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2.1. What is a plant disease? 2.2. Importance of plant disease 2.3. Development of Plant Pathology as a science 2.4. Causes of Plant Disease 2.4.1. Non-infectious disease 2.4.2. Infectious disease 2.5. Classification of Plant Disease 2.6. Conditions for disease development 2.7. Pathogenesis 2.7.1. Survival of pathogen 2.7.2. Inoculum 2.7.3. The spread of plant disease 2.8. General symptoms of plant diseases 2.9. Disease management 2.10. Some important definitions

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2.1. WHAT IS A PLANT DISEASE? The term DISEASE is coined by combining the words DIS + EASE = DISEASE. The prefix DIS means negative, reverse, or opposite, and the word EASE means comfort, or freedom from pain or discomfort. DIS-EASE therefore means not well, and the cause can be many. A plant disease may therefore be defined as: Any harmful deviation or alteration from the normal functioning of physiological processes. It is also defined by some as: Disease is a malfunctioning process that is caused by continuous irritation which results in suffering. A more practical definition of a disease would be: A plant is diseased when its systems are not normal and, therefore, it is not producing as well as it should according to normal expectations of the farmers. 2.2. THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANT DISEASE Plant diseases are important because of the loss they cause. Bhutan experienced for the first time one of the worst rice blast epidemic in 1995 during which most of the rice growers in Paro and Thimphu suffered heavy losses. Similarly the late blight disease of potato which is caused by a fungus (Phytophthora infestans) is quite endemic and appears again and again when the monsoon is heavy. Once the disease spread it will inflict heavy loss to potato growers. Apple scab is another disease in apples grown in the high altitudes of Thimphu, Paro, Haa and Bumthang. For this, most of the orchard owners in the above regions carry out regular spraying with fungicides. Chilli wilt disease has become another headache for the agriculture extension. We have not yet found out any reliable solution. While the incidence of diseases on minor crops may not be of much concern, when diseases bring about a heavy loss on important cash crops like potato and apple and staple crops like rice, it is a cause for much concern. One cannot afford to neglect the plant disease aspects. 2.3. DEVELOPMENT OF PLANT PATHOLOGY AS A SCIENCE The origin and cause of plant diseases became clear only with the invention of microscope in the 17th century that enabled the discovery of hitherto unknown world of microorganisms. Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria in 1675. An Italian botanist Micheli in 1729 made an extensive study of fungi and their reproductive structures. The devastating epiphytotic(epidemic) of the potato disease in the middle of the 19th century was one of the most tragic events in human history. It swept over the whole of Europe and USA but in Ireland it was catastrophic. Over one million

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people died and one and a half million migrated. This tragic event was a blessing in disguise, in so far as it hastened the realization of the importance of plant diseases. Many committees and commissions were formed to report on the disease. The causal organism was identified by Speerschneider(1857) and De Bary (1861-63-67). It was Phytophthora infestans. The battle against the spontaneous origin of disease was largely won. The science of plant pathology, evolving for a long time, was born. 2.4. CAUSES OF PLANT DISEASE

Non-infectious disease - caused by natural agencies Infectious disease - caused by pathogens

Infectious means that which tends to spread from one plant to another or from one part of the plant to the other. 2.4.1. Non-infectious Plant Disease Possible causes include: a) Weather b) Nutrient deficiency c) Toxic substances

a) The Weather: 1. Lightning and trees.


- can scorch plants, and break and burn old shrubs

Rain/hail stone - heavy rain cause physical damage to young plants, and hail stones cause flower and fruit drops.
3. Wind - breaks leaves and branches and when strong, uproots

whole shrubs and trees and cause lodging of field crops (buck wheat, rice, maize etc. are prone to lodging)
4. Drought - causes yellowing, leaf curling, wilt and eventual death of

5. Flooding - causes yellowing, slow development and death through

lack of air at roots.

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6. Strong sun - yellowing and scorching of leaves, wilting and death. 7.

Frost - most crops cannot tolerate frost bites b) Nutrient Deficiencies

Deficiency of nutrients can cause symptoms like yellowing, reddening, spotting, stunting, distorted growth and death. However, symptoms vary with the element involved. c) Toxic substances in the soil or air Too much elements required by plants can cause death, with similar symptoms to deficiencies. 2.4.2. Infectious Plant Disease These can be caused by: a) Fungi b) Bacteria c) Viruses d) Nematodes e) Algae f) Parasitic Plants a) Fungi Fungi are plants without chlorophyll and therefore they must live on other plants which make their own food. Fungi are generally microscopic but there are large ones like mushrooms. Most fungal bodies consists of thin delicate filaments or very small tubular structures called hyphae, which grow in or on the hosts tissue. Sometimes these threads collect together to give big structures like mushrooms and toad stools.. Eventually they produce spores(fungus fruits/seeds) which are often visible on the affected parts of the plants. E.g. rust spores on beans, smut on wheat or maize , and mildews on cucurbits. There are thousands of species of fungi with endless forms of spores, symptoms and fruiting bodies. Some fungus live on the living host where as others live on dead plant and animal matter. The former ones are known as parasites and the latter, saprophytes. The spores serve to spread the fungus to new plants. Fungal spores have certain specific characteristics that help the Plant pathologist to identify. Examples of diseases caused by fungi are, Late Blight of Potato, Wheat rust and smut, apple scab etc.

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b) Bacteria Many destructive plant diseases are caused by bacteria, e.g. wilts (tomato and potato), soft rots of fruit and vegetables, many cancer-like growths of galls of fruits and stems and several leaf spots, e.g. halo blight of beans. Bacteria are small single celled structures, which can aggregate to form, often characteristic, cream or yellow slime. There are 3 basic groups - the bacillus or rod shape, the coccus or round shaped and spirillum or spiral shaped. The majority that cause plant disease are the rod shaped. Bacteria cannot enter directly through the epidermis, as can fungi, but go through wounds or stomata. Control of bacterial disease is by chemicals, resistant varieties and good sanitation. The identification of bacteria is a complicated process involving many biochemical tests, although in many cases, symptoms of the disease on plants are fairly characteristic. Bacteria multiply by dividing simply in to 2. Some can divide every 20 mins and in 24 hrs, it would be theoretically be possible for a single bacterium to produce more than 300,000,000,000 individuals. c) Viruses Smallest of all and invisible under an ordinary microscope, are the viruses. For practical purposes they are recognizable only through symptoms they produce together with the fact that such symptoms can be transmitted to a healthy plant by various means. This makes virus identification a difficult matter and even more so because some chemical damage and deficiency symptoms can also resemble those of virus diseases. Virus are not living organisms in the normal sense, bit are related to the basic protein-like components of living matter - the nucleic acids. As a result they are normally not controlled by chemical methods applicable to fungi and bacteria, but some can be killed by heat treatment without killing the plants as well. Some virus forms such as mycoplasmas can be treated with antibiotics, but generally this is not economic. d) Nematodes Nematodes are small worms which can just be seen with the naked eye. Most of them leave in the soil without doing any damage but some are parasitic. Most of

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the parasitic ones damage roots by burrowing in to them and causing galls or just feeding on them and sucking the contents out of the root cells. e) Algae Algae re single-celled or thread-like plants which contain chlorophyll. Some algae in the tropical areas are plant parasitic while in general they are not likely to cause any serious damage except under special circumstances or in neglected plantations of tree crops. f) Parasitic Plants Some plants like the mistletoe grow on other plants and derive nutrition thereby causing the host plant to die. 2.5. CLASSIFICATION OF PLANT DISEASES Plant diseases can be classified in various ways depending upon the purpose of discussion 1. Based on plant part affected: Localized disease- affecting only a part of the plant; systemic disease affecting the entire plant 2. Based on symptoms: rusts, smuts, wilts, blights, cankers, mildews, rots, damping-off, die-back, scab etc. 3. Based on the host plant: cereal crop disease, root crop disease, forage crop disease, plantation crop disease etc. 4. Based on their occurrence: Endemic disease: The word endemic means prevalent in, and confined to, a particular country or district and is applied to disease. These diseases are natural to one country or part of the earth. When a disease is more or less constantly present in one form or other or less constantly present form year to year in a moderate to severe form, in a particular country or part of earth, it is classed as endemic. Epidemic or epiphytotic diseases: The term epidemic is derived from a Greek word meaning among the people and in true sense applies to those diseases of human beings which appear very virulently among large section of the population. To carry the same sense in the case of plant diseases, the term epiphytotic has been coined. An epiphytotic disease is one which occurs widely but periodically. It may be present constantly in the locality but assumes severe form only on occasions.

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Sporadic diseases: Sporadic diseases are those diseases which occur at very irregular intervals and locations and in relatively few instances. A given disease may be endemic in one region and epidemic in another. When a disease is prevalent throughout the country, continent or the world it is known as a pandemic disease. 5. Based on the cause: Infectious disease (fungal disease, bacterial disease, viral disease), Non-infectious disease(caused by nature-frost, rain, wind, sun, hail storm et.) 2.6. CONDITIONS FOR DISEASE DEVELOPMENT The pathogens, especially the animate ones, will not always be able to cause a disease unless environmental conditions and suitability of the host are also favourable for survival, multiplication, and entry of the pathogen into the plant and further development of the disease. For a pathogen to cause a disease, the pathogen has to be virulent in the first place; the host has to be susceptible, and the environmental conditions favourable. Disease will not develop if anyone of the 3 conditions is not fulfilled. This is known as the disease triangle. 2.7. PATHOGENESIS Pathogenesis can be defined as the entire chain of events leading to the development of a disease. In other words it can be termed as a disease cycle. It tells us about the source of perennation of the pathogen, mode of its dispersal from the source of survival and during the spread of disease. It also helps us to formulate effective control measures. The events constituting pathogenesis occurs in several well defined steps, one after the other, to complete the disease cycle. the pathogen perennates at some location during the absence of cultivated host it gets transported to the cultivated host through some agencies the pathogen breaks the host barrier to establish infection effects the host physiology, damage the plant and the plant expresses symptoms finally the pathogen finds an exit from the host through its propagules

Infection chain- chain of events leading to the completion of pathogenesis.

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2.7.1 Survival of Pathogen: In the absence of their cultivated host, pathogens must find some alternate source of their survival; otherwise the infection chain will remain incomplete. The same holds true for viral disease. The sources of survival can be grouped into: 1. Infected host as reservoir of inoculum a) cultivated host b) wild host of the same family (collateral host) c) wild host of other family (alternate host) 2. Saprophytic survival outside the hostsoil and plant debris serve as the media for survival. e.g. Pythium, Rhizoctonia 3. Dormant organs of pathogen as a source of survival and primary inoculum. (virus and bacteria have no resting stage); only fungi and nematodes have(spores, cysts etc.) 2.7.2. Inoculum Inoculum is defined as the part of the pathogen, which on contact with a suitable host can cause infection. E.g. of a fungal inoculum: Chlamydospores, sclerotia, oospores, teleutospores, zoospores, conidiospores etc.) Sources of inoculum 1. sowing and planting materials such as seeds, tubers, bulbs, rhizomes 2. affected plants (diseased) in the field 3. debris left on the land or used in compost heaps 4. host plants in a dormant stage when conditions are not favourable 5. soil infested with certain soil-borne pathogens Types of inoculum Mycelium: The vegetative growth by means of hyphae is only significant for the spread and hence the dispersal of a fungus within the host plant or in the ecosystem of the soil. e.g. Chlamydospores, sclerotia.

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Spores: Spores play a main role in the survival of the fungus. e.g. oospores, teleutospores, ascospores, zoospores and conidiospores.

