About the Laboratory of Phytopathology

First and foremost, we are teachers. We feel that training future scientists is essential to the constantly evolving field of plant health, and through this, maintain and improve world food security.

Contributing to food security

Furthermore, we are passionate scientists with a fascination for plant pathology and a drive to contribute to new approaches of disease control. We perform research on plant diseases because they have a significant impact on world food security. By gaining fundamental knowledge and being able to translate this into application, we contribute to a sustainable world. The methodologies applied in our research are highly diverse, ranging from computational biology, to lab experiments and greenhouse studies.

Together with our students we form a team with broadly recognized expertise that has contributed to several breakthroughs in distinct areas of plant pathology. 

History

The Laboratory of Phytopathology was founded in 1906 and has over time evolved to fit the requirements and emerging scientific insights of the field.  

Laboratory of Phytopathology (2002)
Laboratory of Phytopathology (2002)

In the early days the activities were mainly devoted to disease diagnosis and the identification of causal agents. Over the years, however, phytopathology gained ground as a scientific discipline and in the 1950s this gradually culminated in an overarching discipline referred to as “plant protection”. To cope with the broad scope of organisms causing pests and diseases Wageningen University established four chairs: Phytopathology, Virology, Entomology and Nematology. 

From 1950 onwards the newly named Laboratory of Phytopathology specializes in fungal and bacterial diseases and their causal agents. Over the last two decades research largely revolved around studying interactions of fungal and oomycete plant pathogens with plants and antagonists.  

Recently we have expanded our scope by adding population genomics and microbiome research to our chair group.

Find out more about the Phytopathology people and their achievements

Notable Former Phytopathology Professors

Professor Pierre de Wit

In 1989, Prof. Pierre de Wit was appointed as chair of the Laboratory of Phytopathology. At that time molecular phytopathology was rapidly emerging as a new discipline. De Wit and co-workers developed the Cladosporium fulvum tomato interaction into a model system for exploring the interaction between a host and a pathogenic fungus. The cloning of the first fungal avirulence gene was a major breakthrough, which contributed to the fame of the quality research at the Laboratory of Phytopathology.

Professor Bart Thomma

Staff member since 2005 and leader of the very successful Verticillium research group. He was appointed as the chair of the Laboratory of Phytopathology from 2013 till 2018, and has since moved on to the University of Cologne to the lab of Evolutionary Microbiology. In his time at the Laboratory of Phytopathology he was able to publish over 120 papers including high impact journals such as Science and Nature Genetics.

Professor Francine Govers

Staff member since 1982 and PI of the Phytophthora research group since 1990. When Francine joined the Laboratory of Phytopathology the awareness that P. infestans is not a true fungus was just emerging, and she has been one of its research pioneers. In her time at of the Laboratory of Phytopathology she published over 150 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals, wrote five refereed chapters in books, and took editorships of six books and special issues of journals.

Francine retired in 2021 and continues to contribute as an external consultant.