67481 - Molecular Diagnostic And Epidemiology Of Plant Diseases

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

Application of diagnostic methodologies for detection and identification of plant infectious agents. Acquiring the knowledge for their molecular characterization and for their interaction with plant hosts as a basis for their epidemic spreading. The student will learn the basic biotechnology information linked to study main infective diseases of agronomic relevance for a correct and sustainable management of most relevant and emerging plant diseases.

Course contents

a) Prerequisites

The student must know the basics of plant pathology and physiopathology, as well as the different types of pathogenic agents of plant diseases. The knowledge of the English language may support the deepening understanding of concepts explained.

b) Teaching units

The course consists of four teaching units

1) Plant diseases (4 hours):

a) Origin of plant diseases

b) Relationships between diagnosis and epidemiology

c) Diagnostic and plant pathology history

d) Symptomatology and similarities in symptoms

2) Diagnostic methods (16 hours):

a) Immunological and molecular diagnostics

b) DNA probes and amplification techniques

c) Restriction fragment length polymorphism

d) Techniques RAPD, microarray, multiplex PCR and quantitative PCR

e) Gene sequencing for pathogen identification

f) Limitations of molecular diagnostic methods

g) Importance of biological assays and Koch's postulates

3) Epidemiology (16 hours):

a) Epidemiology and interaction of pathogen with the environment

b) Cycle of an infectious disease

c) Endemic, epidemic and pandemic diseases

d) Sources of inoculum for diseases

e) Preservation and dissemination of pathogen inoculum

f) Endophytes and their interaction with pathogens and with plant fitness

g) Epidemiological aspects of diseases of economic and quarantine interest

h) Prevention in the epidemiology of plant diseases

4) Phytoplasmas (6 hours):

a) Morphology and biology of phytoplasmas

b) Diagnosis and epidemiology of major phytoplasma-associated diseases


Notes and slides from the lessons online.

Teaching methods

The course consists of lectures accompanied by practical exercises in laboratories, visits to specialized facilities for the diagnosis of plant diseases as well as field visits for direct knowledge of cases of diseases.

Assessment methods

Oral examination consisting of two parts.

1: collection of information and photographic documentation related to one or more diseases (better if from unknown origin) of economic relevance in an agricultural ecosystem. Preparation of a power point presentation with these materials;

2: oral assessment of diagnostic and epidemiological knowledge about plant diseases and pathogens acquired.

The duration of the test is estimated to be around 20-30 minutes. The final grade is assigned based on the degree of preparation of the student and especially on its capabilities and ability to carry out critical connection between different subjects.

In addition to the official dates of exams, the teacher is available by appointment by e-mail, for weekly exams, in agreement with its commitments and institutional research work.

Teaching tools

Computer and projector. Plant pathology diagnostic laboratories. Experimental greenhouses. Optical microscopes. Movies.

Office hours

See the website of Assunta Bertaccini

See the website of Nicoletta Contaldo