Plant Protection

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A pest is an organism, usually an insect, which has characteristics that are regarded by humans as injurious or unwanted. This is often because it causes damage to agriculture through feeding on crops or parasitizing livestock, such as codling moth on apples, or boll weevil on cotton. An animal can also be a pest when it causes damage to a wild ecosystem or carries germs within human habitats. Examples of these include those organisms which vector human disease, such as rats and fleas which carry the plague disease, mosquitoes which vector malaria, and ticks which carry Lyme Disease. The term pest may be used to refer specifically to harmful animals but is also often taken to mean all harmful organisms including weeds, plant pathogenic fungi and viruses. Pesticides are chemicals and other agents (e.g. beneficial micro-organisms) that are used to control or protect other organisms from pests. The related term vermin has much overlap with pest, but generally only includes those creatures that are seen to be vectors of diseases.

  • Pest damages
  • Control measures



Organisms that cause infectious disease include fungi, oomycetes, bacteria, viruses, viroids, virus-like organisms, phytoplasmas, protozoa, nematodes and parasitic plants. Not included are insects, mites, vertebrate or other pests that affect plant health by consumption of plant tissues. Plant pathology also involves the study of pathogen identification, disease etiology, disease cycles, economic impact, plant disease epidemiology, plant disease resistance, how plant diseases affect humans and animals, pathosystem genetics, and management of plant diseases. The "Disease triangle" is a central concept of plant pathology. It is based on the principle that infectious diseases develop, or do not develop, based on three-way interactions between the host, the pathogen, and environmental conditions.

Diseases Management


Wherein a diseased patch of vegetation or individual plants are isolated from other, healthy growth. Specimens may be destroyed or relocated into a greenhouse for treatment/study. Another option is to avoid introduction of harmful non-native organisms by controlling all human traffic and activity although legislation and enforcement are key in order to ensure lasting effectiveness.


Farming in some societies is kept on a small scale, tended by peoples whose culture includes farming traditions going back to ancient times. (An example of such traditions would be lifelong training in techniques of plot terracing, weather anticipation and response, fertilization, grafting, seed care, and dedicated gardening.) Plants that are intently monitored often benefit not only from active external protection, but a greater overall vigor as well. While primitive in the sense of being the most labor-intensive solution by far, where practical or necessary it is more than adequate.

Plant resistance

Sophisticated agricultural developments now allow growers to choose from among systematically cross-bred species to ensure the greatest hardiness in their crops, as suited for a particular region's pathological profile. Breeding practices have been perfected over centuries, but with the advent of genetic manipulation even finer control of a crop's immunity traits is possible.


Many natural and synthetic compounds exist that could be employed to combat the above threats. This method works by directly eliminating disease-causing organisms or curbing their spread; however it has been shown to have too broad an effect, typically, to be good for the local ecosystem. From an economic standpoint all but the simplest natural additives may disqualify a product from "organic" status, potentially reducing the value of the yield.


Crop rotation may be an effective means to prevent a parasitic population from becoming well established, as an organism affecting leaves would be starved when the leafy crop is replaced by a tuberous type, etc. Other means to undermine parasites without attacking them directly may exist.


The use of two or more of these methods in combination offers a higher chance of effectiveness.


The bacteria are a large group of unicellular microorganisms. Typically a few micrometers in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals. Bacteria are ubiquitous in every habitat on Earth, growing in soil, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, water, and deep in the Earth's crust, as well as in organic matter and the live bodies of plants and animals. There are typically 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil and a million bacterial cells in a milliliters of fresh water; in all, there are approximately five nonillion (5×1030) bacteria on Earth, forming much of the world's biomass. Bacteria are vital in recycling nutrients, with many steps in nutrient cycles depending on these organisms, such as the fixation of nitrogen from the atmosphere and putrefaction. However, most bacteria have not been characterized, and only about half of the phyla of bacteria have species that can be grown in the laboratory. The study of bacteria is known as bacteriology, a branch of microbiology.


