Virus diseases cause serious losses in yield and quality of cultivated plants worldwide. These losses and the resulting financial damage can be limited by controlling epidemics using measures that minimise virus infection sources or suppress virus spread. For each combination of virus, cultivated plant and production system, there is an 'economic threshold' above which the financial damage is sufficient to justify using such measures. However, individual measures used alone may bring only small benefits and they may become ineffective, especially over the long term. When diverse control measures that act in different ways are combined and used together, their effects are complementary resulting in far more effective overall control. Such experiences have led to the development of integrated management concepts for virus diseases that combine available host resistance, cultural, chemical and biological control measures. Selecting the ideal mix of measures for each pathosystem and production situation requires detailed knowledge of the epidemiology of the causal virus and the mode of action of each individual control measure so that diverse responses can be devised to meet the unique features of each of the different scenarios considered. The strategies developed must be robust and necessitate minimal extra expense, labour demands and disruption to standard practices. Examples of how epidemiological information can be used to develop effective integrated disease management (IDM) strategies for diverse situations are described. They involve circumstances where virus transmission from plant-to-plant occurs in four different ways: by contact, non-persistently or persistently by insect vectors, and by root-infecting fungi. The examples are: Subterranean clover mottle virus (SCMoV) (contact-transmitted) and Bean yellow mosaic virus (BYMV) (non-persistently aphid-transmitted) in annually self-regenerating clover pasture; three seed-borne viruses (all non-persistently aphid-transmitted) plots of pasture legume improvement programmes; Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) (persistently thrips-transmitted) in vegetables in seedling nurseries, protected cropping or field systems; and lettuce big-vein disease (fungus-transmitted) in lettuce in seedling nursery, hydroponic, infested field or uninfested field situations. By describing the kinds of approaches required, this article is intended to help future research and extension programmes devise integrated disease management strategies that not only function effectively to diminish the losses caused by economically important plant virus diseases but also fulfill the requirement of being environmentally and socially responsible. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.