This chapter discusses fungal diseases of staple cereal crops and their historical and contemporary effects upon agriculture and civilization. Two thousand years ago, the Romans tried to combat wheat diseases by placating their mildew god called Robigus. The scientific study of plant diseases began in the 1750s with experiments on stinking bunt of wheat by the French investigator Mathieu Tillet. Revolutionary work on the same disease by Bénédict Prévost in the early 19th century was followed by the innovative research of Anton de Bary on the rust life cycle. Modern work on fungal evolution, plant breeding, and fungicide development is also considered in this chapter.
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