2.7.3. The spread of plant diseases Plant diseases are spread in various ways: 1. Spread through seeds and other planting materials such as tubers, rhizomes etc. 2. Spread by natural agents such as wind, water, rain 3. Spread by animals and insects 4. Spread by people Following the infection, the pathogen will continue its growth, produce spores or reproductive units, which will find exit through host surface and spread to repeat the same process. Many pathogens spread through crops in a special and often spectacular way. Some cover tremendous distances at a remarkable speed, especially pathogens with airborne propagules, like rusts. Pathogens which infect subterranean plant organs exhibit a restricted pattern of dispersal. Then there are pathogens which depend for their dispersal of spores and propagules on rain or water, while others need a vector, like man, insects and nematodes. Some parasites are transported with seed, thus depending on the hostss own dispersal processes. There are many dispersal mechanisms. Some of these mechanisms are both elegant and highly efficient in that they are closely adapted to the biology of the host, like the synchronization of spore release in certain pathogens like Venturia and Claviceps. Other parasites produce millions of spores, saturating the environment with propagules in an apparently haphazard and wasteful way. 2.7.4. The infection process of a fungal disease A parasitic fungus must establish an intimate relationship with the host tissues to absorb the desired nutrients. Successful establishment of this relationship is called infection. The term can be defined as the establishment of a pathogen within the host body. The infection process has three distinct stages 1. 2. Pre-penetration stage Penetration

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Post-penetration stage

During the pre-penetration stage the fungus hyphae or spores come in contact with the host surface. The spores will germinate to produce germ tubes or infection threads. This stage may be abortive if environments do not favor growth of the hypha or germination of spores. During penetration, the infection thread enters the host by any of the following methods: 1. Entry through natural openings like stomata & lenticels 2. Entry through rupture of the host surface due to development of organs like prop roots. 3. Entry through wounds due to mechanical injury or insect injury 4. Direct penetration: a) Mechanical pressure by the infection thread. The pathogen exerts its own effort to break the host barrier and directly enter through cuticle or epidermis without seeking the wounds or natural openings. Host barriers can be either structural barriers or chemical barriers. b) Chemical action - enzymes produced by the pathogen will break down the epidermal cells and thus gain entry. The entry of the infection thread into the host is dependent upon environments. After entry it is possible that physiological conditions of the host are not found suitable and the infection thread may die. In case conditions are favourable the infection thread will approach the nearest cell and enter it directly or send a haustorium. This will result in the absorption of food from the host protoplasm. Supported by these nutrients the infection thread will develop into inter- or intracellular mycelium or will support the mycelium. In addition to absorption of food the fungus may interfere with the host activity in various ways. It may excrete pectinolytic or cellulolytic enzymes to dissolve the cell-wall or toxins may be produced which, when translocated to other parts may cause various types of damage to plant tissues. Due to these interferences with the normal existence of the host, symptoms of disease will develop. The fungus will continue growth, produce spores or reproductive units which will find exit through host surface and spread to repeat the same process as explained above. Dispersal of pathogens depends to a great extent on the type of inoculum.

