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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Horticultural Crops Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #326034

Research Project: Exotic and Emerging Plant Diseases of Horticultural Crops

Location: Horticultural Crops Research

Title: The ebb and flow of airborne pathogens: Monitoring and use in disease management decisions

item Mahaffee, Walter - Walt
item STOLL, ROB - University Of Utah

Submitted to: Phytopathology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/28/2016
Publication Date: 3/22/2016
Citation: Mahaffee, W.F., Stoll, R. 2016. The ebb and flow of airborne pathogens: Monitoring and use in disease management decisions. Phytopathology. 106(5):420-431. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO-02-16-0060-RVW.

Interpretive Summary: A summary of the state of knowledge on methods for monitoring pathogen presence in the air, the advantages and disadvantages them, and how using this information to make disease management decisions is presented. The article also points to areas of research that are needed to increase our ability to accurately model crop risk and improve crop management.

Technical Abstract: Perhaps the earliest form of monitoring the regional spread of plant disease was a group of growers gathering together at the market and discussing what they see in their crops. This type of reporting continues to this day through regional extension blogs, by crop consultants and more formal scouting of sentential plots in the IPM PIPE network ( As our knowledge of plant disease epidemiology has increased, we have also increased our ability to detect and monitor the presence of pathogens and use this information to make management decisions in commercial production systems. The advent of phylogenetics, next-generation sequencing and nucleic acid amplification technologies has allowed for development of sensitive and accurate assays for pathogen inoculum detection and quantification. The application of these tools is beginning to change how we manage diseases with airborne inoculum by allowing for the detection of pathogen movement instead of assuming it and by targeting management strategies to the early phases of the epidemic development when there is the greatest opportunity to reduce the rate of disease development. While there are numerous advantages to using data on inoculum presence to aid management decisions, there are limitations in what the data represent that are often unrecognized. In addition, our understanding of where and how to effectively monitor airborne inoculum is limited. There is a strong need to improve our knowledge of the mechanisms that influence inoculum dispersion across scales as particles move from leaf to leaf, and everything in between.