Plant Breeding: Plant Pathology and Disease Epidemiology

As a working professional in the plant breeding sector, you are probably aware of the impact that interactions between plants and their attackers (viruses, micro-organisms, nematodes, insects, parasitic plants) and beneficial organisms (symbiotic bacteria and fungi) can have on their crop production. This online academic-level course delves into these complex interactions, covering molecular and physiological principles, defence mechanisms, strategies used by attackers, and symbiotic relationships. It also treats quantitative aspects of spread of diseases and pests.

Organised by Wageningen Academy

Mon 6 January 2025 until Thu 30 January 2025

Duration 4 weeks, 20 hours per week
Price EUR 1,230.00

Registration deadline: 24 November 2024

Target audience

If you are a working professional in the plant breeding sector, this course is the perfect opportunity for you to expand your knowledge and sharpen your skills. This comprehensive course will provide you with the tools you need to succeed and advance in your career, especially in combination with other advanced Online Master's Courses Plant Breeding.

Prerequisite knowledge
You should have sufficient knowledge on concepts and methodologies related to plant biology, such as genetics, plant breeding, plant physiology and molecular biology. It's important to realise that, if you do not comply with these recommendations, you cannot claim extra support from the instructor and cannot claim a refund of the registration fee, if you decide to discontinue the course.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this programme, you will be able to:

  • Summarise molecular and physiological principles of interactions between plants and attackers.
  • Discuss the complexity of defence mechanisms that plants possess to (directly or indirectly) counteract attackers.
  • Explain how symbiotic organisms interact with plants without triggering defence responses.
  • Understand that the trophic lifestyle of an attacker is related to the way in which it uses its genetic toolbox.
  • Describe case studies of plant disease epidemics in time and space (field, regional, and continental scale).
  • Apply key concepts in the population biology of plant diseases, such as exponential growth, logistic growth, life tables, relative rate of increase, and net reproductive ratio.
  • Understand and apply basic probability models for sampling distributions of plant disease.
  • Compare different strategies and biochemical tools used by attackers to invade plants and reproduce.
  • Describe the effect of host genetics, crop diversity and landscape diversity on the rate of spread and population increase of plant diseases and pests.
  • Formulate concepts for integrated management of plant disease based on insight in epidemiology.


The course focuses on the interactions of plants with attackers (viruses, micro-organisms, nematodes, insects, parasitic plants), and beneficial organisms (symbiotic bacteria and fungi), as well as on interactions between beneficial organisms and pathogens and their hosts at different integration levels, from molecules to ecosystems.

Upon completion of the course, you will have a deep understanding of the biochemical tools used by attackers, the way in which symbiotic organisms interact with plants, the role of host genetics, crop diversity, and landscape diversity in plant disease epidemiology, and the principles of integrated management of plant disease. This course is an opportunity for working professionals to expand their knowledge and skills in the field of plant-attacker and plant-beneficial organism interactions.

This course is an online course at master level that you follow in a cohort. Learners participate at different time points and from different time zones, as most learners also have a job. The programme therefor offers learning activities that allow you to supervised self-study at your own pace, with deadlines for assignments, and includes knowledge clips, e-learning modules, online individual and group exercises and assignments, online discussions, and in some courses occasionally live question hours through MS Teams at specific dates and times. There are no online live classes. The exam has a fixed date.

Software used in this course: the statistical software R is used for several calculations.

This course is quite time-intensive and requires approximately 20 hours per week for the average participant. There are assignments with deadlines.

Self-Paced Online Course Getting Started with R
Some experience with R to perform statistical analyses is recommended. If the latter is not the case, you can follow the Self-Paced Online Course Getting Started with R first. For more information and registration, please check the document linked in the right-hand column.

This course is also part of the Online Master's course series Plant Breeding for Resistance: Plant Pathology & Epidemiology.


Participation in the remotely proctored exam is optional. If you decide not to participate in the exam, you do not qualify for a certificate and/or Micro-credentials.

The date of examination is 30 January 2025. The resit will be scheduled on 7, 8 or 9 May 2025.


Upon successful completion - passing the exam -, a digital certificate with 3 study credits (ECTS) is issued. This certificate offers no immediate rights to apply for a formal degree programme at a university, but might support your request for admission. In case you've also completed the Master's course Breeding for Resistance successfully, you can obtain a Micro-credentials certificate.

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