Potato poduction and the environmental component of plant disease

By potato specialist Phil Nolte.

As a plant pathologist, one of the first things I was taught was a fundamental concept called the “Disease Triangle.” This model contains the key elements required for a plant disease to occur and includes three components:

  • You must have a susceptible host;
  • You must have a virulent pathogen; and
  • These two must come together under suitable environmental conditions.

Throughout my career as a potato specialist, the importance of this basic relationship has been demonstrated time and time again. Each of these three components can be manipulated to some extent by producers. We can influence the host component by our choice of variety, for instance. On the pathogen side, a great deal of time and money is spent on seed certification in an effort to eliminate or greatly reduce the presence of seed-borne pathogens. These first two components are certainly significant in their own right but for this discussion, I thought I’d go into some-what greater detail on the all-important environmental component. More