Aquatic plants may hold key to advancing plant disease management

The way aquatic plants respond to plant disease and climate change may have applications for managing land-based agriculture, say plant pathologists with The American Phytopathological Society (APS).

According to David Schmale III, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, many aquatic plants possess unique mechanisms of resistance to microbial attack. “Through further study, plant pathologists may be able to apply the novel mechanisms found in aquatic plants to land-based agricultural systems,” said Schmale.

Research done on the management of freshwater plant disease has created environmentally sound methods of plant disease control. While plant pathologists typically try to save plants from plant disease, plant pathologists can use plant pathogens as a means to control highly invasive freshwater plants that harm native aquatic plants. Studies of marine plant diseases continue to provide insight as to how climatic change influences disease development. “Emerging marine diseases, such as coral diseases, are creating a major shift in the marine flora,” Schmale said. “Global warming and climate change appear to be increasing the rate at which these diseases spread and intensify,” he said.

The biology, ecology, and control of aquatic plant diseases in freshwater and marine environments will be addressed during the Aquatic Plant Pathology symposium at the APS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX, July 30 – August 3, 2005. The symposium will be held Sunday, July 31 from 1-5 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center.

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