UF-CTA Affiliated Faculty:

Randy Christopher Ploetz

Title and department: Professor, Plant Pathology

Address: Tropical Research and Education Center
18905 S.W. 280 Street
Homestead, FL 33031-3314

Phone: 305-246-7001 x.288
E-mail: kelly12@ufl.edu
Homepage: Click Here


University of Florida

Plant Pathology, Ph.D.


Purdue University      

Plant Pathology, M.S.


Purdue University

Forestry, B.S.



Research Interests (with focus on Tropical Agriculture)

Work focuses on fungal and fungal-like pathogens and the diseases they cause, with emphases on understanding their biology and pathology and devising effective means for their management.  Current investigations are on: (a) the development of phytophthora root rot-resistant rootstocks for avocado; (b) the phylogeny and geographic origins of races of the pathogens that cause mango malformation and witches’ broom of cacao, and development of management strategies for these important these diseases; (c) the population biology of Colletotrichum gloeosporioides and the diseases it causes on mango; (d) the Botryosphaeria pathogens of diverse hosts in South Florida; (e) the host range of Mycosphaerella fijiensis, a major banana pathogen in Florida and worldwide, and Crinipellis perniciosa, a destructive pathogen of cacao; (f) the biology and management of various diseases of tropical fruit and traditional vegetable crops; and (g) various diseases of ornamentals.
Randy is an authority on tropical fruit diseases.  He has written over 300 publications and edited four books, one of which, Diseases of Tropical Fruit Crops (CAB International), is a standard reference.  He is currently writing a two-volume book, Tropical Plant Pathology (Springer-Verlag).  Randy received the University of Florida Research Foundation Professor Award in 2004.

  1. Ploetz, R.C. 2007. Diseases of tropical perennial crops: Challenging problems in diverse environments. Plant Disease 91:644-663 (most frequently accessed APS article online, June, 2007).
  2. W.F.O. Marasas, R.C. Ploetz, M.J. Wingfield, B.D. Wingfield, and E.T. Steenkamp. 2006. Mango malformation disease and the associated Fusarium species. Phytopathology 96::667-672.
  3. Ploetz, R.C. (ed.) 2003. Diseases of Tropical Fruit Crops. CABI. Wallingford, UK. 544 pp.
  4. O'Donnell, K. Kistler, H.C., Cigelnik, E., and Ploetz, R.C. 1998. Multiple origins of the fungus causing Panama disease of banana: concordant evidence from nuclear and mitochondrial gene genealogies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 95:2044-2049.
  5. Ploetz, R.C., Zentmyer, G.A., Nishijima, W., Rohrbach, K., and Ohr, H.D. (eds.) 1994. Compendium of Tropical Fruit Diseases. APS Press. The American Phytopathological Society. St. Paul, MN. 111 pp.
Extramural support (PI and co-PI), $850,451.


Teaching Interests (with focus on Tropical Agriculture)

Randy advises graduate students at the University of Florida and is an external advisor/reviewer of overseas theses.  He is an ad hoc instructor in HOS 5555 (Tropical Fruit Production and Research in Florida) and ORH 4932 (Palm Production and Culture).  Future UF responsibilities would include resurrecting PLP 5053 (Tropical Plant Pathology, currently not taught), after commitments are met to write Tropical Plant Pathology: Food Crops and Tropical Plant Pathology: Field, Fiber and Industrial Crops (Springer-Verlag, Berlin).  Ad hoc short courses are taught overseas and guest scientists from overseas are hosted in Homestead.

Extension/Outreach Interests (with focus on Tropical Agriculture)

Current extension and outreach activities focus on addressing threat posed to banana production in the Western Hemisphere by tropical race 4 of Panama disease and banana bunchy top.  Randy is interviewed often on tropical disease problems, most recently during scares on the extinction of banana and the increasing and serious impact of diseases on cacao (chocolate) production (e.g., the Discovery channel, NPR Canada and Ira Flatow’s Science Friday). 

International Activities (with focus on Tropical Agriculture)

Current position involves significant overseas activities, with on-going collaborations in several countries and work in 34 since 1990 (Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Honduras, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom). 

Randy organizes and serves on advisory committees for international conferences and symposia and has been an invited plenary speaker at 37.  He is a consultant for international agencies and producers; assesses new disease outbreaks and the status of other, important problems on tropical crops; advises research projects; and served two consecutive terms as Chair of the Fusarium Wilt Working Group of the CGIAR’s International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain.

Randy has served on the advisory board of the Office of International Programs (OIP) of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) since 1993, and is the immediate past Director (2004-2007).  In the later position, he initiated translations of lessons on the APSnet Education Center to different languages, actively sought participation by young professionals in OIP, and developed the Sister Society Initiative (SSI).  The SSI has morphed into an ad hoc committee that evaluates current and future international societal, publishing and assistance activities of APS.  As Chair of this committee he was a member of a recent APS delegation to Beijing that started a relationship with the Chinese Society of Plant Pathology.  This developing relationship will serve as a model for future APS interactions with other societies.  Randy has written frequent articles in Phytopathology News to inform APS members of international activities, most recently the OIP News and Views column.


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