Department of Crop Sciences

Plant Pathology


Plant pathologists study plant pathogens and pests and how their interactions with plants and environments lead to disease susceptibility or resistance.  Pathogens causing diseases in plants include bacteria, fungi, nematodes, viruses, and other microbes that that adversely affect plant physiology. The knowledge produced by plant pathologist about the etiology of plant diseases leads to a better understanding of how to manage plant disease problems. As such, plant pathology is an integral part of sustainable, environmentally friendly agricultural production systems.

Plant pathology is an important and flourishing field of research. Areas of graduate study in plant pathology range from investigations of the molecular aspects of host-microbe interactions to evaluating agronomic practices for their effectiveness in disease management.

Opportunities for Study

The Department of Crop Sciences Graduate offers programs that lead to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology. Most graduate students in plant pathology are supported by assistantships or fellowships that are available from a variety of sources. In addition to applying for fellowships, prospective students are encouraged to contact faculty members within their areas of interest regarding graduate studies and the availability of funding. M.S. and Ph.D. programs are highly flexible and can be structured to meet the objectives of individual students.

Some areas currently emphasized in plant pathology include:

  • biology and management of diseases of bioenergy crops, corn, fruit crops, soybean, vegetable crops, and wheat
  • breeding for disease resistance in corn, oats, soybean, and wheat
  • molecular biology of bacterial, fungal, nematode, and viral plant pathogens
  • molecular biology and physiology of host-pathogen interactions;
  • biology, ecology, epidemiology, and management of pathogens
  • plant disease diagnosis
  • extension and outreach to growers and the agricultural industry

Career Opportunities

Employment of M.S. and Ph.D. graduates has been excellent. Recent graduates have accepted positions in industry, universities, government agencies, and international organizations at competitive starting salaries.