Plant disease epidemiology

Last changed: 19 December 2022
Fusarium head blight in wheat. Photo: Magdalena Grudzinska Sterno.

We study disease development of plant pathogens to develop sustainable plant disease management strategies. We focus main staple food crops grown in Sweden as diseases in these crops are responsible for a large amount of pesticide use in Sweden.

Plant disease epidemiology studies the spatial and temporal dynamics of pathogens and the ecological interaction of pathogens with the biotic and abiotic environments. A better understanding of these dynamics and interactions will lead to environmentally friendly and sustainable crop production systems, which are the key to tackle food security problem associated with changing climate and increasing human population.

Our research

We study the principles, mechanisms, and processes of disease development by understanding host-pathogen interactions, population genetics, host immunity and adaptation as well as risk assessment. Our research also includes the development of sustainable plant disease management strategies supporting green food production. Some of research focuses are:

  • Pathogen population structure
  • Pathogen adaptation to host resistance and climate change
  • Genetics of host resistance
  • Fungicide resistance
  • Risk assessment
  • Sustainable disease management
Anna Berlin analyze material from spore traps in order to develop early detection of plant diseases. Photo: Cajsa Lithell.
Potatos are often infected with Phytophthora infestans, an oomycete that causes the serious potato disease known as late blight or potato blight. Photo: Cajsa Lithell.
The stem, black and cereal rusts are caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis and are a significant disease affecting cereal crops. Crop species which are affected by the disease include bread wheat, durum wheat, barley and triticale. Photo: Jonathan Yuen.

What approaches we use?

We use array of modern, state-of-the-art experimental and analytical tools. To answer questions on spatial and temporal dynamics of pathogens and their interaction of with biotic and abiotic environments, we use:

  • Population surveys
  • Experimental evolution
  • Omics: genomics, transcriptomes, microbiomes etc
  • Molecular biology
  • Modelling

Focus on staple foods and reduced pesticide use

We focus on some of the main staple food crops grown in Sweden, such as potatoes and small grains, not only because these crops are a basic component of the food supply, but also because diseases in these crops are responsible for a large amount of pesticide use in Sweden.

Research group

See all researchers in the group Plant Disease Epidemiology.



Jiasui Zhan, Professor

Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology, Division of Plant Pathology/Epidemiology, 018-672369