Historical introduction to plant pathology

  • G. C. Ainsworth


Plant diseases are older than agriculture and since biblical times there has been speculation on their cause, cure, and prevention. As an applied scientific discipline, however, plant pathology only began to emerge towards the end of the eighteenth century and this brief survey is confined to the past 250 years. Whetzel (1919) in his useful Outline of the History of Plant Pathology, divided the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries into the Zallingerian, Ungerian, Kühnian, and Millardetian Periods (after the names of dominant workers) and from 1906 as the Present Era. Large (1940) in his most readable Advance of the Fungi, illustrated the development of plant pathology by considering a succession of typical diseases such as potato blight, vine mildew, wheat bunt, club root of crucifers, and coffee rust. Other patterns are discernible. The nineteenth century is characteristically the age of the pathogen when the pathogenicity, first of fungi, then of bacteria, and at the turn of the century of viruses, was recognized and studies were made of the development and life histories of pathogens for their own sake. Geographically, plant pathology was of European origin; towards the end of the nineteenth century emphasis shifted to North America, where the U.S.A. is still in the van of progress, but after the two World Wars — particularly after the Second — the spread of research on plant pathology became worldwide.


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Copyright information

© S. A. J. Tarr 1972

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  • G. C. Ainsworth

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