North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station


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Research Profile - Neil Gudmestad

The greatest reward upon project completion is the adoption of a disease management strategy by a significant proportion of the potato industry.

Name: Neil C. Gudmestad        
Department: Plant Pathology
Campus Location: 310 Walster Hall

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The Researcher

Dr. Neil Gudmestad, University Distinguished Professor, is a native of North Dakota. Raised on a small grain farm in south central ND, he holds a BS degree in Biology and Chemistry from Valley City State University, and an MS and PhD in Plant Pathology from NDSU.  Gudmestad initially worked as a plant pathologist for the ND State Seed Department working in seed potato certification. He joined the faculty at NDSU in 1985. Recently, Gudmestad was instrumental in establishing an endowed chair of potato pathology at NDSU. For more information, please go to

The Research

The primary focus of my research is the management of potato diseases. Potato is a unique food crop in that it is vegetatively propagated rather than grown from true seed. As a result, all pathogens that attack the plant can be carried on or in the seed propagule, which makes potato diseases one of the most important economic constraints in growing the crop. One of the research areas we focus on is in the development of molecular diagnostics. Since most of the pathogens that attack potato can be transmitted by seed potatoes without developing disease symptoms, methods to detect and quantify these pathogens are extremely important.

Why it Matters

Because potatoes are vegetatively propagated, diseases are the most important economic constraint. The potato disease complex is not static, it is constantly changing in response to changes in cultural practices, crop sequences, potato varieties, and climate change.

What is your advice for students who want to go into your field of study?

A majority of students today want to go into the molecular areas of disciplines. However, in plant pathology, if you don’t know the underlying botany, physiology, and metabolism of a healthy plant, you will never be able to understand what a pathogen does to a plant when it is infected with a plant pathogen. Also, they need to keep in mind that they are studying a single pathogen and its effect on a plant when in reality plants are attacked simultaneously by many pathogens. Students need a holistic view of crop management and they need to make sure they are well-grounded in the requisite course work so they are well-prepared to understand these complex interactions.




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