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Book Review

Hungry Planet: Stories of Plant Diseases

By Gail L Schumann & Cleora J D’Arcy
American Phytopathological Society (APS) Press
2012; Softcover; 304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-89054-399-3

Hungry Planet: Stories of Plant Diseases is another homerun from Schumann and D’Arcy who previously published APS Press’s Essential Plant Pathology. These award-winning educators and plant pathologists are very knowledgeable on the topic of plant pathology and superbly suited to write at a level that’s approachable to introductory college students as well as the nonacademic mycophile. Gail L. Schumann is currently an adjunct professor of biology at Marquette University in Milwaukee and Professor Emerita at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. While there, she taught several plant pathology courses and was a well-known researcher in turfgrass pathology. She is the author of textbooks and more than 50 peerreviewed publications on teaching and turfgrass pathology. Cleora J. D’Arcy is Professor Emerita in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. D’Arcy teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on plant pathology, professionalism and ethics, and researches virus diseases of plants. Besides books on plant pathology, she has authored over 75 peer-reviewed publications on plant virology and teaching.

Hungry Planet is a comprehensive book that tells the history of plant pathology through the “classic” stories (some you no doubt know, others new to you) with a passionate voice and laces each tale with essential research-based information (told at a very understandable level) to help readers “get” the interrelationship between agriculture, the human condition, and the science that connects the two. The book examines the effects plant diseases have had on human culture by weaving together true-life tales from ancient days as well as modern times. Each story is comprehensive, but told concisely; readers wanting to find out more on a topic can set out to learn more from additional sources. The authors will make you think; Hungry Planet sometimes explores controversial topics that challenge readers to think beyond the disease outbreaks to consider the impact these biological events have on our personal lives. And this is what puts Hungry Planet up there with the best books of its kind—rivaling (and maybe eclipsing) the perennial favorites like E. C. Large’s The Advance of the Fungi and Nikolas Money’s The Triumph of the Fungi and Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard. Anyone interested in science (not just mycology), environmental issues, food production, or sustainability will find the book fascinating.

For college students using this book, and who are majoring in a subject other than plant pathology (e.g. those in general education and core science classes), here is an added bonus: there is a student resources website organized around the book’s topics that will help bring the stories of plant diseases to life through podcasts, exercises, and other teaching tools. For those teaching with this book, there is an instructor-only web interface with resources that will be your course guide throughout the semester.

For those needing an additional source of information on fungal plant pathogens specifically, or just plant pathology in general, you need look no further than the authors’ previous book Essential Plant Pathology. When it came out in 2010, I was most impressed in reviewing it for FUNGI, stating “Like most plant pathology students of my day and before, I grew up with Agrios’s book. It was the gold standard. But in so many ways, I think Schumann and D’Arcy’s new book is better, especially for beginning students, amateur mycologists, and home gardeners. Although quite a few plant pathogens are bacterial, viral, nematode, or of other origins, the vast majority are fungal in nature. And with very interesting life cycles. Unfortunately most mycological texts cover few of these in detail; field guides barely mention any plant pathogens at all. Essential Plant Pathology … fills a long overdue void on your bookshelf.”

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi