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History of the department:

Plant Pathology Brief History of Plant Pathology at UC Davis by W. Harley English
By W. Harley English
Updated by T.R. Gordon in July of 2008

The University of California was established at Berkeley in 1868, and in 1903 R. E. Smith organized a Department of Plant Pathology on this campus. This apparently was the first Department of Plant Pathology in the U.S. The year 1906 was momentous for the State of California – the San Francisco earthquake and the establishment, by the state legislature, of the University Farm, Davis. The Davis site was selected because of good soil and its reasonable proximity to Berkeley which was rapidly becoming a highly urbanized area. The Farm was to serve as a research facility for UCB agriculturists and as a farm school – primarily short-courses and non-degree courses – to aid California farmers. In 1910, a two-year, non-degree program in agriculture was initiated at Davis, and most agriculture departments at Berkeley established branch departments or divisions on the Farm. A course in plant pathology was first taught at Davis in 1913 by Stanley S. Rogers, a pathologist located in the Division of Truck Crops. For many years, before its demise in 1960, the non-degree program was supervised by Professor F. L. Griffin who, as a graduate student at Oregon State College, first described the bacterial canker disease of stone fruits in the U.S. As the years passed and the faculty at Davis became stronger, a number of degree (B.S.) courses were added to the curriculum. However, until the late 1940s it was still necessary for students to take some courses at Berkeley in order to complete the B.S. degree requirements in agriculture. The first bachelor’s degree commencement at Davis was held in June, 1948.

The Plant Pathology Department at Davis dates from 1927 when J. B. Kendrick was appointed vice-chairman under R. E. Smith, Chairman of the Berkeley-Davis Department. L. D. Leach and E. E. Wilson joined the Davis Department in 1929. Plant Pathology 120 (a degree course) was first taught at Davis in 1929 by J. T. Barrett of the Berkeley staff. In 1932 and for several succeeding years L. D. Leach was in charge of this course and also of the non-degree course (PP01 or 52). Special-problem courses at the undergraduate level were instituted in 1933-34 and the course (PP125) on diseases of vegetable and field crops was offered in 1936. In 1939-40, a companion course on diseases of fruit trees, nuts, and grapes was introduced. During the 1930s and ’40s it was possible to do graduate study and research at Davis, but it was necessary to do a year’s study at Berkeley in order to complete a doctoral program in plant pathology. The students who completed their doctorates under this plan were W. B. Hewitt, 1936, B. R. Houston, 1939, J. W. Oswald, 1942, H. N. Miller, 1948, K. E. Nelson, 1949, and R. H. Converse, 1951. Following the war years, 1942 through 1945 when the campus was closed to students, the Department at Davis developed rapidly. J. W. Oswald was added to the staff in 1946, W. H. English in 1947, and R. G. Grogan and George Nyland in 1948. The campus at this time had approximately 1400 students, including both non-degree and degree students; the city of Davis had a population of about 2700. Authorization in 1949 to grant graduate degrees in plant pathology at Davis resulted in the offering of several new courses: Plant Pathological Methods (PP122) and Phytopathogenic Fungi (PP124) in 1949-50, and Advanced Plant Pathology (PP128) in 1951-52. The latter course was converted to a graduate level course (PP215) in 1958-59 and later changed to PLP235. The change in policy permitting graduate students in plant pathology to do all of their study on the Davis Campus was the turning point in development of our graduate program. The number of graduate students enrolled in plant pathology increased from 8 in 1949-50 to approximately 20 in the mid 50s and to a high of 57 in 1967-68. In the years that followed, graduate student enrollment has ranged from 32 to 50.

