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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Study Plant Pathology by Distance Learning 

Improve your understanding of plant diseases and how to control them.

  • Understand plant pathology.
  • Develop your knowledge of plant disease and methods to control them.
  • Learn from highly experienced and qualified plant scientists.
  • Study in your own time and at your own pace.

Plant pathology (also known as Phytopathology) is the study of plant disease and other plant problems - it is a combination of science knowledge and science application.

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Study Phytopathology - improve your understanding of plant diseases and how to control them

  • Learn to grow healthy plants.
  • Develop your understanding of all types of plant diseases (fungal, viral, bacterial, non-infectious), their life cycles, and ways they can be controlled both with and without chemicals.
  • A must for horticulturalists who want to boost plant health and prevent damage by pests and diseases.

Plant production is reduced significantly every year, due to pathological problems. To control these problems is to increase productivity, and for the horticultural business; that means increased profit margins.

What is Plant Pathology (or Phytopathology)?

Plant Pathology is not simply a study of pests and diseases. Some pests are in fact not pathological problems, and there are pathological problems which are not pests or diseases.

Plant Pathology is about problems in plants caused by physiological damage or irritation at a cellular level (ie. it is concerned with problems which affect parts of the plant cell, leading to malfunctions in the normal processes which occur within the plant).

Plant Pathology incorporates knowledge from a wide range of horticultural and science areas, including botany, crops, soil science, biochemistry, and biology. 

Course Structure

There are eight lessons in this course, each one taking around 12 hours to complete. There are three main sections to the course:

1.  Introduction

2.  Types of Diseases

3.  The Life-cycle of a Disease

4.  Control Techniques

5.  Selected Pathogen Diseases - Ornamentals

6.  Selected Pathogen Diseases - Crops

7.  Non-Infectious Diseases

8.  Special Project

Course Aims

  • Describe a range of pathological problems that affect plants.
  • Describe symptoms of a range of diseases that affect plants.
  • Describe disease life cycles and explain how this knowledge can be applied in disease control
  • Explain the methods used to control diseases
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of a particular plant pathogen.
  • Identify and describe a range of non-infectious diseases and problems that affect plants
  • Identify and describe a range of common pathogens that affect ornamental plants.
  • Identify and describe a range of common pathogens that affect crop plants

A Systematic Approach to Learning

1. The first part of the course develops an understanding of the different types of problems which can occur and how to identify them.

Terminology is covered in some depth, so as to enable the student to be able to read and understand books and articles written about plant diseases. Other major topics of study include "symptoms" (i.e. necroses, hypoplases, hyperplases, etc.), "types of pathogens" (i.e. viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc), and the life-cycle of a disease.

2. The second part of the course looks at how to control pathology problems. The major methods of controlling pathogens (i.e. sanitation, resistant varieties, biological controls, soil drenches and chemical sprays, etc.) are all studied, along with types of equipment and safety.

3. The third part of the course looks at some of the most common plant pathology problems in commercial horticulture, how to identify them and how they are controlled.

Some of the problems studied include cinnamon fungus, tree decay, powdery mildew, nematodes, brown rot, blights, turf fungi, damping off and non infectious problems such as temperature burns, air pollution, wind burn and excessive light.

Although you study by distance learning the course is a highly practical one, involving as much time in practical/field work as it does theory.

No prior formal training is required, though anyone undertaking this course is expected to have some experience in horticulture (either having worked in the industry or having studied in some related discipline).


"I really appreciate Gavin's (tutor) comments, and look forward to receiving the feedback from him."


What This Course Could Do For You

This course will provide a wealth of valuable knowledge for anyone who works with plants. Those of you who do will recognise how widespread and devastating a disease outbreak can be, and know the frustration it can bring after months of nurturing plants. This course goes into great depth about disease life cycles and groups of diseases. It will equip students with a better idea of diagnosis and treatment. The course is aimed at those working in, or wishing to work in, the following fields:

  • Horticulture research
  • Horticulture science
  • Horticulture consultation
  • Agronomy
  • Crops
  • Parks and gardens
  • Botanic gardens
  • Teaching

Understand more about identifying and managing plant diseases

You can enrol on the Plant Pathology course at any time - students are supported and guided in their studies by our highly knowledgeable, expert Horticulture tutors.

If you have any questions, or want to know more about the course - get in touch with our Horticulture tutors today - they will be pleased to help you.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)A graduate of Burnley Horticultural College; Rosemary has over 30 years of experience in horticulture. Her training was extensive covering both amenity and production horticulture; developing pactical skills and a deep understanding of the sciences that underpin horticulture. She worked with the Agriculture Dept in Victoria as a consultant or advisor to both farmers and home gardeners. Over the years, her experience has been as broad as her training, working on radio with ABC radio, a garden editor (with several major publications) and as a teacher, writer, garden designer and consultant. Rosemary has led several garden tours to the UK and Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has written six gardening books and collaborated on many others. Rosemary brings a unique personality, knowledge base and passion to the school; an an infectious love of horticulture in support of our students. She holds a B.Sc Hort,, Dip.Hort.Sc., Dip. Advertising & Marketing and B.Ed.
Jade SciasciaBiologist, Business Coordinator, Government Environmental Dept, Secondary School teacher (Biology); Recruitment Consultant, Senior Supervisor in Youth Welfare, Horse Riding Instructor (part-completed) and Boarding Kennel Manager. Jade has a B.Sc.Biol, Dip.Professional Education, Cert IV TESOL, Cert Food Hygiene.
Dr. Lynette MorganBroad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

Check out our eBooks

Organic GardeningFor decades farmers have relied upon chemicals to control pests and diseases in order to produce saleable crops. In the ornamental, vegetable and fruit gardens reliance on chemical controls has also been the mainstay for many gardeners.
Professional Practice for ConsultantsExplore becoming a consultant. This ebook contains chapters on how to be a consultant, packaging your services, delivering the services, building your resources, finding the work and getting the job, planning and ethics.
Getting Work in HorticultureExplore what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse this industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.
Plant Pests & DiseasesAre you one of those people that kill every plant you touch? Perhaps it's not you. Perhaps it's a pest or disease. A little bit of reading might just turn your garden into an oasis. Learn how to identify pests and diseases and bring the spring back into your plant...visit the bookshop to find out more...