What is plant pathology?

Plant Pathology is defined as the study of the organisms and environmental conditions that cause disease in plants, the mechanisms by which this occurs, the interactions between these causal agents and the plant (effects on plant growth, yield and quality), and the methods of managing or controlling plant disease. It also interfaces knowledge from other scientific fields such as mycology, microbiology, virology, biochemistry, bio-informatics, etc.

Plant Pathologists

Plant Pathologists are scientists concerned with the understanding of the dynamic processes involved in the plant health. Their work is more research oriented.

Compulsory school subjects:

Biology and/or Agricultural Science in Matric. Normally a pass with E (HG) or D (SG) symbol is a prerequisite for admission in these courses by most institutions.

Academic requirement:

Scientists have to qualify in BSc (Agric) in Plant Pathology (3 years).

What does one need to become a plant pathologist?

You must have a strong interest in biological science studies and research.

Where can training be undertaken?

Various universities in the country with faculties of agriculture offer qualifications in plant pathology, for example Natal University, University of the Free State, University of Stellenbosch and University of Pretoria to name but four.

Where do people qualified in this field work and what do they do?

Government research:

  • National and Provincial Plant Pathologist in Government department

  • National ARC research centres

Agrochemical companies:

Run registration trials and promote the products to farmers.

Seed companies

Test cultivars for disease resistance, breed seeds for better resistance.

Fertiliser companies

Their clients often have technical problems which are associated with diseases, so they hire plant pathologists.

University Academics

These work at most of the major plant pathology departments either as lecturers or Researchers.

Farmer, Nurseryman

Many go into the production field, either with their own interests or as a manager. Their broad training and understanding of the constraints of disease on production are excellent equipment for this role.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Several pathologists have ended up in this competitive and technically demanding job.

Private company

Some have Plant Pathologists start their own companies manufacturing biological control agents.

Private Consultant

This is a demanding job, as it is a challenging field to consult in.

Directorate Education and Training
Private Bag X250
Pretoria 0001

Tel: (012) 319 7028
Fax: (012) 319 6972