What is plant pathology?

Ag Zone, Science for Youth June 12, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF
Plant pathologist Gail Wisler
Image courtesy of USDA

Plant pathology is the field of agriculture that deals with the study of plant diseases. Plant disease can result in the loss of millions of pounds of food crops each year. Disease can decimate forests. And disease can scar urban and suburban landscapes.

Plant diseases are caused most often by pathogens. Pathogens are infectious germs (bacteria or viruses) that attack and damage plants. People who study and work to cure these diseases are called plant pathologists. Their success can mean the difference between feast and famine.

Careers based in plant pathology are many and varied. They range from research and biotechnology to landscape management and food safety. Career opportunities and challenges will be even greater in the future. We already see a growing trend in our society toward healthier foods, local sourcing, urban gardens, and green space. Throughout the world, demands for sustainable food, feed, fuel, and fiber are skyrocketing. All of this requires healthy plants.

Watch this video to learn more ways that the study of plant pathology affects us all—and how you can make a difference.

Plant Pathology

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.