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Notes on Introduction and History of Plant Pathology

Notes on Introduction and History of Plant Pathology

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Plant Pathology:

  • Plant pathology or phytopathology deals with plant diseases.
  • It is concerned with health and productivity of growing plants.
  • Phytopathology is a branch of agricultural, botanical, or biological science.
  • It deals with causes, resulting losses, and management methods of plant diseases.
  • Plant pathology studies nature, cause, and prevention of plant diseases.
  • It relates to sciences like biology, physics, chemistry, and more.
  • Major objectives include studying biotic, mesobiotic, and abiotic causes of diseases.
  • It involves studying disease development and plant-pathogen interaction.
  • Development of plant disease management methods is a key objective.

Plant Diseases:

  • Plant diseases are recognized by symptoms or sick appearance of plants.
  • Plant disease signifies the condition due to disease or its cause.
  • Disease is a malfunctioning process caused by continuous irritation.
  • Definitions by American Phytopathological Society and British Mycological Society.
  • Disease alters physiological processes and energy utilization in plants.
  • Disease is a disturbance caused by living entities, non-living agents, or environmental factors.
  • Diseases affect food manufacture, translocation, or utilization in plants.

History of Plant Pathology:

  • Awareness of plant diseases dates back to antiquity.
  • Blasting and mildew mentioned in the Old Testament.
  • Ancient religious literature, including Rigveda and Atharvanaveda, mentions plant diseases.
  • Sushrute Samhita, Vishnu Puran, Agnipuran, and Vishnudharmottar also discuss plant diseases.
  • Vedic period acknowledged diseases caused by microbes.
  • "Vraksha Ayurveda" by Surapal, an ancient Indian book on plant diseases.
  • Surapal divided plant diseases into internal and external groups.
  • Bible mentions diseases like rust, smut, downy mildew, powdery mildew, and blight.
  • Theophrastus (370-286 B.C.) studied diseases of trees, cereals, and legumes.
  • His book 'Enquiry into plants' recorded observations, not based on experiments.
  • Theophrastus noted diseases of different plant groups are autonomous or spontaneous.


  • 1675: Anton von Leeuwenhoek developed the first microscope.
  • 1729: P. A. Micheli, Italian botanist, proposed fungi come from spores; father of Mycology.
  • 1755: French botanist Tillet published a paper on bunt of wheat; discovered bunt is a wheat disease.
  • 1807: I. B. Prevost showed bunt of wheat is a fungus and linked microorganisms to disease.

Key Contributions in Mycology:

  • 1821: E. M. Fries published Systema Mycologicum; named as Linnaeus of Mycology.
  • 1821: Robertson stated sulphur is effective against peach mildew.
  • 1845: Irish Potato famine caused by Phytophthora infestans.
  • 1858: J. G. Kuhn published first Plant Pathology textbook.
  • 1861: Anton de Bary worked on potato late blight; proved fungi cause diseases; Father of Modern Plant Pathology.
  • 1865: Anton de Bary reported heteroecious nature of wheat stem rust.
  • 1869: England's coffee production lost to coffee rust; shift to tea cultivation.
  • 1874: Robert Hartig published “Important Diseases of Forest Trees.”
  • 1875-1912: Brefeld discovered artificial culture methods; studied cereal smut fungi.
  • 1877: M. S. Woronin named Club root of Cabbage pathogen as Plasmodiophora brassicae.
  • 1878: M. S. Woronin studied life cycle of potato wart disease.
  • 1878: Downy mildew of grapevine introduced into Europe; impacted wine industry.
  • 1881: H.M. Ward worked on coffee leaf rust; Father of Tropical Plant Pathology.
  • 1882: Robert Hartig published "Diseases of Trees"; Father of Forest Pathology.
  • 1885: Pierre Millardet discovered Bordeaux mixture for grapevine mildew.
  • 1885: A. B. Frank defined and named mycorrhizal associations.
  • 1887: Burgundy mixture introduced by Mason.
  • 1894: Eriksson described physiologic races in cereal rust fungus.

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