Plant disease practicals – Investigating violet bramble rust


In this practical activity, students use magnification to examine leaves showing symptoms of a common plant disease, and produce labelled drawings of the fungal spores.

Ideas about communicable diseases in plants are included in the updated programmes of study for Key Stage 4 science published in December 2014. These ideas will be included in GCSE Science courses from 2016 (for first assessment in summer 2018).

In this activity, violet bramble rust is used as an example of a plant disease common in Britain. Rust diseases are a major threat to global crop yields. Coffee rust, for example, is the most economically important coffee disease in the world. Wheat rust has, at its worst, destroyed up to 70% of a crop, with a devastating effect on African farmers. Wheat rust appears to be becoming more severe with climate change. British scientists are working to predict the spread of rusts and likely outbreaks, and to breed new varieties of rust-resistant plant.

The activity will help students to demonstrate the following learning outcomes at KS4:

  • describe a common plant disease
  • explain how this communicable plant disease is spread
  • describe ways to identify this plant disease in the lab and in the field.


It also enables students to practice the following KS4 practical techniques:

  • use of appropriate apparatus, techniques and magnification, including microscopes, to make observations of biological specimens and produce labelled scientific drawings.

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