67481 - Molecular Diagnostic And Epidemiology Of Plant Diseases

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

Apply diagnostic methods for the identification of pathogens agents of or associated with infectious plant diseases; acquire the knowledge necessary for the molecular characterization of the aforementioned pathogens and their interactions with hosts based on the mechanisms underlying their epidemic spread. Finally, the student learns the biotechnological elements necessary to develop diagnostic and biological solutions related to the main infectious diseases of agricultural relevance to correctly and sustainably manage existing and emerging phytopathological problems.

Course contents

a) Prerequisites The student must know basic plant pathology and pathophysiology, as well as the different types of pathogens that cause plant diseases. Knowledge of the English language can be of support in deepening the concepts explained.

b) Didactic units

The course consists of two modules.

Module I Epidemiology and diagnostics (4 CFU)

Plant diseases: origin, relationships between diagnostics and epidemiology, diagnosis and anamnesis, symptoms and symptomatological convergences. Epidemiology and interaction of the pathogens with the environment. Cycle of infectious diseases. Endemic, epidemic and pandemic diseases. Sources and inoculum materials. Conservation and dissemination of the inoculum material. Endophytes and their interaction with pathogens and plant fitness. Epidemiological aspects of economic and quarantine diseases. Prevention in the epidemiology of plant diseases. Taxonomic basis and their relevance for epidemiology. The importance of the pathogen strains. Epidemiology of the main diseases caused by oomycetes, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Phytoplasma and other bacteria associated diseases transmitted by insects: epidemiological cycle.

Module II - Diagnostic methods (2 CFU)

Importance of diagnostics in plant pathology. Direct diagnosis: on-site inspections, recognition of symptoms and macromorphological characteristics of the various pathogens. sampling and isolation in artificial media. Importance of biological assays and Koch's postulates. Optical and electron microscopy techniques for diagnostics of plant pathogens. Immunological and molecular diagnostics: DAS-ELISA, PCR, RT-PCR, 'multiplex' PCR, ddPCR and qPCR techniques. RFLP analysis and sequencing techniques for the identification of pathogens. Applications of quantitative PCR. LAMP technique and NGS type sequencing techniques. Limits of molecular diagnostic methods.


Notes and slides from the teacher's lectures on the site. Chapters chosen from Molecular plant pathology, Reverberi et al., Piccin. Bologna.

Teaching methods

The course participates in the University's educational innovation project

The course consists of lectures accompanied by laboratory exercises and visits to specialized structures for the diagnosis of plant diseases as well as visits to companies and in the field for direct knowledge of cases of disease.

In consideration of the type of activity and the teaching methods adopted, the attendance to this training activity requires the prior participation of all students in the training modules 1 and 2 on safety in the study places, in e-learning mode.

Assessment methods

The final oral exam is divided into two parts.

1: Collection of information and photographic documentation relating to one or more diseases of economic importance and of aetiology not known by the student in an agricultural ecosystem and organization of the same in a power point presentation or equivalent.

2: Verification of the diagnostic and epidemiological knowledge acquired about infectious plant diseases.

The duration of the test is estimated around 20-30 minutes. The final mark is awarded on the basis of the degree of preparation of the student and above all on his / her critical and connection skills among different topics. In addition to the official exam dates, the teacher is available, by appointment by e-mail, for weekly exam sessions, compatibly with institutional and research commitments.

Teaching tools

Computer and projector, Diagnostic laboratories. Experimental greenhouses. Optical microscopes. Video clips.

Office hours

See the website of Assunta Bertaccini