Parasites and Diseases

Parasites and Diseases

Plants can be affected by various adversities: both climatic and parasitic. Despite all the care and attention we give them, plants, trees, bushes and flower beds can exhibit strange symptoms ranging from leaf yellowing to premature drying of the trunk or failure to bloom. Sometimes the atmospheric adversities interact with parasites, which proliferate in particular climatic conditions. Some insects, for example, such as aphids and scale insects, attack in arid environments or indoors. Mealybugs, in particular, are widespread in greenhouses. The damage that parasites cause to plants are immeasurable, both from an aesthetic and productive point of view. Massive invasions of insects have often caused the loss of tons, or worse, tons of crops. Methods of fighting i plant parasites they must therefore envisage strategies aimed at preventing or eradicating them from their first appearance. Our preventive strategy, ... continues


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continue ... , on the other hand, as a magazine dedicated to gardening, is to dedicate a large and in-depth section to the notorious plant parasites. Parasitic plant diseases can have many causes. Among these, unsuitable climate and soil, excesses or deficiencies of fertilizer or irrigation, crop errors in grafting or pruning, crop neglect and cultivation in unsuitable environments. For the parasitic disease to manifest itself it is therefore necessary that a negative condition occurs that can cause stress, weakening or suffering in the plant. It is true that, in some cases, parasitic diseases can manifest themselves without any apparent cause. This is the case, for example, of downy mildew of the vine, a fungal disease that massively affects the vines grown in Italy. Strangely, the American vine seems to resist downy mildew, so much so that in domestic crops there is an increasing tendency to use grafts of American vine. plant parasites they are usually divided into larvae, insects, fungi, viruses and bacteria. The larvae are actually the offspring of the adult insects. In the larval stage, some insects can indeed be particularly harmful to plants. Let's think, for example, of the larvae of the processionary moth, a moth that lays its eggs in the branches of shrubs. After wintering, the larvae feed on the branches and leaves of the affected plant until it is completely defoliated. The disease is called "processionary" because, during the feeding activity, the larvae move all together and in a row in a sort of procession. Fungi are also among the most feared pests of plants. Grouped into thousands of species, fungi tend to attack different plant species: almost none are immune. Fungi often manifest themselves as a secondary insect infection. The latter can produce substances that stimulate the spread of the fungus throughout the plant. Among the fungal diseases we mention powdery mildew, or white sickness, downy mildew, gray mold, rust, botrytis, smokiness, scab and anthracnose. Fungal diseases are often difficult to eradicate, especially in the case of massive and overt infection. The crop damage from fungal diseases can be very high and that is why we generally tend to prevent the appearance of these diseases. In most cases, fungal diseases develop in conditions of excessive humidity and heat, other times they can be the consequence of crop errors, such as excess water, or errors in pruning. Some fungi penetrate the plant tissue following cuts made with unclean or non-disinfected blades. Pruning that is too aggressive or with imprecise cuts can also weaken the plant making it easy prey for parasitic fungi. There are many parasitic insects that can affect plants. Among the most common it is worth mentioning aphids and scale insects. The former are also called "plant lice", due to their appearance made up of small legs and an almost fluorescent back. There are several species of aphids, some have a yellow back, others green, others black. These insects, like the scale insects, which instead have an oval and hard back, feed on the sap of the plant, taking away its energy and leading it to premature drying. Aphids and scale insects develop as a result of water shortages and dry and arid environments. Plants can also be attacked by some species of beetles, insects that are also commonly called "cockroaches". Beetles can also be winged. Some of them are known to be skilled eaters of branches and trunks. Viruses and bacteria can also be counted among plant parasites. The former do not spread easily, but only due to cultivation errors. Among the virus diseases we remember virosis, or virosis. It is a group of diseases caused by different viruses. The latter can infect and affect plants in the same way as humans. The causes of plant viruses are often linked to the use of already contaminated tools. Viroses are often deadly for plants, given the impossibility of treating them with specific treatments. The treatment against plant viruses is therefore strictly preventive. Bacteria can also severely damage our plants. Bacterial infections, as well as viral infections, can be caused by cultivation errors, but also by the action of parasitic insects. The latter, especially the species with sucking and stinging mouthparts, can inoculate different types of bacteria into the plant. The plants most affected by bacteria are fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants. Bacterial infections of plants are called "bacteriosis". Bacteria can deform the plant to the point of causing the appearance of galls and growths which are real plant tumors. The symptoms caused by plant parasites change according to the responsible agent and the affected plant. For some parasites, the symptoms can be similar. Aphids and mealybugs, for example, during their attack, produce a sugary substance that covers a large part of the plant. This substance, which also attracts ants, is called "honeydew". Other symptoms of plant diseases and pests can be yellowing of the leaves or spots on them. These spots, which can be more or less large, change in shape and color according to the infectious agent responsible. Rose blight, for example, causes purple spots on the leaves. The smokiness, on the other hand, causes the formation of a grayish or blackish smoke along the entire leaf surface. Hatred or ill white is distinguished by causing the formation of floury and whitish spots or patches in the plant. Furthermore, certain symptoms may be similar to those caused by other parasites. The whitish spots similar to flour and cotton can also form due to the attack of the cottony cochineal, a parasitic insect composed of a white and floury back. The symptoms of virosis are diverse and varied. In some plants, the infection manifests itself with yellowish spots on the leaves, in others, with reddish spots. Same variability of symptoms also for bacteriosis. Depending on the bacterium responsible, the symptoms can range from small dark spots to completely browning of the leaves. Cancer is a disease characterized by the uncontrolled proliferation of cells. The pathology, as well as in humans, can also manifest itself in plants. In plant species, however, cancer is a secondary disease caused by other infections and other parasites. They cause plant cancers, viruses, bacteria and fungi. The action of these infectious agents is able to radically modify the DNA of plant cells, causing uncontrolled reproduction of plant tissues. Plant cancer, in addition to causing crop damage, also causes aesthetic damage. Swellings and neoformations in the branches and buds can also destroy the aesthetic appearance of the most beautiful and decorative plants. In the section dedicated to plant parasites, we will discuss in more detail the strategies to prevent the attacks of infectious agents on plants. The most important prevention involves setting up correct cultivation techniques. The plants must therefore be grafted and pruned with well-cleaned and disinfected tools, both before and after use, and promptly healing or covering the wounds of the cuts. These wounds must not be too large and above all they must be done without smudging. Other preventive strategies include administering the right amount of water and fertilizer and growing the plant in a suitable environment. If an acidophilic plant, for example, which loves acid soils, were grown on calcareous soils, it would quickly develop limestone excess pathologies. The excess of limestone causes iron chlorosis, or the lack of iron in the plant. Chlorosis manifests itself with leaf yellowing. Preventive strategies against parasitic fungi also include treatments based on copper and sulfur, while those against insects even include the use of antagonistic insects. They are antagonists of parasitic insects, some wasps and ladybugs. The fight against plant parasites always depends on the responsible agent and the type of plant. At the initial stage, aphids and scale insects can be fought by spraying the leaves with water, washing them with a little soap or manually removing the insects. Massive attacks instead require the use of specific insecticides. Some of these are based on pyrethrum, a natural substance extracted from daisies. Pyrethrum-based insecticides are also called “pyrethroids”. Administered on plants, pyrethroids usually have a neurotoxic effect, that is, they block the insect's nervous system, preventing it from even breathing. Other natural and chemical methods of fighting plant parasites are contained in the individual articles of our section.

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