Influence of nutrition on disease development caused by fungal pathogens: implications for plant disease control


D.R. Walters, Crop & Soil Systems Research Group, Scottish Agricultural College, King’s Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK.


A great deal of information is available in the literature on the effects of nutrition on disease development in plants and crops. However, much of this information is contradictory and although it is widely recognised that nutrition can influence disease in crops, limited progress has been made in the manipulation of crop nutrition to enhance disease control. Achieving this aim requires a sound understanding of the effects of fertilisation on nutrient levels and availability in crop tissues, and in turn, how the nutrient status of such tissues influences pathogen infection, colonisation and sporulation. Some of these details are known for a number of crop plants under controlled conditions, but very little of this type of information is available for crops under field conditions. This review focuses on nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, potassium and silicon, examines the availability of these nutrients in plant tissues to support pathogen growth and development, and reviews the effects of the different nutrients on disease development. The review also examines the potential for manipulating crop nutrition to enhance disease control in conventional and organic cropping systems.