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Ideas for Things to Do

HomePurposes & Background Experiments and Activities

Areas of Interest

  • Locate reference books and websites on plant diseases
  • Define plant disease terms and give examples
  • Learn about the history of plant diseases
  • Research the social and environmental issues surrounding plant diseases
  • Explore some common diseases of plants in your area
  • Experiment!

Books and Websites

  • Locate books and websites that you can reference about plant diseases. Things to look for are: the history of plant diseases, famous plant pathologists (doctors of plant medicine), the different social and environmental issues of plant diseases, basic terminology of plant diseases, common diseases of plants, management or control of plant diseases, etc.
  • Examples of books and websites:
    • Plant Pathology by George N. Agrios, a comprehensive, college-level textbook
    • Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History by Mary Matossian, historical aspect of some plant diseases
    • Principles of Plant Disease Management by William Fry, textbook for graduate and advanced undergraduate students
    • Plant Pathology: Past to Present by Frank Tainter an illustrated storybook describing the origin, relevance, and science of plant pathology. Suitable for elementary and secondary levels.
    • Essential P​lant Pathology by D'Arcy and Schumann, user-friendly college-level textbook
    • Plant Diseases: Their ​Biology and Social Impact by Gail Schumann, user-friendly college-level textbook
    • American Phytopathological Society


  • After finding websites and books on plant diseases, define the following terms: disease, injury, sign, symptom, pathogen, susceptible host, resistant host, environment, deficiency, toxicity, biotic, abiotic, fungus, bacteria, virus, nematode, parasite, pesticide, aflatoxin, aerobic, anaerobic, spore, cell membrane, cell wall, inoculation, etc. Here's an idea: read the first chapter of a plant disease book. If there are some words in there that you have never seen before, try looking them up in a dictionary or glossary. They will be helpful to know. Also, give examples of each. You can also visit the following website to find an illustrated glossary of plant pathology terms: APSnet Education Center Illustrated Glossary of Plant Pathological Terms.

Plant Disease History

  • The impact of plant diseases is an important component of human culture and history. However, very few people know much about the interaction of plants and pathogens.
  • Explore the world's history and find an epidemic that was caused by a plant disease. Examples include: Irish potato famine; Dutch elm disease; chestnut blight; citrus canker; ergot and the Salem witch trials.
  • Find out about the world's first plant doctors. "Who were they?" "What did they discover?" "When did they discover it?" Examples include: Thomas Taylor; Pierre Marie Alexis Millardet; Hieronymus Fracastorius; Anton de Bary; Johanna Westerdijk; T. J. Burrill; Erwin F. Smith; Miles Berkeley.
  • Also explore plant diseases in other countries and cultures. For example, you could explore the plant pathology in India that was influenced by religious-mythology and the practice of medicine or plant pathology in China, unlike its Indian counterpart, which recognized specific diseases and came up with methods of control and prevention.

Social and Environmental Issues

  • Research three areas concerning issues in plant pathology. These issues may be genetically modified organisms, organic versus non-organic crops, agricultural bioterrorism, pollution, acid rain, pesticide use, or the legislative impact of plant diseases. Some questions to ask may be: "What is the problem?" "Who is involved or who does it affect?" "How did it affect human life?" "What are we trying to do about it?" "Why did it happen?" "How can we control plant diseases to avoid future events?"
  • Find an article (print or web-based) that relates to a "hot issue" (like the ones above) in plant pathology in Ohio or the Midwest. Write a paragraph or have a class debate based on the following: "What was the point of the article?" "What was the link between the article and the other materials you have read, seen or heard?" "Do you think the author fairly covered the subject?" "Why or why not?"​

Explore Common Plant Diseases

  • Research different plant diseases. If you live in the city you may want to learn about lawn, flower, shrub, and tree diseases. If you are from the country perhaps corn, soybean, alfalfa, or wheat diseases might be more interesting.
  • Look at diseases that occur in your state, but also worldwide. There are many plant diseases in the world. Here are a few examples: powdery mildew; corn smut; dollar spot; apple scab; coffee rust; tobacco mosaic virus; Verticillium wilt; leaf spot; crown gall; citrus canker; ergot; fireblight; leaf rust.