September 3 – December 11, 2019

Instructor: Daniel Cooley, Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Course objectives: At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe a basic plant disease cycle, and interpret disease cycles for plant diseases;
  • List basic methods used to manage plant diseases, with the advantages and disadvantages to each in terms of sustainability.
  • Describe basic ecological interactions between humans, plants, microbes and other organisms in agricultural ecosystems.
  • Outline how agroecosystems differ from natural ecosystems, and why plant diseases generally are more common and severe in agroecosystems;
  • Describe how the evolution of plants and plant pathogens relates to management concepts such as disease resistance and fungicide resistance.
  • Be able to research a plant disease, and describe it and its management in simple, clear terms.

Reading and Videos: There is no text in the class, but reading and videos will be assigned regularly.

Discussions: Specific reading and videos will be used as a basis for Forum Discussions. Discussions are based on articles from the popular press or scientific literature, designed to look at critical issues in agricultural ecology and plant disease. Students are asked to write briefly, a paragraph or two, in the forum, and respond to others posts.

Quizzes: A set of quizzes will give students guidance in learning the fundamentals of plant disease management. These are low-stakes – you may take them twice and the best grade will be recorded.

Project: The class will develop tools to educate and support growers or the public in plant disease management. These will take the form of “Fact Sheets”, a common tool used by Extension,giving the basic facts about a topic. In our case, they will be about a plant disease and how to manage it.

Exams: There are two exams with a set of four or five short essay questions that require you to think about and synthesize ideas from the course. These may be done over a few days.

Academic Honesty

No form of cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or facilitating of dishonesty will be condoned in the University community. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to:

  • Cheating – intentional use or attempted use of trickery, artifice, deception, breach of confidence, fraud and/or misrepresentation of one’s academic work
  • Fabrication – intentional and unauthorized falsification and/or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise
  • Plagiarism – knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise. This includes submitting without citation, in whole or in part, prewritten term papers of another or the research of another, including but not limited to commercial vendors who sell or distribute such materials
  • Facilitating dishonesty – knowingly helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty, including substituting for another in an examination, or allowing others to represent as their own one’s papers, reports, or academic works

Sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the course instructor as soon as possible. Formal definitions of academic dishonesty, examples of various forms of dishonesty, and the procedures which faculty must follow to penalize dishonesty are contained in the Academic Honesty Policy.


This class fulfills requirements for all three of the online programs offered by the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture in Sustainable Food and Farming: