THE ADVENT OF CHEMICAL CONTROL AND THE RISE OF PLANT PATHOLOGY
PD PETERSON and CL CAMPBELL
Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7616, USA
Background and objectives
Knowing more about fungi, however, failed to satisfy farmers who were challenged by unprecedented plant disease epidemics. In the early 1880s, at the height of serious outbreaks of downy mildew in France and black rot of grape in the USA, scientists were unable to offer growers reliable management strategies. By the late 1880s, this situation had changed dramatically. Copper-based, chemical fungicides had been introduced and plant disease investigators had demonstrated the economic benefits of basic scientific research on the life and disease cycles of pathogens. Out of this matrix of events, applied plant pathology emerged rapidly [1, 2].
Our objectives are to answer two questions: (i) what events led to the swift adoption of chemical fungicides to plant disease control? and (ii) how did this episode influence the development of plant pathology?
Results and conclusions
As a direct result, over the next few years copper fungicides proved remarkably suited for combatting grape diseases. By the 1890s, copper-based sprays became the principal fungicide in use as their application spread to potato late blight as well as some of the most destructive diseases of fruit and fruit trees. Besides fundamentally altering agricultural practice, effective disease control through chemical fungicides supplied the needed catalyst to the developing science of plant pathology in the late 19th century. Most influential in the USA was Scribner's demonstration of the linkage between fundamental science, in this case the study of the nature of the fungal life cycle and the overall disease cycle, and the achievement of reliable disease management. The successful fusion of fundamental science and practical agriculture was central to the formation of applied plant pathology. With it came the requisite institutional, economic, social, and professional base to nurture the nascent science.