Plant Pathology Department


Date of this Version



Published in BioScience Vol. 45 No. 5. Copyright May 1995. Used by permission.


In the United States, a country with food in great abundance, it is difficult to realize that, were it not for the current level of plant disease and pest management, most human resources would be needed to obtain enough food and other plant and animal products merely to survive. Instead, there are surpluses, markets for many agricultural products are depressed, and funds available for research on plant disease and pest management-and for agricultural research generally-have plateaued or are declining. Why does the United States need more research on plant disease and pest management? Because the health and productivity of the crops and cropping systems upon which the people depend for their own consumption and for export cannot be sustained without continuing research and development. This continued investment is needed to manage ever threatening, changing, and rebounding diseases and pest populations. Moreover, disease and pest management of the future must be improved while simultaneously reducing our dependence on pesticides as one of many steps toward the goal of sustainable agriculture. The goal of plant disease and pest management is to ensure that crops are healthy enough to yield to their full genetic potential within the physical limits imposed by the uncontrolled variables of climate, weather, and soils. Management is defined as limiting damage from diseases or pests to a level at or below an acceptable economic or aesthetic threshold. This process does not require total elimination or eradication of the pest or disease problem.