Why Study Plant Pathology?

Our work promotes the growth of healthy plants—whether landscaping plants to beautify our living spaces, fields of crop plants to sustain our food supply, or regional populations of plants, such as forests—to maintain an inhabitable ecosystem. The value of plant pathology to human society, the importance of research on plant disease, and the need for training future plant pathologists is explained in the video, “Plant Pathology: Taking You Further Than You Ever Imagined?" from the American Phytopathological Society.

What Is Plant Pathology?

Plant pathology is the study of all the biotic and abiotic causes of plant diseases, including pathogen biology and evolution; understanding infection processes, mechanisms of disease, and host resistance; and identifying environmental and nutritional factors influencing plant health. Results of research in this area are applied to developing management strategies to ensure adequate food and fiber production, and to better understand and stabilize natural ecosystems to maintain a healthy and sustainable environment.

History of Plant Pathology at Penn State

Plant Pathology was one of the first seven undergraduate majors described in the College of Agriculture in 1908. In 1913 the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology was formed and the first graduate degree in Plant Pathology was awarded in 1915. Botany and plant pathology parted ways amicably in 1963 with the formation of the new Department of Plant Pathology with Dr. James Tammen as the first department head. Recently, the faculty elected to broaden the focus of the department to include environmental microbiology, a discipline closely associated with plant pathology concepts and encompassing the research disciplines of many faculty. The year 2013 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the department and its first year with the new name of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology.

Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology


211 Buckhout Lab
University Park, PA 16802