With the retirement of Dr. Gardner (Chair of the combined Berkeley-Davis Departments) in 1954, Dr. Kendrick became chairman of Davis-Berkeley and Dr. Oswald transferred to Berkeley as vice-chairman. Our teaching and research program was strengthened during the 1950s by the addition to our staff of J. M. Ogawa, E. E. Butler, J. E. DeVay, and T. A. Shalla. With Dr. Kendrick’s retirement in 1960, L. D. Leach assumed the chairmanship, and when Dr. Oswald moved into university administration in 1959, Dr. W. C. Snyder became vice-chairman at Berkeley. The College of Agriculture on the Davis Campus did not become independent from Berkeley until 1952 when Fred N. Briggs, chairman of the Agronomy Department, became its first dean. Although the Regents made Davis a general university campus in 1959, mail from Berkeley continued for several years to be addressed University Farm, Davis. In 1963, the Davis and Berkeley Departments became separate, autonomous units. The succeeding chairmanships at Davis were as follows: W. B. Hewitt, 1968-69, R. G. Grogan, 1969-74, T. Kosuge, 1974-80, J. E. DeVay, 1980-1984, R.K. Webster, 1984-1989, J.M. Duniway, 1989-1993, J.J. Marois, 1993-1995, J.D. MacDonald, 1995-1999, R.M. Bostock, 1999-2005 and T.R. Gordon, 2005-present. Faculty additions during the 1960s included R. N. Campbell, C. I. Kado, T. Kosuge, R.J. Shepherd, and R.K. Webster. Additions during the 1970’s were J.M. Duniway, D.G. Gilchrist, B. Lear, J.D. MacDonald, and M.A. Sall. During the 1980s, faculty hires included R. M. Bostock, W. Timberlake, W.D. Gubler, B.W. Falk, R.M. Davis, A. vanBruggen, B. Tyler, B.C. Kirkpatrick. In addition, G.E. Bruening moved to the Plant Pathology Department from Biochemistry at Davis in 1985. During the 1990s the Department hired R.L. Gilbertson, P.C. Ronald, K.V. Subbarao, T. Michailides, D.A. Golino, D.M. Rizzo and D.R. Cook. Also in the 1990s, T.R. Gordon and L. Epstein transferred to the Davis campus form Berkeley, and N.K. Van Alfen joined the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences as Dean and as a faculty member in the Plant Pathology Department. Since that time the department has hired two additional faculty: G.L. Coaker (2007) and J. Leveau (2008). The Department of Plant Pathology currently has a teaching and research faculty of 24, which includes 5 USDA researchers (adjunct lecturers) and three extension plant pathologists. Professional and academic researchers in the Department range from 55 to 60. Currently our department has 34 students studying for M.S. or Ph.D. degrees in Plant Pathology, and twelve additional graduate students enrolled in other campus graduate programs.

Laboratory and Research Facilities

The Plant Pathology Department is housed in the Hutchison Hall. Most offices and laboratories are in Hutchison Hall but two members of our faculty (Cook and Ronald) are located nearby in Robbins Hall.  Both buildings are on the western edge of the “Central Campus”, where most lecture halls, teaching and research laboratories, greenhouses, support facilities, and administrative offices are located.

Many members of our faculty conduct field research throughout California: From Modoc County in the northeastern corner of the state, to San Diego County in the southwestern corner. The location of Davis, in the heart of the Central Valley, makes it an ideal base of operations for statewide programs. To facilitate research in two key regions of the state, several members of our department are located at off-campus research centers. Although based in remote locations, these individuals remain closely connected to the Davis department. They undertake many collaborative research projects with department-based faculty, and they have the opportunity to direct graduate students in research projects.

californiamapMost of our faculty are located on the U.C. Davis campus, 20 miles west of Sacramento. The Plant Pathology department also has a field research facility located just south of the central campus-about 10 minutes (by bicycle) from Hutchison Hall. This is an ideal location for carrying out research on annual and perennial crops.

Themis Michailides are located at the Kearney Agricultural Center in Parlier, a small town southeast of Fresno. Located 15 miles southeast of Fresno in the central San Joaquin Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, Kearney is the University of California’s largest off-campus agricultural research facility.

Dr. Krishna Subbarao is located at the USDA research center in Salinas, CA. The Salinas valley is often refered to as the “salad bowl of the nation”. It is an intensely farmed and immensly productive agricultural region.

Research and Cooperative Extension

A variety of department research, outreach, and cooperative extension is conducted by members of the Department of Plant Pathology. More information is available here: