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Plant Health and Disease Diagnosis for Nursery Crops

Many nursery managers and frontline workers have years of experience in the nursery industry, but no way of demonstrating their knowledge due to lack of formal education credentials.

This course is designed to prepare nursery workers and managers to better understand, manage, and prevent disease outbreaks. The course will explore the interaction among the practices in plant production and the effect of these interactions on plant health and plant growth.

In turn, implementation of this information will aid nursery workers in minimizing inefficient practices that result in plant loss and decreased profits. The course will promote a sense of responsibility in each worker at any level of production. Workers will appreciate that all steps in plant production are important and complement each other; they must all be considered to have a final product that is healthy and sellable.

Course Details

The course is comprised of five online modules and is self-paced. There is an assessment at the end of each module that students should complete before proceeding to the next module. Instructors are available via email to answer questions and address concerns.

The course begins with a broad overview of plant disease and the various microorganisms that can cause disease. Next, important plant pathology concepts such as the disease triangle and disease cycles are introduced. A more in-depth and detailed description of each group of pathogen is presented next. Best management practices that can be executed to manage and prevent plant disease are then discussed.

The course continues with a module of signs, symptoms, and management of specific nursery diseases. The final module introduces Integrated Pest Management and includes scouting and record-keeping procedures as well.

Students will need to pass a final exam before receiving their Plant Health Certificate. At the end of the course, students will receive a certificate that they can use to demonstrate their knowledge of plant health.

What You'll Learn

In this course, you will cover:

  • The causes of disease
  • The difference between signs and symptoms of disease
  • The disease triangle and disease cycle
  • Sources of plant pathogens
  • Important characteristics of the major groups of pathogens
  • How to properly wash hands
  • Water management around the nursery
  • The importance of cleaning and sanitizing vehicles, equipment, and containers
  • Identification, signs, and symptoms of several key nursery diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi
  • Basic components of an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program
  • Efficient scouting
  • Record-keeping
On Demand. Access Anytime.


Dr. Luisa Santamaria
Associate Professor – Extension Plant Pathologist, Oregon State University

Located at the North Willamette Research & Ext. Center in Aurora, Luisa’s extension and outreach program supports the nursery and greenhouse industry in Oregon. Her applied research focuses on the management of plant diseases in ornamental and nursery crops, especially those caused by soilborne pathogens. Luisa has implemented a bilingual education program that supports the nursery industry and other agriculture commodities to promote the production of healthy plants and good agricultural practices.

Maria Marlin
Faculty Research Assistant

Maria received two Bachelors of Science (Biology and Environmental Science) from Bridgewater College in Virginia and a Master’s of Science in Natural Resources with a focus in Plant Pathology from the University of Idaho. In June of 2019, she moved to Oregon to begin her position as a Faculty Research Assistant in Dr. Santamaria’s Nursery Pathology and Bilingual Education Program at OSU’s North Willamette Research & Extension Center. While her background is in forest pathogens, Maria is excited to apply her knowledge to agricultural crops and pathogens. She is passionate about both the microorganisms that contribute to plant disease and raising awareness of disease prevention and management techniques.

Past Students' Work

Take a look at some recent projects our students have created.