Scientists Use Weather Forecasts to Fight Disease

Apr 26, 2001, 01:00 ET from American Phytopathological Society

    ST. PAUL, Minn., April 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Each year plant disease
 epidemics cost growers billions of dollars and affect both the quantity and
 quality of food products available to consumers.  Traditional disease
 management techniques are often costly and may be only partially effective.
 Fortunately scientists are discovering that by following weather patterns they
 can significantly reduce both the number and severity of certain types of
 disease outbreaks.
     When Charles Main became a plant disease researcher 35 years ago he had no
 idea his interest would also lead him into the field of meteorology.  But for
 the past five years, he and meteorologist Thomas Keever, at The North American
 Plant Disease Forecast Center (NAPDFC) located at North Carolina State
 University in Raleigh, have been tracking the presence and possible future
 spread of certain types of airborne diseases that threaten growers' crops.
     Main and his colleagues, Jerry Davis and Gerald Holmes, have focused their
 work on two common fungal diseases:  tobacco blue mold and cucurbit downy
 mildew.  The impact of these two diseases can become significant in years when
 conditions favor their development.  States Main, "Fungal plant diseases are
 very weather sensitive.  In cool, wet, overcast weather they can develop
 rapidly and spread easily by releasing thousands of spores into the air.  The
 spores are then carried by wind currents and eventually settle on healthy
 plants, infecting them as well."
     When an outbreak of either one of these diseases is reported, Main and his
 colleagues mark the site of the infection on the NAPDFC's website map.  After
 careful analysis of the weather conditions at the site of the outbreak and in
 the surrounding areas, the meteorologist at the Center posts a disease
 forecast on the Center's Internet site that includes the likelihood of disease
 development and possible areas of new outbreaks.  Growers who routinely
 monitor the website are then able to take the necessary measures to protect
 their crops from infection.
     "Because we warn them ahead of time, before their crops become infected,
 growers end up having to use far fewer chemicals and have significantly less
 crop loss," states Main.  "There are other plant diseases for which this
 system would be helpful and I suspect that we'll be seeing this type of
 disease forecasting and prevention used more often in the future."
     Using weather forecasts to predict the spread of fungal diseases is the
 subject of this month's feature story on the APS website.  Visit it at
 http://www.apsnet.org for more information.  The American Phytopathological
 Society (APS) is a non-profit, professional scientific organization dedicated
 to the study and control of plant diseases, with 5,000 members worldwide.
 
                      MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT - Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X59379572
 
 

SOURCE American Phytopathological Society
    ST. PAUL, Minn., April 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Each year plant disease
 epidemics cost growers billions of dollars and affect both the quantity and
 quality of food products available to consumers.  Traditional disease
 management techniques are often costly and may be only partially effective.
 Fortunately scientists are discovering that by following weather patterns they
 can significantly reduce both the number and severity of certain types of
 disease outbreaks.
     When Charles Main became a plant disease researcher 35 years ago he had no
 idea his interest would also lead him into the field of meteorology.  But for
 the past five years, he and meteorologist Thomas Keever, at The North American
 Plant Disease Forecast Center (NAPDFC) located at North Carolina State
 University in Raleigh, have been tracking the presence and possible future
 spread of certain types of airborne diseases that threaten growers' crops.
     Main and his colleagues, Jerry Davis and Gerald Holmes, have focused their
 work on two common fungal diseases:  tobacco blue mold and cucurbit downy
 mildew.  The impact of these two diseases can become significant in years when
 conditions favor their development.  States Main, "Fungal plant diseases are
 very weather sensitive.  In cool, wet, overcast weather they can develop
 rapidly and spread easily by releasing thousands of spores into the air.  The
 spores are then carried by wind currents and eventually settle on healthy
 plants, infecting them as well."
     When an outbreak of either one of these diseases is reported, Main and his
 colleagues mark the site of the infection on the NAPDFC's website map.  After
 careful analysis of the weather conditions at the site of the outbreak and in
 the surrounding areas, the meteorologist at the Center posts a disease
 forecast on the Center's Internet site that includes the likelihood of disease
 development and possible areas of new outbreaks.  Growers who routinely
 monitor the website are then able to take the necessary measures to protect
 their crops from infection.
     "Because we warn them ahead of time, before their crops become infected,
 growers end up having to use far fewer chemicals and have significantly less
 crop loss," states Main.  "There are other plant diseases for which this
 system would be helpful and I suspect that we'll be seeing this type of
 disease forecasting and prevention used more often in the future."
     Using weather forecasts to predict the spread of fungal diseases is the
 subject of this month's feature story on the APS website.  Visit it at
 http://www.apsnet.org for more information.  The American Phytopathological
 Society (APS) is a non-profit, professional scientific organization dedicated
 to the study and control of plant diseases, with 5,000 members worldwide.
 
                      MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT - Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X59379572
 
 SOURCE  American Phytopathological Society