Plant Disease Forecasting

Plant disease forecasting is a management system used to predict the occurrence or change in severity of plant diseases. At the field scale, these systems are used by growers to make economic decisions about disease treatments for control. Often the systems ask the grower a series of questions about the susceptibility of the host crop, and incorporate current and forecast weather conditions to make a recommendation. Typically a recommendation is made about whether disease treatment is necessary or not. Usually treatment is a pesticide application.

Forecasting systems are based on assumptions about the pathogen's interactions with the host and environment, the disease triangle. The objective is to accurately predict when the three factors - host, environment, and pathogen - all interact in such a fashion that disease can occur and cause economic losses.

In most cases the host can be suitably defined as resistant or susceptible, and the presence of the pathogen may often be reasonably ascertained based on previous cropping history or perhaps survey data. The environment is usually the factor that controls whether disease develops or not. Environmental conditions may determine the presence of the pathogen in a particular season through their effects on processes such as overwintering. Environmental conditions also affect the ability of the pathogen to cause disease, e.g. a minimum leaf wetness duration is required for grey leaf spot of corn to occur. In these cases a disease forecasting system attempts to define when the environment will be conducive to disease development.

Good disease forecasting systems must be reliable, simple, cost-effective and applicable to many diseases. As such they are normally only designed for diseases that are irregular enough to warrant a prediction system, rather than diseases that occur every year for which regular treatment should be employed.Forecasting systems can only be designed if there is also an understanding on the actual disease triangle parameters.

Read more about Plant Disease ForecastingExamples of Disease Forecasting Systems, Future Developments

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