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1. Mildew: Mildews are plant diseases in which the pathogen is seen as a growth on the surface of the host. They appear as white, gray, brownish, or purplish patches of varying size on leaves, herbaceous stems, or fruits. In downy mildews the superficial growth is a tangled cottony or downy layer, while in the powdery mildews enormous numbers of spores are formed on superficial growth of the fungus giving a dusty or powdery appearance. Black minute fruiting bodies may also develop in the powdery mass. 2. Rusts: These are diseases with rusty symptoms. The rusts appear as relatively small pustules of spores, usually through the host epidermis. The pustules may be either dusty or compact, and red, brown, yellow, or black in colour. 3. Smuts: The word smut means a sooty or charcoal-like powder. The affected parts of the plant show a black or purplish-black dusty mass. These symptoms usually appear on floral organs, particularly the ovary but they can also be found on stems, leaves and roots. 4. Scab: The term scab refers to a roughened or crust-like lesions or to a freckled appearance of the diseased organ. In some diseases of this type the parasite appears at a certain stage, in others it is never seen. 5. Sclerotia: A sclerotium is a compact, often hard, mass of dormant fungus mycelium. Sclerotia is most often black, or they may be buff or dark brown or purplish in colour. E.g. ergot of grasses. 6. Blotch: This symptom consists of a superficial growth giving the fruit a blotched appearance as in sooty blotch and fly speck disease of apple fruits. 7. Tar spots: These are somewhat raised, black coated fungus bodies with the appearance of a flattened out drop of tar on leaves. 8. Exudations: In several bacterial diseases, masses of bacteria ooze out to surface of the affected organ where they may be seen as drops or as thin smear over the surface. 9. Chlorosis: Development of yellow colour as a result of low temperature, nutrient deficiency, excess of lime or alkali, lack of iron, disturbances by fungal and bacterial diseases, viral infection etc. is known as chlorosis. When yellowing is localized, it is known as chlorotic spots.

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10. Overgrowths or Hypertrophy: This is the abnormal increase in size of plant organs or the entire plant as a result of stimulation of the host tissues. This may be brought about either or both of the two processes, hyperplasia and hypertrophy. Hyperplasia is the abnormal increase in the size of a plant organ due to increase in number of cells of which the organ is composed. In hypertrophy, the increased size of the organ is due to increase in size of the cells. a) Galls: These are malformations of more or less globose, elongated, or irregular shape. They may be fleshy or woody. Small galls are called warts, tubercles, etc. while larger ones are called knots. E.g. crown gall, club root, root knot, etc. b) Curl: Leaves are arched, puckered, twisted, curled, and distorted due to growth in tissues in localized area of the leaf. Examples are peach leaf curl, papaya leaf curl, etc. c) Witches broom: Numerous slender branches arise from a limited region in rather close clusters appearing like a broom. d) Hairy root: Numerous fine fibrous roots are produced which are abnormal. 11. Atrophy or hypoplasia or dwarfing: This is a disease symptom in which the plants remain stunted or dwarf because of growth inhibition (retardation). It is possible that hypertrophy and atrophy both can occur in the same organ. 12. Necrosis: The term necrosis is used to indicate the condition in which the death of cells, tissues and organs has occurred as a result of infection. The following are the different necrotic symptoms: a) Spots: The death of cells or tissues (necrosis) occur in definitely limited areas. The shape of the lesions(necrotic spots) may be round, angular, or irregular. The dead areas are often surrounded by a purple, red, yellow or brown margin. Fruiting bodies may also develop in the dead areas. Leaf necrosis may lead to a dead leaf tissue falling away, causing a shothole effect. b) Streaks or stripes: They are prominent symptoms consisting of an elongated but relatively narrow lesions. These streaks or stripes are usually some shade of brown colour. c) Canker: A canker is a dead area in the bark or cortex of the stem, especially woody plants. They are usually rather large with well defined margins. The surface may be smooth or rough and usually somewhat sunken. In some cases only the superficial layers of cells are affected while in others all the tissues except the fibers are destroyed. In many cases the dead bark splits and finally peels away leaving the wood naked.

