Understanding the nature and control of plant diseases that affect our lives is our central mission. We strive to maintain a balanced inventory of programs in both basic and applied research in plant pathology. We conduct research, extension, teaching, and service focused on understanding and controlling plant diseases. Faculty focus on disease management in crops, fungal plant pathogen biology, host/pathogen genetics, molecular host-pathogen interactions, nematology, virology, plant bacterial pathogens, and biological control. We are dedicated to educating the next generation of agricultural scientists as well as the general public and agriculture industry about plant diseases and appropriate management methods that balance environmental and economic concerns.

Given the diverse plant production in Arkansas research and extension in applied disease management has long been a strength of the plant pathology program. We specialize in cotton, spinach, tomato, soybean, rice, corn, other fruits and vegetables, and grain sorghum. And, precision agriculture technologies along with pesticide use and safety.

We offer statewide plant diagnostic services through the Cooperative Extension Service Plant Health Clinic and the Nematode Diagnostic Laboratory located at the Southwest Research and Extension Center. Other plant systems are also worked on as need and opportunity dictate.

Plants exhibit a wide range of responses when they are infected by a pathogen or wounded by an insect. As a defense mechanism, plants often express sets of specific genes and produce their own defense chemicals inducing the plant to become more resistant to subsequent attack. Several laboratories are using advanced molecular techniques to examine the interactions between plants and pests to identify and characterize novel genes expressed after pathogen infection or insect damage. The characterization of plant defenses at the molecular level could ultimately lead to novel strategies for increasing plant resistance to important insects and pathogens.

A wide range of plant pathology research activities is conducted on the biology, ecology, epidemiology, genetics, and molecular biology of economically important fungal plant pathogens. Research strengths involve work on diseases caused by Albugo, Colletotrichum, Fusarium, Hypoxylon, Macrophomina, Peronospora, Phomopsis, Phytophthora, Puccinia, Pyricularia, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, and Thielaviopsis.

Research efforts also focus on nematode morphology, taxonomy, ecology, population dynamics such as overwinter survival, and adaptation of precision agriculture technologies for identification and control; and host-range, resistance, and molecular relationships of soybean cyst nematode; biology, variability, and resistance to root-knot nematodes in cotton, soybean and other hosts; and resistance to reniform nematode in cotton and soybean. Nematode management studies are in resistance, cultural practices, and biological control with reniform, root-knot and soybean cyst nematodes. Research activities also involve work on the molecular biology of microorganisms and the plant hosts they attack. Efforts have focused on the identification and characterization of microbial genes involved in infection, host genes involved in plant defenses, and breeding for disease resistance. We also have modern facilities for genetically engineering agriculturally important plant hosts such as rice and a wide range of plant tissue culture facilities. Capabilities include microbial and plant functional genomics.

Plant virologists provide expertise in the areas of molecular virology and virus-vector interactions. Areas of emphasis include the study of the molecular basis of viral pathogenesis. Vector studies are aimed at determining the properties of viruses and vectors that are responsible for the specificity of plant virus transmission by aerial vectors.

Biological control research has a long tradition at the University of Arkansas, including the first biological herbicide for weed control in a field crop, Collego. The tradition in biological control has continued with current research efforts in the use of cultural practices to enhance suppressive indigenous microflora and understanding the ecology of biological control agents.