On the Path to Plants

Faces: Achala KC cover

Dr. Achala KC | Plant Pathology Assistant Professor | MS 2009 | PhD 2013

Godawari-Taukhel, Lalitpur, Nepal | 1st Generation College Student

American Phytopathological Society | Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi

Honor Society of Agriculture, Gamma Sigma Delta

Science and Sports

I came from Nepal to the United States in 2006 to pursue Masters and PhD degrees in Plant Pathology from North Dakota State University. I did my post-doctoral training at the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma, FL. I joined OSU’s Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC) in 2016 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Besides learning fascinating science behind plant pathogens, I love sports and spending time outdoors with my family and friends. I like to try all kinds of sports, but ping-pong is my favorite. In my leisure time, I like to bike or hike in the beautiful trails of Rogue Valley and ski with my family in the beautiful mountains nearby.

Beautiful Bacteria

I chose Plant Pathology when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in Agricultural Science in my hometown in Nepal. Knowing that I was an agriculture major, farmers would come to me with plant samples almost dying with various problems. Among them, finding the beautiful colonies of fungi or bacteria was always intriguing. Looking at them under the microscope and believing that these microscopic organisms can cause such damage was mind blowing. It then triggered me to realize that Plant Pathology is my subject. Since then, I have enjoyed learning more about the details of plant diseases, sharing groundbreaking results to the scientific community, and extending the research based knowledge to the growers and stakeholders.

From Here to There

My field of study has taken me from Nepal to the USA, bone chilling winters in North Dakota to hot and humid Florida, and then to beautiful Oregon. When I came to North Dakota from Nepal for my graduate studies, the whole transition process was the most exciting. Being in a country exactly opposite in the world map from where I was born and raised was a thrilling experience. Getting into the rhythm of new culture and language was part-time learning besides mandatory graduate school learning every day. During this journey, finding myself surrounded by other international and local students, my mentors, advisors, and learning from them was the most valuable part.

Building and Shaping

All the professional development opportunities offered by the College of Ag Sciences helped me shape and succeed in my current position at SOREC. From the basic trainings, such as navigating the OSU systems and being part of the CAS CEDI task force, to training on the national faculty success program has helped me to build a successful Plant Pathology program at one of the OSU’s branch experiment stations. My program currently serves a significant acreage of the states’ pear, wine grapes, and hemp production regions.

The Effects of Extension

We study the economically important diseases of tree fruits and wine grapes in southern Oregon. We research to understand the plant pathogens causing diseases that would increase the economic burden of tree fruits and wine grape growers. This research helps us to understand how pathogens develop over time - what are the susceptible stages of tree fruit and wine grape development that the pathogens take advantage of, and what environmental factors at those stages play a role in disease development? We also research to provide solutions for disease management, so the growers would benefit by minimizing losses due to diseases and saving production costs by minimal use of pesticides. Extension and outreach is a major component of my program. I educate growers on environmentally friendly solutions for disease management by integrating cultural, biological, and chemical control strategies, tracking pesticide resistance development in pathogen population and ways to mitigate these problems. I utilize tools, such as disease forecasting models, to provide informed decisions on pesticide application only when they are necessary. Our ultimate goal is to increase productivity for long-term food security while keeping environmental safety in mind.

Question-Answer Loop

AgSci is helping me live my dream. I always stay curious on how the system works - what is the basic science behind any cause, and how can we utilize the answers to solve the problems that we are facing everyday? In my current position, I get to experiment with the why and how questions, find answers, and share with the individuals whose livelihood depends on some of those answers. As plant pathology researchers, we are finding answers to how disease develops in crops, what pathogens are associated with those diseases, how pathogens and crops interact, and what other factors are favoring pathogen development in our crops. We utilize this information to develop disease management programs, and we share the best effective management programs with growers that help them reduce the losses caused by these devastating diseases. We also get to share the information with other scientific communities, which in turn stimulates other questions or solutions. This whole loop of understanding the problems, finding the possible solutions, and sharing them with targeted audiences are very fascinating and satisfactory.

Stand For My Purpose

Being a woman and person of color stationed in one of the Southern Oregon Branch Experiment Station was an obvious challenge to getting myself established. Finding myself as the only woman in research station farm meetings, many of the grower meetings, and only woman of color in almost all meetings were nerve-racking moments in my earlier career stages. I wish college had better support systems for early career professionals coming from different backgrounds and needs. However, capitalizing my strengths as a learner and positive attitude, I patiently studied all the systems that were new to me. I kept believing in my expertise, my purpose of being in the research station, and the larger impact that my program could bring to southern Oregon agriculture. I surrounded myself with colleagues, assistants, and friends who would listen and support when needed. In addition, I love reading biographies, and in my leisure time I read biographies of outstanding leaders, learn from their challenges and how they overcame such challenges. One of my favorite quotes is “I came as one, but stand as 10,000” by Maya Angelou. This quote always reminded me of my purpose and empowered me as a scientist representing many minority leaders in science.

Diversity's Big Picture

I am deeply motivated by the CAS mission in enhancing diversity, including its plans for Inclusive Excellence. Awareness and education are powerful tools to change people’s beliefs; we must care and show respect for each other while building a competitive community. Each of us has important roles to play while we build a safe platform for our future generation of scientists.


Achala KC, Plant Pathologist


Look at the big picture; if you are thinking of your career, you are thinking of who you are going to be for the rest of your life. Take it easy, take your time. Ask for help when you need it. You will be surprised knowing how many people care for you and your cause when you ask. Follow your dream. Take one step at a time, take rest if needed, but never give up.


Focus on Fruit: October and December 2022 | Oregon Wine Press: Comice to Cabernet | Good Fruit Grower: Renewed research in the Rogue Valley | Jefferson Public Radio Stories Of Southern Oregon: The Grape Disease Detective