About Us - Overview

What is Plant Pathology?

Plant pathology is the study of plants and their pathogens, the process of disease, and how plant health and disease are influenced by factors such as the weather, nonpathogenic microorganisms, and plant nutrition. It encompasses fundamental biology as well as applied agricultural sciences.

Plant pathology involves the study of plants and pathogens at the genetic, biochemical, physiological, cellular, population, and community levels, and how the knowledge derived is integrated and put into agricultural practice. Prerequisite to effective research, teaching, and extension in plant pathology are a breadth of interdisciplinary interest and knowledge, in a department and in its individual members, reaching from ecology to microbiology, from meteorology to applied mathematics, and from molecular biology to communication skills.

Plant pathology is a field that thrives in, and makes its greatest contribution to, comprehensive institutions like the University of Wisconsin-Madison where the proximity and complementarily of basic sciences and the other applied agricultural sciences is exceptionally strong.

The field of plant pathology, and UW-Madison’s Department of Plant Pathology, have made major contributions to our knowledge of plant biology to help meet the future demands and challenges of Wisconsin and world agriculture. Agriculture must remain intensive and productive but at the same time develop along lines that maintain and enhance its economical, environmental, and social appeal.

Our Department is a major contributor to the future of the basic science of plant pathology and the application of the science toward improved agricultural production systems.

About the Department

The Plant Pathology Department was founded in 1910 as a Department within the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Dean H. L. Russell hired L. R. Jones as the first Professor of Plant Pathology and the Department Chairperson. He remained in this position until 1935. During his tenure, he was successful in attracting many talented people to the Department, helping to create a world-wide reputation for excellence in research.

The Department houses 15 permanent faculty members, 7 affiliated faculty/trainers, 35+ graduate students, 20+ scientists, researchers and postdoctoral fellows, and over 40 support staff persons.

The Department occupies eight floors of the southern wing of Russell Laboratories. Research laboratories are extensively furnished with modern equipment. Computer resources are available in individual labs, as departmental resources, and in computer labs across campus-wide. Campus libraries are excellent; Steenbock Memorial Library is adjacent to Russell Laboratories. Nearby is the Biotron, which provides selective control over physical conditions and permits duplication of environmental conditions almost anywhere on earth. Ten experimental farms offer various conditions for field research.