Saturday, April 21, 2018
University of Hawaii at Manoa
University of Hawaii System
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Tropical Plant Pathology
Graduate Student Handbook

Program History

Early plant disease research predates the formation of the college and was conducted by notable plant pathologists, like Nathan Cobb at the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association and others at the Agricultural Experiment Station. In 1915 plant pathology was one of the five divisions of the college and by 1936 it was a department.

In August 1941 plant pathology became one of the first casualties of World War II when its senior faculty member, Keith Paris, uncertain about the fate of Hawaii wrote, “The more I read of conditions the more I wonder if I want to go back to work in Honolulu. The latest idea in the minds of the authorities seems to be a carrier slipping thru on a suicide mission, the bombing of the oil tanks and general disablement of Pearl Harbor”. Paris stayed on the mainland and the remaining department members, Kauo Kikuta and Minoru Matsuura, were transferred to the department of Vegetable Crops and the Kamuela experiment station. The department was reactivated in 1945 with the hiring of Walter Hendrix and James Lyle.

Over the next 15 years plant pathology played an important role in the development of agriculture in Hawaii. Joined by Mamoru Ishii, Oliver Holtzman, and Minoru Aragaki, the department conducted research and extension activities focused on controlling diseases of fruit, ornamental and vegetable crops. With the use of short term contracts, they benefitted from the services of distinguished plant pathologists like Benjamin Chitwood, William Feder, Yuichi Honda, James Hunter, Harry Murakishi, Chris Hayward, and Allen Sher.

With the boom in educational resources between 1960 and 1970, the department tripled to 13 faculty—developing a strong program in fungal pathogens, nematology, virology, bacteriology, epidemiology, and host-pathogen interactions. Under the leadership of Ivan Buddenhagen, the department moved toward an international perspective with projects throughout tropical Asia and Africa. Buddenhagen founded the first plant disease clinic in Pacific region and staffed it with an experienced diagnostician, Albert Martinez.  In 1973, the department took a daring first step by hiring Anne Alvarez as the first female extension plant pathologist in the US. Wen-Hsiung Ko (a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society) pioneered  seminal research into the sexual reproduction of oomycetes. Eduardo Trujillo discovered unique ways to control invasive weeds  exploiting fungal pathogens which were released into Hawaii’s forests and grazing lands. Walter Apt and Kenneth Rohrbach came to the department with the closing of the Pineapple Research Institute bringing expertise on nematode and fungal diseases of pineapple. Don Schmitt (a Fellow of the Society of Nematologists) spearheaded the use of resistant rootstock for control of a devastating nematode disease of Kona coffee. Suresh Patil, produced students like Marty Dickman and Robert Birch (an Outstanding CTAHR Alumnus), who now lead major research programs in Texas and Australia.

Instruction has been integral to the mission of plant pathology. A MS degree was offered in 1962 and the PhD in 1971. The 120 students awarded graduate degrees in plant pathology have gone on to successful careers in academia, state and federal agencies, and private industry in Hawai‘i, the U.S. mainland, Asia, Australia, Europe and Africa.

Program Goals

  • Students communicate effectively
  • Students are competent and knowledgeable biologists
  • Students conduct research in plant pathology


Facilities - PEPS

Facilities - Non Department


Advisory Committee

Thesis and Dissertation


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