WSU CAHNRS

College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Department of Plant Pathology

Student Receives ARCS Scholarship

Department of Plant Pathology is the latest department in WSU selected to receive the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Scholarship from the ARCS Foundation-Seattle Chapter. With this, our department joins a select few departments in CAHNRS, College of Science, and College of Veterinary Medicine.

This is truly a recognition of our department’s signature graduate program, the largest plant pathology graduate program in the country, for its most comprehensive plant pathology curriculum, and for the high quality of research conducted by our faculty and graduate students.

From the ARCS web site:  The ARCS Foundation-Seattle Chapter, a group of 121 dedicated women, has given over $11.5 million in fellowships to the University of Washington and Washington State University since 1978.  Their goal is to provide our state’s two premier research institutions with a competitive edge in recruiting the nation’s finest doctoral students in the fields of science, engineering and medical research. Fellowships are a grant of $17,500 over three years that the Seattle Chapter funds for graduate students at UW and WSU.  The UW and WSU use these grants to attract graduate students with outstanding scholastic records who receive multiple offers to study at the best universities in the country.


Aaron Agostini, Ph.D. student
ARCS Fellow
Department of Plant Pathology
Washington State University

Aaron began his PhD in fall 2011 at Washington State University in the laboratory of Dr. Dennis Johnson, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology. In Dr. Johnson’s lab, he will be investigating the use of rotation crops to limit the use of pesticides for various diseases that afflict two valuable crops in the Pacific Northwest, potatoes and mint. Aaron has a deep interest in plant diseases and he feels passionate about finding sustainable agricultural methods that reduce or eliminate the need for dangerous chemicals. After his PhD, Aaron hopes to continue to research, educate students and consult with farmers about sustainable agricultural practices.

When out of the library, lab or field, Aaron prefers to spend his time hiking camping, jumping into rivers of questionable depth and volunteering as an Eagle Scout Leader in the Boy Scouts of America, Mt. Diablo Silverado Council.

Aaron Agostini was born in Berkeley, CA and received his B.S. in Fisheries Biology in 2003. Aaron Agostini received his M.S. degree in Biology with an emphasis in environmental microbiology and plant pathology from Sonoma State University in California in 2011. His M.S. thesis was on investigating the use of alternatives to hazardous synthetic pesticides used to combat disease in strawberry agriculture.


ARCS Fellow Mentor Profile: Dr. Dennis Johnson

The 2011 Plant Pathology ARCS Fellow, Mr. Aaron Agostini is pursuing his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Dennis A. Johnson.  For the past 31 years, Dr. Johnson has served some of the most important irrigated agricultural industries in the Columbia Basin of Washington. He made key contributions to understanding the epidemiology and management of diseases of potato and mint.  Important scientific contributions have been made in the areas of disease forecasting, quantitative characterization of spatial patterns of disease plants, characterization of partial resistance.

Dr. Johnson’s disease management strategies and tactics are readily adopted by growers. In disease forecasting, he developed logistic regression models for the early and mid-potato growing seasons that have been used successfully to manage late blight regionally in the Columbia Basin of Washington and Oregon for 15 years. Forecasting models also have been developed and implemented for growers in the Pacific Northwest for hop downy mildew and for improving timing of fungicide applications for potato white mold. The potato white mold model has saved the industry in Washington State over $7.64 million annually since 2005. Potato growers in the Western and Midwestern United States also follow and benefit from his model through timely and judicious fungicide applications to control white mold.

Dr. Johnson recently edited the second edition of the APS publication, Potato Health Management. This is widely used by growers and crop advisors in the potato industry. He has authored or co-authored 106 peer reviewed research journal articles and several sections in the APS Disease Compendia on potato, hop and onion. He has also authored over 250 disease control bulletins and articles for growers.

During his career, Dr. Johnson has authored or co-authored 106 peer-reviewed research journal articles and over 250 disease control bulletins and articles for growers. In recognition of his contributions to the industry, Dr. Johnson is an Honorary Life Member of the Potato Association of America and recipient of the Friend of the Mint Industry Award, presented by the Washington Mint Commission.   He was elected Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pacific Division (PD) of the APS in 2011.

Dr. Johnson is most proud of his role in mentoring graduate students. Fifteen advanced degrees have been awarded and past students are now productive in science careers. He is currently advising three Ph.D. students including Aaron Agostini, an ARCS Fellow.

Dr. Johnson grew up in southeastern Idaho. He earned a B.S. degree in botany from Brigham Young University in 1973 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from the University of Minnesota in 1975 and 1978, respectively. He joined WSU In 1980, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1984 and full Professor in 1990.

Department of Plant Pathology, PO Box 646430, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6430, 509-335-9541, Contact Us
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