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. The discipline of plant pathology, and UW-Madison’s Department of Plant Pathology, have made major contributions to the knowledge of plant biology that is essential to meet the future demands and challenges of Wisconsin and world agriculture.

Specializing in plant health

A plant pathologist is a professional who specializes in plant health much as a physician specializes in human health or a veterinarian in animal health. Keeping plants healthy requires an understanding of organisms and agents that cause disease as well as an understanding of how plants grow and are affected by disease. Through college courses in botany, microbiology, crop sciences, soil science, ecology, genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology and physiology, students receive the necessary background for exciting careers in the interdisciplinary science of plant pathology.

Plant diseases are caused by a variety of living organisms (called pathogens) such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, phytoplasmas and parasitic plants, and by nonliving agents such as air pollutants, nutrient imbalances and various environmental factors. New diseases and changes in existing pathogens remain a constant challenge for plant pathologists. Plant pathologists cooperate with plant breeders and crop management, insect and weed specialists in developing integrated, environmentally sound approaches to managing crops and their pests.

Choose from One of Two Study Areas

In all curricula, students obtain additional training in related subject areas, such as botany, bacteriology, biochemistry, genetics, mycology and plant physiology. Undergraduates majoring in plant pathology can choose one of two tracks:

  • Plant-Microbe Biology Track
    Students completing the Plant-Microbe Biology Track primarily emphasize basic biology, chemistry and physical sciences requisite for graduate studies in plant pathology and related disciplines.
  • Plant Health and Industry Track
    The Plant Health and Industry Track stresses courses related to plant health, such as entomology, plant pathology, plant nutrition, soil science and weed control.

Experience Outside of Class

Many plant pathology undergraduates get involved in research throughout their undergraduate career by internships, summer jobs, class projects or volunteering with government agencies. Researchers in the department often employ students as field and laboratory technicians. Students can also do original research under faculty supervision while enrolled in independent study courses.

Financial Assistance

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences awards more than $500,000 in scholarships each year to freshman and continuing students. Many scholarships are specifically designated for students pursuing Plant Pathology degrees.

For more information contact the Department of Plant Pathology:

Prospective Student Services: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Office of Academic Affairs

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an AA/EEO institution. University policies create additional protection that prohibits harassment on the basis of cultural background and ethnicity. Inquires concerning these policies may be directed to the appropriate campus admitting or employing unit or to the Equity and Diversity Resource Center, 179-A, Bascom Hall, (608) 263-2378, TTY (608) 263-2473.