Extension plant pathologists have traditionally combined diagnostics, applied research and development and advisory activities. This combination of activities worked well, as it provided a broad range of plant samples and case studies which gave direction to both research and advisory activities. The advent of chargeable services more than a decade ago has reduced the number of samples for diagnosis and advisory activities with individuals. In consequence, the number of extension plant pathologist has fallen dramatically in England. There are now few plant pathologists with the practical expertise and experience to guide growers and farmers. The range of activities undertaken by plant pathologists has been simplified and many now operate predominantly in research and development on a limited range of pathogens. Research priorities have changed from being production-based to environmental, consumer and food safety issues. The communication of research and development often cascades through group activities with independent consultants and industry representatives. Some examples of activities on cereals and oilseed rape will be used to illustrate where plant pathologists have an economic impact. Plant pathologists have a key role in developing understanding of diseases and disease management. Systematic designs of experiments for fungicide dose and spray timing have been used successfully and used to develop models for Decision Support Systems (DSS). Improved quantification of disease development and the risk of yield loss are fundamental to improving the targeting of fungicides and to optimise economic performance. The impact of changes in rotation and agronomic practices are difficult to predict and continued monitoring of diseases is invaluable for identifying problems. There are large variations in disease risk between years and at regional and individual crop levels. Disease forecasts in oilseed rape provide strategic guidance, but crop-based assessments are required to optimise pesticide use. Transfer of research messages is undertaken using a range of technologies, as recipients have diverse preferences. Plant pathologists must remain attuned to changes in industry requirements and ensure good collaboration so that conflicting messages are avoided. Finally, plant pathologists have an obligation to ensure that a new generation of specialists is available to guide farmers and growers.