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d) Blight: This term means a burnt appearance. Extensive death of tissues associated with browning of leaves and flowers is known as blight. It also refers to a sudden death of a plant or its conspicuous parts, such as leaves, blossoms, or twigs. The dead organ usually turns brown or black and may soon disintegrate. Early and late blights of potato are good examples. e) Damping-off: It is a condition in which the stem is attacked near the soil surface. The affected portion becomes constricted and weak, incapable of bearing the load of the upper portion. As a result seedlings topple down and die. Damping-off of vegetable and ornamental seedlings are common examples. f) Scald or scorch: Areas in the succulent organs of plants die and turn brown due to effect of high temperature such as in sun scald of apple. g) Rots: The affected tissues die, decompose to greater extent, and turn brown. In most cases this condition is brought about by fungi and bacteria which dissolve the cell walls more or less completely by means of enzymes. According to the plant organ attacked the rot may be called root rot, leaf or stem rot, bud rot, and fruit rot. Depending upon the type of dissolution brought about by the pathogen the rots may be grouped as soft rot, wet rot, or dry rot. 13. Wilts: The leaves and other green or succulent parts lose their turgidity, become flaccid and droop. This effect is usually seen first in some of the leaves. Later the young growing tip or the whole plant may suddenly or gradually dry up. Wilting may be the result of an injury to the root system, to the partial plugging of water conducting vessels or to toxic substances secreted by the pathogen and carried to delicate cells with water. 14. Die-back: Such diseases are characterized by dying of plant organs, especially stem or branches from the tip backwards. 15. Gummosis: Excessive gum formation in certain trees affected by fungi 2.9. DISEASE MANAGEMENT

1. Use healthy, clean or disease-free planting materials 2. Grow resistant varieties 3. Provide better care and management 4. Follow crop rotation 5. Maintain proper field sanitation 6. Adjust sowing and planting dates

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7. Rogue out diseased plants 8. Follow plant quarantine regulations 9. Use chemicals if necessary 2.10. SOME IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS Disease: Any harmful deviation or alteration from the normal functioning of physiological processes. Pathogen: The agent responsible for inciting pathos (ailment or suffering) or damage. In other words it is the disease causing agent. Pathogenesis: The chain of metabolic events that bring about the disease is known as pathogenesis. It involves the action of the pathogen, susceptibility of the plant and impact of the environment. Pathogenicity: It is the ability of a pathogen to cause disease under a given set of environments. Virulence is a measure or degree of pathogenicity of an isolate or race of the pathogen. Successful expression of pathogenicity is virulence. A pathogen is avirulent when it fails to cause disease. Inoculum: The part of the pathogen, which on contact can cause infection in host. E.g. spores, conidia, sclerotia etc. Predisposition: The environmental effects that make plants more amenable to infection are called predisposition. Host: The plant that is diseased is the host. Parasite: Organisms which derive the materials they need for growth from living plants are called parasites. Saprophytes: Organisms which derive their nutrition from dead organic matter. Immune: Immunity of a plant against a given disease is an absolute quality. It denotes that the pathogen cannot establish a parasitic relationship with the host. Infection: is establishment of parasitic relationship between the pathogen and the host, following entry or penetration. Or in other words: it is the process by which the pathogen establishes contact with the host cells and draws nutrients from the host and involves growth and reproduction of the pathogen. Incubation period: is the time lapsing between penetration and completion of infection, that is , development of symptoms.

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Invasion and colonization: After infection the pathogen grows through the tissues of the host to varying extents. Symptom: A visible or otherwise detectable expression of abnormal physiology, development, or behaviour in a plant resulting from disease. Symptoms often involve changes in form, colour, odour, texture, and structural integrity. Or Sign or evidence of disease or disorder as shown by plant or any objective evidence of disease or bodily disorder is called symptom of the disease. Sign: Any observable part or remnant of the causal agent (pathogen) in disease. Common signs include vegetative or reproductive structures of pathogens such as fungal mycelium or spores. Syndrome: The set of varying symptoms characterizing a disease are collectively called a syndrome. Or in other words: the sum total of all the symptoms and signs is syndrome. For example, a disease may be characterized by necrosis of tissues, hypertrophy, as well as wilting. All these symptoms will be collectively called the disease syndrome.


Singh, R.S. (1983). Plant Diseases.Oxford and IBH, N. Delhi. IAC, Wageningen, The Netherlands (1992). 21st International course on IPM - Handouts on Mycology. Bilgrami,K.S. & Dube, H.C. (1976). A Text Book of Modern Plant Pathology. Vikas Publishing House.

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