The continuing exponential increase in scientific knowledge, the growing availability of large databases containing raw or partially annotated information, and the increased need to document impacts of large-scale research and funding programs provide a great incentive for integrating and adding value to previously published (or unpublished) research through quantitative synthesis. Meta-analysis has become the standard for quantitative evidence synthesis in many disciplines, offering a broadly accepted and statistically powerful framework for estimating the magnitude, consistency, and homogeneity of the effect of interest across studies. Here, we review previous and current uses of meta-analysis in plant pathology with a focus on applications in epidemiology and disease management. About a dozen formal meta-analyses have been published in the plant pathological literature in the past decade, and several more are currently in progress. Three broad research questions have been addressed, the most common being the comparative efficacy of chemical treatments for managing disease and reducing yield loss across environments. The second most common application has been the quantification of relationships between disease intensity and yield, or between different measures of disease, across studies. Lastly, metaanalysis has been applied to assess factors affecting pathogen-biocontrol agent interactions or the effectiveness of biological control of plant disease or weeds. In recent years, fixed-effects meta-analysis has been largely replaced by random-(or mixed-) effects analysis owing to the statistical benefits associated with the latter and the wider availability of computer software to conduct these analyses. Another recent trend has been the more common use of multivariate meta-analysis or meta-regression to analyze the impacts of study-level independent variables (moderator variables) on the response of interest. The application of meta-analysis to practical problems in epidemiology and disease management is illustrated with case studies from our work on Phakopsora pachyrhizi on soybean and Erwinia amylovora on apple. We show that although meta-analyses are often used to corroborate and validate general conclusions drawn from more traditional, qualitative reviews, they can also reveal new patterns and interpretations not obvious from individual studies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Plant Science