Plant Pathogens

plant pathogen is an organism that causes a disease on a plant. Although relatives of some plant pathogens are human or animal pathogens, most plant pathogens only harm plants. Some plant pathogens can make immune-depressed people sick,however. These are called “trans-kingdom” pathogens. Unlike human, plants are rarely cured of disease. Instead, plant pathologists try to prevent plants from getting sick in the first place, and work to control the symptoms and spread of diseases.

Organisms that cause plant diseases reduce our ability to produce food, fiber, and biofuels, and harm the economy. All plants, from citrus and grains to ornamental shrubs and forest trees, are susceptible to plant diseases. Plant diseases cause many billions of dollars worth of direct and indirect losses every year, threaten food security and have the potential to hamper tourism. Responding to emerging plant pathogens requires preparation and planned scientific-based procedures to lessen the impact on farmers, their communities and the economy.

Huanglongbing, more commonly known as citrus greening, is a disease that was identified in Asia during the early 20th century. It was not detected in the United States until August 2005, however, in Miami-Dade County. This disease has seriously impacted citrus production all over the globe. Citrus greening is a major threat to the U.S. citrus industry. UF researchers are studying many potential novel treatments and control measures for this disease.

Tourists, travelers and commercial plant imports from around the world have the potential to unwittingly carry pathogens to Florida from other states and countries. Hurricanes can also bring wind-borne pathogens from the Caribbean and Latin America.

Information and methods are needed now to protect crops and natural resources; to avoid economic loss; to inform Florida growers, residents and visitors on how to prevent the spread of plant disease; and to train the next generation of scientists who will keep plant pathogens at bay.

More information on plant diseases that threaten Florida crops.