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is it permissible to use lower case for the Latin names of plant diseases in the body of a text? (The cases in point here are 'sclerotinia' and 'phoma')

  • Your two examples are actually the genus part of the scientific names of the plant pathogens. Usually these are capitalized when they appear in genus-species nomenclature, but only the publication you're writing for can tell you whether the lower-case shorthand is permissible. This is a matter of style, so consult your style manual or your editor. – deadrat Nov 27 '16 at 6:17
  • many thanks, unfortunatemoniker! unfortunately I'm a mere translator flummoxed by scientific nomenclature. My problem is that I'm translating from German, so all nouns are capitalised. I wasn't sure what to do with 'Sklerotinia' and 'Phoma'. If your comment were an answer I could select it. – Roderick Darby Nov 27 '16 at 7:09
  • I have converted the comment into an answer, one which isn't very helpful, but at least is too long to be confined to a comment. Good luck. – deadrat Nov 27 '16 at 8:05
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    many thanks again for additional background / references - this is the stuff good translations are made of :) A word of explanation (should we meet again) is in order: I'm a freelance translator (German>English) and I mainly work for the big auditing companies, Deloitte, KPMG etc. While I don't generally have much trouble with the financial sections (I'm also a qualified accountant), the company concerned can be in just about any line of business... shoes and ships and... canola! – Roderick Darby Nov 27 '16 at 9:32
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The two examples you give are actually the genus part of the scientific names of the plant pathogens. Usually these are capitalized when they appear in genus-species nomenclature. The genus lends it name to the disease itself, and what you want to know is whether you should capitalize the genus when it names the disease. Alas, there appears to be no rule valid across publications. The Farmers' Bulletin (Issue 1184, 1953) capitalizes the name as the genus of a fungus, but not as the name of the rot caused by the fungus:

Two gensing diseases are caused by fungi of the genus Sclerotinia. The diseases are sclerotinia white rot, and sclerotinia black rot.

Australasian Plant Disease Notes (2006) opts to keep the name capitalized in both uses:

Symptoms exhibited were watery brown, irregular-shaped necrotic lesions ..., which are typical of Sclerotinia white rot recorded on other hosts....

Here, the genus name is incorporated as such in the disease name. (You can tell because it's italicized.) So it makes sense that it's also capitalized. However, the USDA Research Service in a 2011 publication capitalizes then name of the disease in all roman type:

Examples would be apple scab [Venturia inaequalis (Cooke) G. Winter], Sclerotinia white rot of canola and beans [Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Lib.) de Bary]....

This is clearly a style issue that will be decided by the publication which has engaged you. Your best bet is to consult the publication's style guide or your editor.

(Emphasis above is mine.)

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  • many thanks again for additional background / references - this is the stuff good translations are move of :) – Roderick Darby Nov 27 '16 at 9:25
  • sorry: are made of – Roderick Darby Nov 27 '16 at 10:02

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