North Carolina State University researchers used text analytics on both historical and modern writing to reveal more information about the impact and spread of the plant pathogen – now known as Phytophthora infestans – which caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s and continued to trouble breeders. Potatoes and tomatoes.

The study examined key terms such as “potato disease” and “potato disease” after digitizing historical farm reports, news accounts and U.S. Patent Office agricultural records from 1843 to 1845 to reveal How the pathogen spread across the northeastern United States before causing a devastating famine. 1845 in Ireland. The study also used text analysis to track social media feeds for late-breaking losses in the modern era.

Textual analysis promises to be a useful tool to help researchers track and visualize both historical and current plant diseases, the researchers say.

“We went back to the original description of potato blight outbreaks in the United States as they occurred between 1843 and 1845, before the outbreak in Europe,” Jean Restino, William Neal Reynolds, North Carolina State University I am Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology and related. I am the author of a paper Scientific reports which explains the study. “We searched for these descriptions using keywords, and by doing so we were able to recreate the original epidemic maps using the location coordinates mentioned in the documents.

“We were also trying to find out what people were thinking about the disease at the time and where it came from.”

This analysis documents potato late blight in five states — New York, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — before it spread to the rest of the northeastern United States and Canada between 1843 and 1845. I spread out. Europe – particularly Ireland.

The paper also analyzed tweets from 2012 to 2022 to learn more about the modern spread of P. infestans. They mined the tweets for common and scientific names of the pathogen and were able to geographically locate the sources.

“Social media mining was interesting because we found that most of the people talking about the disease were scientists from developed countries who were promoting their work on Twitter (now X),” Rustino said. Rustino said. “It was also interesting to note that states where the disease appeared many years ago still have the disease.”

The research also used Google Engram search terms, which revealed a surprising finding. Researchers saw an increase in blight disease documented in the 1950s. Digging through the relevant scientific literature documented in the documents, Rustino found evidence of late blight outbreaks in tomatoes in the United States after World War II.

“It could be the emergence of a new North American strain of the pathogen, called US 1, that became really widespread after that,” Rustino said.

Rustino added that he and his team plan to continue this type of work and expand the analytical tools to other plant diseases and pests.

Co-authors Ariel Saffer, Laura Tateosian and Yi-Peng Yang are part of NC State’s Center for Geospatial Analytics. Amanda C. Saville, a research scientist in Restino’s lab, also co-authored the paper. Funding was provided by a Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine seed grant. Grant No. 2015-2370 under NIFA of the US Department of Agriculture; and by the National Science Foundation PIPP Phase 1 Grant No. 2022-1191.