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Plant Pathology in Australia - a brief history

Denis Persley: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

<div>The history of plant pathology in Australia has been influenced by its geographic isolation, and the establishment of introduced pathogens. Stan Fish (1970) and Neville White (1981) chronicled the early history up until the era of rapid technological advances. They described the pioneering role of plant pathologists whose knowledge underpins current research. European colonisation began with the arrival of the first fleet in 1788. At this time the land was already occupied by Australian Aboriginal people who had lived there for some 50,000 years. They were hunter gatherers and managed the country sustainably so that resources were replenished. Food sustainability became a major issue for European settlers and farms soon developed around their settlements. They grew mainly wheat and raised sheep. The earliest plant pathology investigations began because of wheat rust. William James Farrer (1845-1906) bred rust resistant wheat, and rust research was championed by Daniel Mc Alpine (1849-1932) the “father of plant pathology in Australia”. As agriculture increased and diversified, plant disease problems became more prevalent and serious. As well, some pathogens moved from native plants onto introduced hosts. Plant pathologists were soon appointed in State Departments of Agriculture and in the national quarantine service. In the 1920’s chairs in plant pathology were established at major universities but the Australasian Plant Pathology Society was not formed until 1969.</div>