The Study of Plant Disease
Using Plant Pathology to Grow Better Plants
Plant pathology is an interdisciplinary science that includes knowledge of botany, microbiology, crop science, soil science, ecology, genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and physiology. Most plant pathologists have master's and doctoral degrees and are employed by colleges and universities, state and federal government agencies, industrial firms, international institutes, and as private practitioners. See our Careers In Plant Pathology area for more information on the exciting and changing field of plant pathology.
Understanding and Managing Plant Diseases
Plant diseases are caused by living organisms (called pathogens), such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, phytoplasmas, protozoa, and parasitic plants; and by nonliving agents, such as air pollutants, nutrient imbalances, and various environmental factors.
New diseases and changes in existing pathogens remain a constant threat to our forests, food and fiber crops, and landscape plants.
Development of new and innovative ways to control plant diseases is a constant challenge for plant pathologists. Plant diseases may be managed by altering the host plant, the pathogen, and/or the environment. Examples include growing resistant plant varieties, planting pathogen-free seed or stock, applying a biological control agent, modifying environmental conditions to decrease disease, and using plant medicines that inhibit or kill the pathogen without harming the plant or the environment.