Fungi as Plant Pathogens

Plant diseases have been prevalent since recorded history, although the role of fungi as a major causal agent was established only in the nineteenth century. Among the diseases of crops known to the Romans were the rust of wheat and barley, which were ascribed to the sins committed by man, and prayers and sacrifices were therefore offered to appease gods. For example, it was believed that a god named Robigus destroyed grain crops as a punishment for the act of a twelve-year-old boy who had caught a fox robbing his father's hens and punished the animal by tying straw around its tail and igniting it. A ritual was performed in the spring of each year to appease Robigus with the prayer: "Stern Robigo, spare the herbage of cereals; withhold, we pray thy roughening hand," and this was followed by the sacrifice of a yellow dog or any other animal of similar color (Stakman and Harrar, 1957).

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