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​​​​Plant Disease Notebook assignment offers students a way to customize a course



In this exercise, you will engage in self-study of disease management in selected crops. You may work individually, but are encouraged to work in small groups (2-3 students), to put together a "notebook" on the most important diseases of a group of crops and their management. Each member of a group should prepare his/her own copy of the notebook. You will select the crops, but are encouraged to go BEYOND what you know already, to make this a useful learning experience. Expect to dig out much of the information yourself, but you ARE encouraged to ask questions. This is an exercise, NOT an EXAM! (although there will be an exam at the end). Since this will be worth 1 credit (25% of the grade), you should expect to spend a total of about 40 hours on this exercise.

MY major requirements are:

  1. You should learn material that you can relate to your goals. You may define your own goals, and propose a project to best meet those goals. Feel free to come by to discuss your proposals.
  2. Your topic should not be TOO narrow. (For example, "diseases of maple" seems narrow, "diseases of woody ornamentals" or "diseases of landscape trees" is better. But what is appropriate depends on your goals.)


You may use the references available in class, but also are encouraged to bring and use books and pamphlets that you may have available yourself, use websites, use the library, and ask specialists for advice. Bring in whatever diseased plant samples you can find!! A required Disease Collection (minimum of 5 samples, see Lab Manual for further details) will be part of your Notebook (although you don't HAVE to collect those samples from the crops you are focusing on). Depending on the crop selected, we probably have some diseased samples to try your hand at practical diagnosis as well.

Keep notes on all your studies. "Notebook" means that the result does not have to be a formal, typed paper, that neatness is not paramount, and that it may be hand-written (if legible and organized). Putting the materials in a loose-leaf binder facilitates (re)organization. You should include the following information:

  • the most important diseases of the crops selected
  • how each disease can be identified (diagnostic symptoms, tests)
  • the disease cycles
  • conditions that allow or favor development of the disease
  • specific management prescriptions - Try to find UP-TO-DATE recommendations (especially for chemical management). Ideally, management prescriptions will be discussed in the context of integration into a program for the crop or cropping system (for example, several crops that comprise a rotation system).
  • general sections discussing diagnosis and management approaches. For example, tables comparing symptoms, including those caused by insects and abiotic problems, lists of chemicals available for use on the crop, their relative efficacy and spectrum of activity, the chemical groups they belong to, the limitations on their use (e.g., number of applications or number of pounds per acre per season), and which are prone to development of resistance by target pathogens could be included.
  • the sources of your information (including internet site citations) - An evaluation of both the best printed sources as well as the best electronic (e.g., internet) information sources is required. Include complete references so that you or someone else can find the resource at a later time.

You may include COPIES of extension pamphlets, pages from books, magazines, printouts from web pages, etc.


When you are ready, schedule a 30-minute individual appointment for a final discussion. (You may need to turn in your notebook the previous day-this will be announced later). You will NOT be expected to have memorized everything in your notebook, but you (and every member of a group) will be expected to show reasonable familiarity with and UNDERSTANDING of the material covered in your notebook, and to be familiar with the various sources. I would like to see evidence that you have processed the information. I also will ask you what grade YOU think you deserve based on how much you have learned from this project.


  1. Student Goals Statement, due ________ (10 days into the term) (1 point)

    Plant pathology includes:

    1. diagnosis (identifying the causes) of plant diseases, in the broad sense of ANY plant problem
    2. study of the "behavior" of plant pathogens, focusing on fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, and related causes
    3. selecting and/or designing optimal methods of disease management, based on an understanding of the disease's cause and the characteristics of the pathogen, the plant, and the plant production system.

    Assignment: in light of this description,

    1. Briefly describe your career goals (if unsure, state so) and any additional personal interests. What role would or could plant diseases or plant disease management play? What should or would you like to learn in this course?
    2. Briefly describe what experience or expertise you already have in areas related to your career goals and/or plant diseases, including previous plant pathology courses or other courses that included information on plant problems.
    3. Describe the specific goals of your disease notebook, that is, a preliminary indication of what crops, diseases, or other aspects you would like to cover. (This may still be changed later.)

    Your statement will be evaluated, not on the basis of whether it is "right," but on the basis of whether your perceptions are explained adequately. This statement should serve as a basis for your choice of "Notebook" topic(s) and activities. Make it the first page of your notebook! I realize that goals may change during the course of the semester, and your goals statement may be amended later.

  2. Disease Notebook Outline, due ________ (3 weeks into the term) (2 points)

    Expectations are that you have started to select specific crops and diseases, and look at resources. The outline should include:

    1. your goals statement (can be same as before, but may add updates if needed)
    2. a (preliminary) list of crops and diseases, and/or other sections to be included - You may want to include the reasons for your choices, if not clear from your goals.
    3. your first disease write-up showing the kinds of information you plan to include for each disease
    4. a preliminary reference list - the sources of information (e.g. books, articles, crop experts) that you have found thus far and plan to use
    5. a brief statement on what approaches, features, etc. would make this exercise most valuable to YOU in the short run (learning material in this course) and the long run (e.g., in light of your career goals)

    Students working in groups may submit a joint outline, but goals statements should be separate.

  3. Disease Notebook Midterm Review, due ________ (just past the midpoint of the semester) (2 points)

    Bring your disease notebook to class, along with a completed self-assessment form. Students will work in groups (different from groups that already have worked together) to evaluate each other's progress. This also will be an opportunity to exchange ideas and sources. Faculty and other experts will be available as resources. Expectations are that you will have clear progress to show at this time.

  4. Disease Notebook Final Copy (20 points)

    Turn in your notebook the day before your interview (unless other arrangements have been made) and email the url of each significant internet site used to the instructor. The types of questions that are asked at these interviews are posted on the course website. (see Final Evaluation).




These are some of the comments I have previously made on Goals Statements and Disease Notebook Outlines. Which of these apply to your situation??

Goals Statements

  • Include something about your interests and/or career goals. If you just tell me what you are going to put in your disease notebook, I cannot tell how it "fits in." Submit an amended goals statement to receive full credit for this stage.
  • There STILL seems to be confusion about the relationship between the Disease Collection and the Disease Notebook. You do not need to find samples of the diseases covered in your notebook (although it’s a good idea to try to find some). You should pick out the most important crops/plants, find out which are the most common or important diseases, and gather information about those, regardless of whether you ever find a sample. There are major diseases that we may not be able to find this fall, but you should still be aware of them. The collection is an exercise in recognizing and identifying diseases, and although it would be nice and most instructive if you could find diseases on the crops that you are interested in, ANY plant will do. (You put the collection sheet in your notebook, so that is where it is evaluated).
  • I hope that you won't be disappointed that we won't cover much about scales and aphids in this course - the entomology department offers courses on insects. I don't mind if people include SOME insect information (vectors, insect damage that is easily confused with disease symptoms), but you shouldn't make it the emphasis.
  • I suggest broadening the coverage. A common misconception is that this project is like a term paper, that students think it has to have a tightly focused topic. If you are unsure about what kinds of plants you'll be working with, it's fine to include a wide range of plants. Don't focus on Florida turf, unless you are pretty positive that you'll end up working in Florida. It's no more work to spend 35 hours on a wide range of plants and diseases than on a narrow range!
  • My concern is that limiting the notebook to something like (single crop) is unduly restrictive. I expect students to spend about 40 hrs on the project, although some undoubtedly do less. It seems that you would be better served with 40 hrs on common diseases of landscape ornamentals (with perhaps some fruits and turf mixed in) than with 40 hours on (single crop), where you may start getting into some pretty obscure and unusual stuff towards the end of those 40 hrs. And it would be no more work!

Notebook Outlines

  • This is a good start, a reasonable plan, and a decent list of resources.
  • This is still pretty vague. Time to start getting some specifics together.
  • Your outline falls below expectations; at this stage you should have selected at least some specific crops.
  • Your outline falls below expectations; at this stage you should have selected at least some specific diseases.
  • Your outline falls below expectations; at this stage you should have found at least some sources, or compiled a list of what you plan to use.
  • No sample write-up was included. When you have one, you might want to show it to me to give me a chance to comment.
  • When deciding on your topics, you should keep your career goals in mind, and also may take into account additional interests (such as hobbies). If your career goals are still vague, it is OK to state this. In that case I would suggest a fairly broad coverage, with diseases selected from a range of crops (for example, some ornamental plants along with some major vegetables or fruit crops) and of a variety of pathogen types.
  • Does your list reflect an appropriate variety of pathogen and disease types (e.g., fungal as well as viral, bacterial, and nematode, foliar as well as root diseases)?
  • Keep in mind that this notebook will determine one-quarter of your grade, and that you will be expected to spend about 40 hours on it. Will what you propose here reach that level? The list looks fairly short; do you plan to go into unusual depth?
  • Not clear that your proposed coverage really fits with your stated goals. Can you explain further?
  • Do you think that broadening your coverage to include additional crops would make this project less or more useful to you?
  • This list looks pretty long. If you find that it gets to be too much, you may "prune out" some of the less common or less important diseases.
  • Remember two criteria: that you learn material useful to YOU, and that your topics are not TOO narrow. How well are both criteria met?
  • Try to NOT ONLY use the disease-by-disease approach, but also look at disease management from a crop management perspective.
  • You list some insect pests. I don't mind if you include some of that information, but this is not an entomology course, so I wouldn't emphasize that aspect. It IS a GOOD IDEA to include information on insect problems that can be confused easily with diseases. The same holds for abiotic conditions such as nutrient deficiencies.
  • It's OK to have neat paragraphs, complete sentences, etc., but it's not necessary. Bulleted lists may be more effective at conveying major points than a paragraph. Aim for a notebook, not a formal paper.
  • Process the information. Copying down a symptom description is not as effective as a side-by-side comparison of the symptoms of several different diseases. How exactly can you distinguish the early symptoms of Pythium blight from dollar spot or from__? For fungicides, compare spectra (diseases controlled), relative efficacy, application intervals, and cost. Tabular representation can be very effective.
  • When you recommend that "fungicides may be effective" or "resistant varieties are available", try to include some specifics (WHICH fungicides, or WHICH varieties), and especially try to find good SOURCES for this type of information. For fungicides, look for appropriate state extension links.
  • If you have trouble thinking of material to include that makes sense to you, stop by my office and let's discuss.




Name of notebook compiler ______________________________

Is goals statement included? __________

Approximate amount of time spent on project to date __________

How much more time do you think you'll need to complete project? __________

With respect to sources/resources (books, trade magazines, extension literature, websites, experts ...), do you believe you have a clear idea what is available? __________

Are your sources reasonably up to date? __________

What additional sources/resources do you plan to explore?

To what extent have you not only collected but also digested (learned, understood) material, and how well do you think this exercise will end up meeting your own (educational) needs relative to plant pathology?

What grade are you shooting for in this part of the course, where do you stand, and what do you think you still need to do to achieve your goal?

____ I am at least 30% done (2 pts)

____ 15-30% done (1 pt)

____ less than 15% done (0 pts)

Grade Descriptions:

A=excellent: Coverage is consistent with student goals. Coverage of notebook includes a large number of diseases, and/or considerable depth on individual diseases or aspects. Student has explored a range of the most appropriate sources, and included appropriate material from those. Student is well familiar with major characteristics of diseases and disease management of the crops chosen. Student has extended his/her knowledge considerably beyond what he/she previously had. Clear evidence of a total of about 40 hours (or more), well spent.

B=good. Student has met the major objectives of the assignment well: selected appropriate crops and diseases (consistent with goals), consulted an acceptable variety of sources, and extracted major features. Familiarity with material is good, but there may be some (not major) gaps in sources used and familiarity with information included. Knowledge and coverage (material included, sources) are good but fall short of excellent.

C=fair. Student has met some of the objectives, but there are significant gaps in sources used, material covered, and/or familiarity with material

D=poor. Objectives have not been met well. There is evidence of some effort, but student has not used an appropriate range of sources, or has compiled only limited amounts of information (few diseases covered, and/or not much depth) and/or does not show much knowledge of major features of the material included.

F=failing. Falls far short of meeting major objectives.




Name of notebook compiler: ________________________

Name of Reviewer: ________________________


  1. Is goals statement included, and is the rationale for choice of crops and diseases covered adequately explained?
  2. Does coverage seem reasonable in light of the student's goals, and the 1-credit weight of the assignment? Any suggestions for improvement?
  3. Is a list of sources included, and are the sources used (books, pamphlets, internet, trade magazines, professionals, etc.) appropriate and sufficient? Suggestions for additional or better sources?
  4. Are format, organization, and content appropriate? Suggestions for improvement?
  5. Other comments and suggestions

For the "midterm check", I recommend:
(   ) 2 points - clear evidence of progress - at least 30-50% done
(   ) 1 point - got a start, but progress limited
(   ) 0 points - not much done yet

The course instructor should look at this:
_____ yes    _____ not needed.

Please list comments (may number by criterion) below:




  • Where is your goals statement? (for those who forgot to include it :-) ) How does your choice of material relate to your goals?
  • What are some of the most common and important diseases of …?
  • What kind of damage does this disease do?
  • How can this disease be diagnosed? What are identifying characteristics? How can you tell the difference between diseases A and B? What other problems could be confused with this?
  • What are some of the best resources for diagnosis of diseases of …?
    If you received a book gift certificate from the American Society for the Promotion of Plant Pathology, with the stipulation that it could only be spent on something related to plant diseases, are there books available that would seem useful to you?
  • Where can you find information on the biology of ...? What time of the year does this disease tend to be most serious? Under what kind of weather conditions? Are there any specific growth stages of the plant that are particularly susceptible? Any predisposing factors? How does the pathogen spread? What are the conditions required for infection and colonization? How or where does the pathogen survive the winter or off-season?
  • Where can you find specific management recommendations for …? What kind of options does a grower have for the control of …?
  • What are some of the disease management considerations that a grower should pay attention to in establishing this particular crop? What kind of monitoring and actions may be required in the course of the growing season? What would an integrated disease management program for this crop look like?
  • If you were asked to give a presentation to (grower group, Rotary Club, ...) on disease problems and disease management in ____, what would be the major topics you would present, and the main points that you would emphasize?
  • Do you have your Disease Collection list? Anything to offset any deficiencies elsewhere?
  • What questions should I ask that I haven't asked yet? What aspects would you like to highlight that we haven't discussed yet?
  • What grade do you feel you deserve or earned with your Disease Notebook? What are the strong and the weak points?