NPLB21000U Plant Pathology: Crop Diseases and Food Security

Volume 2024/2025

BSc Programme in Natural Resources


Plant diseases threaten food security and food safety (UN development goals #23). Thus, they reduce crop production by an average of 20% at farm level. About 25% of all foods are suspected to be contaminated by mycotoxins despite massive input in the agricultural sector. Therefore, there is a need to improve sustainable management of diseases to ensure food security to provide stable and healthy supplies.The course aims to provide practical and theoretical knowledge to understand plant diseases and how they can be managed both in temperate and tropical production systems. The emphasis is on the biology of the pathogens and their interactions with plants. Likewise, the influence on food safety will be introduced.

What causes disease? The biology of fungi and fungal-like organisms, bacteria and viruses causing plant disease.

Introduction to:

The concepts symptomology and diagnosis, taxonomy of pathogens; pathogenicity and disease resistance:

  • Identifying the causes of plant disease
  • Basic ecological and epidemiological principles in relation to the establishment and spread of plant diseases and the losses they cause
  • The mechanisms used by pathogens to infect plants and by plants to combat pathogens
  • Molecular, cellular and genetic aspects of pathogenicity and disease resistance
  • Plant disease control measures currently used (primarily cultural management, disease resistance and chemical control)  
  • Upcoming sustainable control measures, including biological control induced resistance and biotechnological approaches (e.g., GMO, gene editing)
  • Post-harvest diseases and food safety – including mycotoxins
  • Forecasting and plant disease legislation.
  • Case studies of plant diseases in agriculture, horticulture and forestry in temperate and tropical production systems


Learning Outcome

The course gives a basal understanding of how microorganisms interact with plants and each other and how the environment influences diseases. Secondly, it introduces the methods used to study these interactions as well as management options and their effect on food security.

On completing the course, the student should be able to:


  • Describe the different types of organisms causing plant diseases.
  • Describe how environment influences diseases and our ability to manage disease.
  • Describe the mechanisms underlying the interactions of pathogenic microorganisms with plants and other microorganisms and the basic biology and relationships of these organisms.
  • Show how the mechanisms influence the ecology of microorganisms and the development of plant diseases.


  • Be able to explain the biological and environmental components that determine host-pathogen interactions, including control options, cellular structures and genetic elements.
  • Be able to evaluate how the knowledge gained can be applied to manage pathogens and minimise the consequences of plant diseases.
  • Be able to reflect on ethical aspects of using biotechnology, pesticides and other options for controlling diseases.



  • Discuss and disseminate knowledge of plant diseases and their control to both specialists and non-specialists.
  • Critical approach to digital scientific information searches incl. reference management.
  • Critical approach for simple experimental data analysis.

Specific information will be provided on Absalon

  • Tronsmo AM, Collinge DB, Djurle A, Munk L, Yuen J, Tronsmo A (2020) Plant Pathology and Plant Diseases 440 pp CABI International, Wallingford. https:/​/​​bookshop/​book/​9781789243178/​ ISBN 9781789243178
  • Hockenhull, J., Danielsen, S., de Neergaard, E., Thomsen I. Illustrated Atlas of Fungal Plant Pathogens (Illustrated by N. Leroul).


A course set of the latter book is available for use in the practical exercises. The curriculum is supplemented with primary literature, course notes and a laboratory manual as a reference.

The basic concepts of plant diseases and their study are illustrated through practical and theoretical methods and excursions to see diseases and their control in practice. The students will work with the concepts and discuss in groups to understand the problems associated with managing plant diseases.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 30
  • Class Instruction
  • 30
  • Preparation
  • 100
  • Practical exercises
  • 42
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
On-site written exam, 4 hours under invigilation
Exam registration requirements

75% of reports for practicals and colloquia approved

presentation of group project approved.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

As the ordinary exam. If 10 or fewer register for the reexamination the examination form will be oral (30 min) with preparation time (30 min) with all aids.

If the requirements are not met the laboratory exercises and theoretical reports has to be handed in 3 weeks before re-exam and 75% need to be approved 2 week before the re-exam. Contact the course responsible for details.

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcomes