History of plant pathology in India

History of Indian phytopathology

  • In India, history of plant pathology goes back to the establishment of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (then “Agricultural Research Institute and college”) at Pusa, in Samastipur district of Bihar in 1 April 1905.
  • The foundation of this institute was laid-down by Henry Phipps, Jr., an American Philanthropist of USA. The name PUSA was after Phipps (P) and USA, hence PUSA. The institute was renamed as “Imperial Institute of Agricultural Research” in 1911, and then “Imperial Agricultural Research Institute” in 1919. The institute was severely damaged by the earthquake of Bihar on 15 January, 1934. Hence, it was shifted to New Delhi at the location named as Pusa. Since then, the institute is known as Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) or Pusa Institute.

  • Sir E. J. Butler so called “father of plant pathology in India” was appointed as first imperial mycologist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in 1905 and laid the foundation stone of plant pathology in India. Before leaving India, he worked on wilt of pigeon pea and rust of wheat. He also wrote a classic book “Fungi and Disease in Plants” in 1918.
  • Taxonomy of fungi was then emphasized at the Bombay, Calcutta and Madras Universities.
  • During 1930s, plant pathology was established as University science at the Lucknow, Allahabad and Madras Universities.
  • The plant pathology in India has got speedy growth by the three disease epidemics. These epidemics were red rot of sugarcane epidemics of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh during caused by Colletotrichum falcatum 1938 to 1942, Bengal famine in 1942 caused by Helminthosporium oryzae (causing blight of rice) and wheat shortage in Madhya Pradesh during 1946 and 1947 caused by rust of wheat.

  • K. C. Mehta (1929) carried-out the monographic study and revealed the annual recurrence of black or stem rust of wheat in northern plains of India.
  • Mitra in 1931 studied the Karnal bunt of wheat.
  • Luthra and Sattar in 1934 studied the solar heat treatment to control the loose smut of wheat.
  • Dastur in 1948 described two new diseases i.e., leaf rot and tuber rot of potato.
  • With the increasing interest in the plant pathology, “Indian Phytopathological Society” (IPS) was established on 28 February, 1947. This society was established in a meeting at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi conveyed by Dr. B.B. Mundkur under the chairmanship of Prof. S. R. Bose. There were 20 mycologists and plant pathologists in the meeting.

  • R. N. Tandon during 1939 to 1965 served the Department of Botany University of Allahabad. He studied physiology and nutrition of about 45 strains and species of fungal pathogen causing storage diseases of fruits and vegetables and the leaf spot diseases.
  • S. N. Dasgupta studied the role of enzymes in pathogenicity in 1956.
  • T.S. Sadasivan developed concept of vivotoxins.