A fungus is any member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. The Fungi are classified as a kingdom that is separate from plants, animals and bacteria. One major difference is that fungal cells have cell walls that contain chitin, unlike the cell walls of plants, which contain cellulose. These and other differences show that the fungi form a single group of related organisms, named the Eumycota (true fungi or Eumycetes), that share a common ancestor (a monophyletic group). This fungal group is distinct from the structurally similar slime molds (myxomycetes) and water molds (oomycetes). The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology, which is often regarded as a branch of botany, even though genetic studies have shown that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants.


A virus is an infectious agent too small to be seen directly with a light microscope. They are not made of cells and can only replicate inside the cells of another organism. Viruses infect all types of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea. Since the initial discovery of tobacco mosaic virus by Martinus Beijerinck in 1898, about 5,000 of them have been described in detail,[3] although there are millions of different types of viruses. Viruses are found in almost every ecosystem on Earth and these minute structures are the most abundant type of biological entity. The study of viruses is known as virology, a sub-specialty of microbiology. Viruses consist of two or three parts: all viruses have genes made from either DNA or RNA, long molecules that carry genetic information; all have a protein coat that protects these genes; and some have an envelope of fat that surrounds them when they are outside a cell. Viruses vary from simple helical and icosahedra shapes, to more complex structures. Most viruses are about one hundred times smaller than an average bacterium. The origins of viruses in the evolutionary history of life are unclear: some may have evolved from plasmids pieces of DNA that can move between cells while others may have evolved from bacteria. In evolution, viruses are an important means of horizontal gene transfer, which increases genetic diversity.

Physiological disorders

Physiological plant disorders are caused by non-pathological disorders such as poor light, weather damage, water-logging or a lack of nutrients, and affect the functioning of the plant system. Physiological disorders are distinguished from plant diseases caused by pathogens, such as a virus or fungus. Whilst the symptoms of physiological disorders may appear disease-like, they can usually be prevented by altering environmental conditions. However, once a plant shows symptoms of nutrient deficiency it is likely that that season’s yields will be reduced. Causes of physiological disorders can be identified by examining:

  • Where symptoms first appear on a plant- on new leaves, old leaves or all over?
  • The pattern of any discolouration or yellowing- is it all over, between the veins or around the edges? If only the veins are yellow deficiency is probably not involved.
  • Note general patterns rather than looking at individual plants- are the symptoms distributed throughout a group of plants of the same type growing together. In the case of a deficiency all of the plants should be similarly effected, although distribution will depend on past treatments applied to the soil.
  • Soil analysis, such as determining pH, can help to confirm the presence of physiological disorders. Recent conditions, such as heavy rains, dry spells, frosts, etc, may also help to determine the cause of plant disorders.

Weather damage

Frost and cold are major causes of crop damage to tender plants, although hardy plants can also suffer if new growth is exposed to a hard frost following a period of warm weather. Symptoms will often appear overnight, affecting many types of plants. Leaves and stems may turn black, and buds and flowers may be discoloured, and frosted blooms may not produce fruit. Many annual plants, or plants grown in frost free areas, can suffer from damage when the air temperature drops below 40° F / 4° C. Tropical plants may begin to experience cold damage when the temperature is 42-48° Fahrenheit / 5-9° Celcius, symptoms include wilting of the top of the stems and/or leaves, and blackening or softening of the plant tissue.

Frost or cold damage can be avoided by ensuring that tender plants are properly hardened before planting, and that they are not planted too early in the season, before the risk of frost has passed. Avoid planting susceptible plants in frost pockets, or where they will receive early morning sun. Protect young buds and bloom with horticultural fleece if frost is forecast. Cold, drying easterly winds can also severely inhibit spring growth even without an actual frost, thus adequate shelter or the use of windbreaks is important.

