Cultural Practices and Infectious Crop Diseases

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The development of a crop, and therefore its health, is always the result of interplay between biological and environmental factors, as influenced by human agency. In other words, crop health is a highly complex affair. This book is concerned with only one group of agents affecting crop health, the pathogens, and not with animal pests or direct effects of physiological or weather factors. Even within this one group, however, the interaction of causal agents with environmental and biotic factors is highly complex. No less complex is the effect of cultural practices on the crop and its health. There is probably no major practice that does not affect diverse facets of crop growth, which in turn affects crop/pathogen relationships. Thus tillage se- quentially affects depth and rate of root development, hence nutrient uptake, hence general plant size and habit as well as crop climate and crop susceptibility. Irri- gation affects all these parameters, and facilitates crop growth under diverse macro- climatic conditions, with all the ensuing implications for disease development. In this book an attempt is made to superimpose one set of complexities, the cul- tural practices, on another such set, crop health. This may seem overambitious, not to say foolhardy, unless we remember that it has been done by farmers, consciously or unconsciously, ever since the beginnings of agriculture. We are here chiefly try- ing to rationalize traditional practices, review modern research on the development of further practices, and assess the place of the latter in integrated disease control.