An Overview of Plant Defenses against Pathogens and Herbivores

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2008-01-01
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Freeman, Brian
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Beattie, Gwyn
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Plant Pathology and Microbiology
The Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology and the Department of Entomology officially merged as of September 1, 2022. The new department is known as the Department of Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Microbiology (PPEM). The overall mission of the Department is to benefit society through research, teaching, and extension activities that improve pest management and prevent disease. Collectively, the Department consists of about 100 faculty, staff, and students who are engaged in research, teaching, and extension activities that are central to the mission of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The Department possesses state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities in the Advanced Research and Teaching Building and in Science II. In addition, research and extension activities are performed off-campus at the Field Extension Education Laboratory, the Horticulture Station, the Agriculture Engineering/Agronomy Farm, and several Research and Demonstration Farms located around the state. Furthermore, the Department houses the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic, the Iowa Soybean Research Center, the Insect Zoo, and BugGuide. Several USDA-ARS scientists are also affiliated with the Department.
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Plants represent a rich source of nutrients for many organisms including bacteria, fungi, protists, insects, and vertebrates. Although lacking an immune system comparable to animals, plants have developed a stunning array of structural, chemical, and protein-based defenses designed to detect invading organisms and stop them before they are able to cause extensive damage. Humans depend almost exclusively on plants for food, and plants provide many important non-food products including wood, dyes, textiles, medicines, cosmetics, soaps, rubber, plastics, inks, and industrial chemicals. Understanding how plants defend themselves from pathogens and herbivores is essential in order to protect our food supply and develop highly disease-resistant plant species.

This article introduces the concept of plant disease and provides an overview of some defense mechanisms common among higher plants. A close examination of plant anatomy is presented, as well as some of the ecological relationships that contribute to plant defense and disease resistance. Special care has been taken to illustrate how products used in everyday life are derived from substances produced by plants during defense responses.

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This article is from The Plant Health Instructor (2008), doi:10.1094/PHI-I-2008-0226-01 . Posted with permission.

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Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2008
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