Drought can cause plants to suffer from water stress and wilt. Adequate irrigation is required during prolonged hot, dry periods. Rather than shallow daily watering, during a drought water should be directed towards the roots, ensuring that the soil is thoroughly soaked two or three times a week. Mulches also help preserve soil moisture and keep roots cool.

Heavy rains, particularly after prolonged dry periods, can also cause roots to split, onion saddleback (splitting at the base), tomatoes split and potatoes to become deformed or hollow. Using mulches or adding organic matter such as leaf mold, compost or well rotted manure to the soil will help to act as a 'buffer' between sudden changes in conditions. Water-logging can occur on poorly drained soils, particularly following heavy rains. Plants can become yellow and stunted, and will tend to be more prone to drought and diseases. Improving drainage will help to alleviate this problem.

Hail can cause damage to soft skinned fruits, and may also allow brown rot or other fungi to penetrate the plant. Brown spot markings or lines on one side of a mature apple are indicative of a spring hailstorm.

Plants affected by salt stress are unable to take water from soil, due to an osmotic imbalance between soil and plant.

Nutritional disorders

Poor growth and a variety of complaints such as leaf discolouration (chlorosis) can be caused by a lack of plant foods. This may be due to shortages of necessary nutrients, or because the nutrients are present but not available to the plant. The latter can be caused by incorrect pH, shortages of water or an excess of another nutrient. Generally, the key to avoiding nutrient deficiencies is to ensure that the soil is healthy and contains plenty of well rotted organic matter rather than by feeding or treating individual plants.

  • Nitrogen deficiency
  • Phosphorus deficiency
  • Potassium deficiency
  • Manganese deficiency
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Iron deficiency
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Boron deficiency

Nitrogen deficiency

Nitrogen deficiency in plants can occur when woody material such as sawdust is added to the soil. Soil organisms will utilize any nitrogen in order to break this down, thus making it temporarily unavailable to growing plants. 'Nitrogen robbery' is more likely on light soils and those low in organic matter content, although all soils are susceptible. Cold weather, especially early in the season, can also cause a temporary shortage.

All vegetables apart from nitrogen fixing legumes are prone to this disorder. Symptoms include poor plant growth, leaves are pale green or yellow in the case of brassicas. Lower leaves show symptoms first. Leaves in this state are said to be etiolated with reduced chlorophyll. Flowering and fruiting may be delayed.

Prevention and control of nitrogen deficiency can be achieved in the short term by using grass mowings as a mulch, or foliar feeding with manure, and in the longer term by building up levels of organic matter in the soil. Sowing green manure crops such as grazing rye to cover soil over the winter will help to prevent nitrogen leaching, while leguminous green manures such as winter tares will fix additional nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Phosphorus deficiency

Phosphorus deficiency is a plant disorder that is most common in areas of high rainfall, especially on acid, clay or poor chalk soils. Cold weather can cause a temporary deficiency.

All plants may be affected, although this is an uncommon disorder. Particularly susceptible are carrots, lettuce, spinach, etc. Symptoms include poor growth, and leaves that turn blue/green but not yellow-oldest leaves are affected first. Fruits are small and acid tasting.

Phosphorus deficiency may be confused with nitrogen deficiency. Undersides of tomato plant leaves, and the veins and stems, may turn purple. It can be controlled by applying organic sources of phosphorus such as rock phosphate or a high-phosphorus fish fertilizer applied as a soil drench or foliar feed.

Plants that are naturally adapted to low levels of available soil phosphorus, however, are more likely to suffer from phosphate poisoning: the key is to provide the right level for any particular plant type, neither too high nor too low.

Potassium deficiency

Potassium deficiency, also known as potash deficiency, is a plant disorder that is most common on light, sandy soils, as well as chalky or peaty soils with a low clay content. It is also found on heavy clays with a poor structure.

Plants require potassium ions (K+) for protein synthesis and for the opening and closing of stomata, which is regulated by proton pumps to make surrounding guard cells either turgid or flaccid. A deficiency of potassium ions can impair a plant's ability to maintain these processes.

