Advanced methods of plant disease detection. A review

Federico Martinelli, Riccardo Scalenghe, Salvatore Davino, Stefano Panno, Giuseppe Scuderi, Paolo Ruisi, Paolo Villa, Daniela Stroppiana, Mirco Boschetti, Luiz R. Goulart, Cristina E Davis, Abhaya M. Dandekar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

206 Scopus citations


Plant diseases are responsible for major economic losses in the agricultural industry worldwide. Monitoring plant health and detecting pathogen early are essential to reduce disease spread and facilitate effective management practices. DNA-based and serological methods now provide essential tools for accurate plant disease diagnosis, in addition to the traditional visual scouting for symptoms. Although DNA-based and serological methods have revolutionized plant disease detection, they are not very reliable at asymptomatic stage, especially in case of pathogen with systemic diffusion. They need at least 1–2 days for sample harvest, processing, and analysis. Here, we describe modern methods based on nucleic acid and protein analysis. Then, we review innovative approaches currently under development. Our main findings are the following: (1) novel sensors based on the analysis of host responses, e.g., differential mobility spectrometer and lateral flow devices, deliver instantaneous results and can effectively detect early infections directly in the field; (2) biosensors based on phage display and biophotonics can also detect instantaneously infections although they can be integrated with other systems; and (3) remote sensing techniques coupled with spectroscopy-based methods allow high spatialization of results, these techniques may be very useful as a rapid preliminary identification of primary infections. We explain how these tools will help plant disease management and complement serological and DNA-based methods. While serological and PCR-based methods are the most available and effective to confirm disease diagnosis, volatile and biophotonic sensors provide instantaneous results and may be used to identify infections at asymptomatic stages. Remote sensing technologies will be extremely helpful to greatly spatialize diagnostic results. These innovative techniques represent unprecedented tools to render agriculture more sustainable and safe, avoiding expensive use of pesticides in crop protection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Biophotonics
  • Commercial kits
  • DNA-based methods
  • Immunological assays
  • Plant disease
  • Remote sensing
  • Spectroscopy
  • Volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Environmental Engineering

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    Martinelli, F., Scalenghe, R., Davino, S., Panno, S., Scuderi, G., Ruisi, P., Villa, P., Stroppiana, D., Boschetti, M., Goulart, L. R., Davis, C. E., & Dandekar, A. M. (2015). Advanced methods of plant disease detection. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 35(1), 1-25.