Food losses due to crop infections from pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi are persistent issues in agriculture for centuries across the globe. In order to minimize the disease induced damage in crops during growth, harvest and postharvest processing, as well as to maximize productivity and ensure agricultural sustainability, advanced disease detection and prevention in crops are imperative. This paper reviews the direct and indirect disease identification methods currently used in agriculture. Laboratory-based techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), immunofluorescence (IF), fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), flow cytometry (FCM) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) are some of the direct detection methods. Indirect methods include thermography, fluorescence imaging and hyperspectral techniques. Finally, the review also provides a comprehensive overview of biosensors based on highly selective bio-recognition elements such as enzyme, antibody, DNA/RNA and bacteriophage as a new tool for the early identification of crop diseases.