The deficiency most commonly affects fruits and vegetables. Typical symptoms are brown scorching and curling of leaf tips, and yellowing of leaf veins. Purple spots may also appear on the leaf undersides.

Deficient plants may be more prone to frost damage and disease, and their symptoms can often be confused with wind scorch or drought. Prevention and cure can be achieved in the shorter term by organic potassium-rich fertilisers. In the longer term the soil structure should be improved by adding plenty of well rotted compost or manure. Wood ash has high potassium content, but should be composted first as it is in a highly soluble form.

Manganese deficiency

Manganese deficiency is a plant disorder that is often confused with, and occurs with, iron deficiency. Most common in poorly drained soils, also where organic matter levels are high. Manganese may be unavailable to plants where pH is high.

Symptoms include yellowing of leaves with smallest leaf veins remaining green to produce a ‘chequered’ effect. The plant may seem to grow away from the problem so that younger leaves may appear to be unaffected. Brown spots may appear on leaf surfaces, and severely affected leaves turn brown and wither.

Prevention can be achieved by improving soil structure. Do not over-lime.

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is a plant disorder with two main causes. Magnesium can be easily washed out of light soils in wet seasons or excessive potassium fertilizer usage can cause also Mg to become unavailable to the growing plant.

This disorder particularly affects potatoes, tomatoes, etc. Symptoms include, yellowing between leaf veins, which stay green, giving a marbled appearance. This begins with older leaves and spreads to younger growth. Can be confused with virus, or natural aging in the case of tomato plants. Fruits are small and woody.

Mg deficiency can be rectified in the short term by applying a foliar feed fortnightly, with epsom salts diluted at a rate of 200g per 10 litres of water (8oz per 2½ gal). In the longer term add dolomitic limestone if soil pH allows, or other Mg containing rocks such as Kieserite or langbeinite, which is potassium magnesium sulfate. Reduce usage of potash fertilisers if this may be contributing to the problem.

Iron deficiency

Iron deficiency is a plant disorder also known as "lime-induced chlorosis". It can be confused with manganese deficiency. A deficiency in the soil is rare but iron can be unavailable for absorption if soil pH is not between about 5 and 6.5. A common problem is when the soil is too alkaline (the pH is above 6.5). Also, iron deficiency can develop if the soil is too waterlogged or has been overfertilised. Elements like calcium, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, or copper can tie up iron if they are present in high amounts.

Iron is needed to produce chlorophyll, hence its deficiency causes chlorosis. For example, iron is used in the active site of glutamyl-tRNA reductase, an enzyme needed for the formation of 5-Aminolevulinic acid which is a precursor of heme and chlorophyll.

Symptoms include leaves turning yellow or brown in the margins between the veins which may remain green, while young leaves may appear to be bleached. Fruit would be of poor quality and quantity.

Iron deficiency can be avoided by choosing appropriate soil for the growing conditions (e.g., avoid growing acid loving plants on lime soils), or by adding well-rotted manure or compost.

Calcium deficiency

Calcium deficiency is a plant disorder that can be caused by insufficient calcium in the growing medium, but is more frequently a product of a compromised nutrient mobility system in the plant. This may be due to water shortages, which slow the transportation of calcium to the plant, or can be caused by excessive usage of potassium or nitrogen fertilizers.

Calcium deficiency symptoms appear initially as generally stunted plant growth, necrotic leaf margins on young leaves or curling of the leaves, and eventual death of terminal buds and root tips. Generally the new growth of the plant is affected first. The mature leaves may be affected if the problem persists.

Tomatoes-'Blossom end rot' – Symptoms start as sunken, dry decaying areas at the blossom end of the fruit, furthest away from the stem, not all fruit on a truss is necessarily affected. Sometimes rapid growth from high-nitrogen fertilizers may cause blossom end rot. Cabbage-Internal browning. Carrot - 'Cavity spot' – oval spots develop into craters which may be invaded by other disease causing organisms.

