An explicit phylogenetic perspective provides useful tools for phytopathology and plant disease ecology because the traits of both plants and microbes are shaped by their evolutionary histories. We present brief primers on phylogenetic signal and the analytical tools of phylogenetic ecology. We review the literature and find abundant evidence of phylogenetic signal in pathogens and plants for most traits involved in disease interactions. Plant nonhost resistance mechanisms and pathogen housekeeping functions are conserved at deeper phylogenetic levels, whereas molecular traits associated with rapid coevolutionary dynamics are more labile at branch tips. Horizontal gene transfer disrupts the phylogenetic signal for some microbial traits. Emergent traits, such as host range and disease severity, show clear phylogenetic signals. Therefore pathogen spread and disease impact are influenced by the phylogenetic structure of host assemblages. Phylogenetically rare species escape disease pressure. Phylogenetic tools could be used to develop predictive tools for phytosanitary risk analysis and reduce disease pressure in multispecies cropping systems.


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