts of the nature and cause of disease, and yet it also involves disease control strategies, with the ultimate goal being reduction of damage to the quantity and quality of food and fiber essential for human existence.

Kinds of plant diseases

Diseases were first classified on the basis of symptoms. Three major categories of symptoms were recognized long before the causes of disease were known; necroses, destruction of cell protoplasts (rots, spots, wilts); hypoplases, failure in plant development (chlorosis, stunting); and hyperplases, overdevelopment in cell number and size (witches'-brooms, galls). This scheme remains useful for recognition and diagnosis.

When fungi, and then bacteria, nematodes, and viruses, were recognized as causes of disease, it became convenient to classify diseases according to the responsible agent. If the agents were infectious (biotic), the diseases were classified as being “caused by bacteria,” “caused by nematodes,” or “caused by viruses.” To this list were added phanerogams and protozoans, and later mollicutes (mycoplasmas, spiroplasmas), rickettsias, and viroids. In a second group were those diseases caused by such noninfectious (abiotic) agents as air pollutants, inadequate oxygen, and nutrient excesses and deficiencies.

Other classifications of disease have been proposed, such as diseases of specific plant organs, diseases involving physiological processes, and diseases of specific crops or crop groups (for example, field crops, fruit crops, vegetable crops).

Symptoms of plant diseases

Symptoms are expressions of pathological activity in plants. They are visible manifestations of changes in color, form, and structure: leaves may become spotted, turn yellow, and die; fruits may rot on the plants or in storage; cankers may form on stems; and plants may blight and wilt. Diagnosticians learn how to associate certain symptoms with specific diseases, and they use this knowledge in the identification and control of pathogens responsible for the diseases.

Those symptoms that are external and readily visible are considered morphological. Others are internal and primarily histological, for example, vascular discoloration of the xylem of wilting plants. Microscopic examination of diseased plants may reveal additional symptoms at the cytological level, such as the formation of tyloses (extrusion of living parenchyma cells of the xylem of wilted tissues into vessel elements).

It is important to make a distinction between the visible expression of the diseased condition in the plant, the symptom, and the visible manifestation of the agent which is responsible for that condition, the sign. The sign is the structure of the pathogen, and when present it is most helpful in diagnosis of the disease.

All symptoms may be conveniently classified into three major types because of the manner in which pathogens affect plants. Most pathogens produce dead and dying tissues, and the symptoms expressed are categorized as necroses. Early stages of necrosis are evident in such conditions as hydrosis, wilting, and yellowing. As cells and tissues die, the appearance of the plant or plant part is changed, and is recognizable in such common conditions as blight, canker, rot, and spot.

Many pathogens do not cause necrosis, but interfere with cell growth or development. Plants thus affected may eventually become necrotic, but the activity of the pathogen is primarily inhibitory or stimulatory. If there is a decrease in cell number or size, the expressions of pathological activity are classified as hypoplases; if cell number or size is increased, the symptoms are grouped as hyperplases. These activities are very specific and most helpful in diagnosis. In the former group are such symptoms as mosaic, rosetting, and stunting, with obvious reduction in plant color, structure, and size. In the latter group are gall, scab, and witches'-broom, all visible evidence of stimulation of growth and development of plant tissues. See Crown gall

The primary agents of plant disease are fungi, bacteria, viruses and viroids, nematodes, parasitic seed plants, and a variety of noninfectious agents. See Bacteria, Fungi, Nemata, Plant viruses and viroids

Epidemiology of plant disease

Epidemiology is the study of the intensification of disease over time and the spread of disease in space. The botanical epidemiologist is concerned with the interrelationships of the host plant (suscept), the pathogen, and the environment, which are the components of the disease triangle. With a thorough knowledge of these components, the outbreak of disease may be forecast in advance, the speed at which the epidemic will intensify may be determined, control measures can be applied at critical periods, and any yield loss to disease can be projected. The maximum amount of disease occurs when the host plant is susceptible, the pathogen is aggressive, and the environment is favorable.

Epidemiologically, there are two main types of diseases: monocyclic, those that have but a single infection cycle (with the rare possibility of a second or even third cycle) per crop season; and polycyclic, those that have many, overlapping, concatenated cycles of infection per crop season. For both epidemiological types, the increase of disease slows as the proportion of disease approaches saturation or 100%.

Control of plant disease is defined as the maintenance of disease severity below a certain threshold, which is determined by economic losses. Diseases may be high in incidence but low in severity, or low in incidence but high in severity, and are kept in check by preventing the development of epidemics. The principles of plant disease control form the basis for preventing epidemics. However, the practicing agriculturist uses three approaches to the control of plant disease: cultural practices affecting the environmental requirement of the suscept-pathogen-environment triangle necessary for disease development, disease resistance, and chemical pesticides.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

plant pathology

[′plant pə′thäl·ə·jē]
The branch of botany concerned with diseases of plants.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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