Calcium deficiency can be rectified by adding Agricultural lime to acid soils, aiming at a pH of 6.5, unless the plant in question specifically prefers acidic soil. Organic matter should be added to the soil in order to improve its moisture-retaining capacity. Plant damage is difficult to reverse, so take corrective action immediately. Make supplemental applications of calcium nitrate at 200 ppm nitrogen. Test and correct the pH if needed because calcium deficiency is often associated with low pH.

Boron deficiency

Boron deficiency is an uncommon disorder affecting plants growing in deficient soils and is often associated with areas of high rainfall and leached soils. Boron may be present but locked up in soils with a high pH, and the deficiency may be worse in wet seasons. Symptoms include dying growing tips and bushy stunted growth, extreme cases may prevent fruit set. Boric acid (16.5%boron) or borax (11.3% boron) can be applied to soils to correct boron deficiency. Typical applications are about 1.1 kg/hectare or 1.0 lb/acre of actual boron. Borax, boric acid or Solubor can be dissolved in water and sprayed or applied to soil as a dust. Excess boron is toxic to plants so care must be taken to ensure correct application rate and even coverage. Leaves of many plants are damaged by boron; therefore, when in doubt, only apply to soil.


Definition for weed

Weeds are undesirable plants growth in an unwanted place or among the crop for same needs such as water, sunlight, nutrients and space and cause economical damage at threshold level. Weed can be,

  1. Non crop plant grows with crop plant
  2. Crop plant grows with crop plant
  3. Any plant grows in unwanted place

Weeds can compete with productive crops or pasture, or convert productive land into unusable scrub. Weed are also often poisonous, distasteful, produce burrs, thorns or other damaging body parts or otherwise interfere with the use and management of desirable plants by contaminating harvests or excluding livestock.

Weeds tend to thrive at the expense of the more refined edible or ornamental crops. They provide competition for space, nutrients, water and light, although how seriously they will affect a crop depends on a number of factors. Some crops have greater resistance than others- smaller, slower growing seedlings are more likely to be overwhelmed than those that are larger and more vigorous. Onions are one of the crops most susceptible to competition, for they are slow to germinate and produce slender, upright stems. Quick growing, broad leafed weeds therefore have a distinct advantage, and if not removed, the crop is likely to be lost. Broad beans however produce large seedlings, and will suffer far less profound effects of weed competition other than during periods of water shortage at the crucial time when the pods are filling out. Transplanted crops raised in sterile seed or potting compost will have a head start over germinating weed seeds.

Classification of weed

Weed can be classified on the basis of

  1. Morphology (Grasses, Sedges, Broad leaves)
  2. Life span habitat (Annuals, Biannual, Perennials)
  3. Woodiness (Woody, Non woody)
  4. Harmfulness
  5. Grown habit (Terrestrial, Epiphyte, Aquatic)
  6. Number of cotyledons (Monocotylen, Dicotyledons)

Weed control

Use of herbicides

The above described methods of weed control avoid using chemicals. They are often used by farmers. However, these methods may damage a fragile soil by restructuring it, hence are not always used. They are those preferred by the organic gardener or organic farmer. However weed control can also be achieved by the use of herbicides. Selective herbicides kill certain targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often based on plant hormones. Herbicides are generally classified as follows;

  • Contact herbicides destroy only that plant tissue in contact with the chemical spray. Generally, these are the fastest acting herbicides. They are ineffective on perennial plants that are able to re-grow from roots or tubers.
  • Systemic herbicides are foliar-applied and are translocated through the plant and destroy a greater amount of the plant tissue. Modern herbicides such as glyphosate are designed to leave no harmful residue in the soil.
  • Soil-borne herbicides are applied to the soil and are taken up by the roots of the target plant.
  • Pre-emergent herbicides are applied to the soil and prevent germination or early growth of weed seeds.

In agriculture large scale and systematic weeding is usually required, often by machines, such as liquid herbicide sprayers, or even by helicopter (such as in the USA), to eliminate the massive amount of weeds present on farming lands.

Organic methods

Manually pulling weeds-Labourers are used to pull weeds at various points in the growing process.

Mechanically tilling around plants- Tractors are used to carefully till weeds around the crop plants at various points in the growing process. Besides tilling, other mechanical weed control methods also exist

Ploughing- Ploughing includes tilling of soil, intercultural ploughing and summer ploughing. Ploughing through tilling of soil uproots the weeds which causes them to die. In summer ploughing is done during deep summers. Summer ploughing also helps in killing pests. Crop rotation- Rotating crops with ones that kill weeds by choking them out, such as hemp, Mucuna pruriens, and other crops, can be a very effective method of weed control. It is a way to avoid the use of herbicides, and to gain the benefits of crop rotation.

Mmulching- However there are a number of techniques that the organic farmer can employ such as mulching and carefully timed cutting of weeds before they are able to set seed. Drip irrigation: Rubber hoses and other methods are used to bring water directly to the roots of the desired plants. This limits weed access to water.

Integrated pest management


In agriculture, integrated pest management (IPM) is a pest control strategy that uses a variety of complementary strategies including: mechanical devices, physical devices, genetic, biological, cultural management, and chemical management. These methods are done in three stages: prevention, observation, and intervention. It is an ecological approach with a main goal of significantly reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides while at the same time managing pest populations at an acceptable level.

IPM extended the concept of integrated control to all classes of pests and was expanded to include tactics other than just chemical and biological controls. Artificial controls such as pesticides were to be applied as in integrated control, but these now had to be compatible with control tactics for all classes of pests. Other tactics, such as host-plant resistance and cultural manipulations, became part of the IPM arsenal.

An IPM regime can be quite simple or sophisticated. Historically, the main focus of IPM programs was on agricultural insect pests. Although originally developed for agricultural pest management, IPM programs are now developed to encompass diseases, weeds, and other pests that interfere with the management objectives of sites such as residential and commercial structures, lawn and turf areas, and home and community gardens.

IPM is applicable to all types of agriculture and sites such as residential and commercial structures, lawn and turf areas, and home and community gardens. Reliance on knowledge, experience, observation, and integration of multiple techniques makes IPM a perfect fit for organic farming.

Acceptable pest levels: The emphasis is on control, not eradication. IPM holds that wiping out an entire pest population is often impossible, and the attempt can be more costly, environmentally unsafe, and frequently unachievable. IPM programs first work to establish acceptable pest levels, called action thresholds, and apply controls if those thresholds are crossed. These thresholds are pest and site specific, meaning that it may be acceptable at one site to have a weed such as white clover, but at another site it may not be acceptable.

This stops the pest gaining resistance to chemicals produced by the plant or applied to the crops. If many of the pests are killed then any that have resistance to the chemical will rapidly reproduce forming a resistant population. By not killing all the pests there are some un-resistant pests left that will dilute any resistant genes that appear.

Preventive cultural practices

Selecting varieties best for local growing conditions, and maintaining healthy crops, is the first line of defense, together with plant quarantine and 'cultural techniques' such as crop sanitation (e.g. removal of diseased plants to prevent spread of infection).

Mechanical controls

Should a pest reach an unacceptable level, mechanical methods are the first options to consider. They include simple hand-picking, erecting insect barriers, using traps, vacuuming, and tillage to disrupt breeding.

Biological controls

Natural biological processes and materials can provide control, with minimal environmental impact, and often at low cost. The main focus here is on promoting beneficial insects that eat target pests. Biological insecticides, derived from naturally occurring microorganisms (e.g.: Bt, entomopathogenic fungi and entomopathogenic nematodes), also fit in this category.

Chemical controls

Synthetic pesticides are generally only used as required and often only at specific times in a pests life cycle. Many of the newer pesticide groups are derived from plants or naturally occurring substances and further 'biology-based' or 'ecological' techniques are under evaluation.