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David McCall

Associate Professor
David McCall
Corporate Research Center
1880 Pratt Dr, Room 1121
Blacksburg, VA


My primary responsibilities as Turfgrass Pathologist are applied research (50%) and Extension (45%), with a 5% appointment in teaching. My research program currently focuses on a) remote sensing with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to monitor disease epidemics and water inefficiencies across turfgrass systems, b) field radiometry and thermal imagery for improving biological and environmental stress detection of turfgrass systems and specialty crops, c) novel strategies to reduce pesticide inputs through targeted applications, and d) fungicide performance, efficacy, and ancillary benefits. Extension responsibilities include disseminating information on the latest strategies to suppress diseases of turfgrasses grown for sod, commercial and residential lawns, and recreational facilities, such as golf courses and athletic fields. My applied research program is designed to aide my role in Extension, by providing practical disease management solutions to turfgrass professionals. I guest lecture for undergraduate and graduate courses in basic and advanced turfgrass management, plant pathology, and proper pesticide usage.


  • Turfgrass Pathology


  • Ph.D. Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech, 2016 
  • M.L.S. Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech, 2006
  • B.B.A. Marketing, Radford University, 2001

Remote pest mapping across turfgrass systems

Our lab has developed incidence maps of a reoccurring disease of bermudagrass using digital analysis of drone imagery. We continue to improve our efficiency and accuracy with image classification and machine learning technologies. Our lab is collaborating with colleagues at Virginia Tech and other institutions to map additional pest outbreaks across turfgrass systems. 

Biotic and abiotic stress detection

Myself and members of my lab have explored various strategies for detecting plant stress prior to symptom expression using field radiometry (multispectral and hyperspectral sensors) and thermal imagery. Much of this research has focused on moisture stress with the ultimate goal of reducing total irrigation needs across turfgrass systems.

Targeted pesticide applications

Our lab is using GPS-sprayer technology to make targeted fungicide applications only where needed, resulting in up to 65% savings in total treated acreage across golf courses and athletic fields. We have focused on spring dead spot but are now investing practical applications for additional pests, including disease outbreaks, insect pest infestations, and weed encroachment.

Integrated disease management

We evaluate new synthetic chemistries, biological fungicides, plant health promotors, and alternative management strategies to reduce common pests in Virginia, such as dollar spot, spring dead spot, brown patch, gray leaf spot, Pythium diseases, among many other diseases/disorders.

I have a small (5%) teaching appointment. My role is to assist other teaching faculty by providing guest lectures and leading labs or field trips related to turfgrass pathology and IPM, emerging technologies in turfgrass systems, and proper pesticide usage to undergraduate students in SPES and Agricultural Technology.

Associate Professor | 2023 - Present
School of Plant & Environmental Sciences
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Assistant Professor | 2016 - 2023
School of Plant & Environmental Sciences
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Research Associate | 2009 - 2016
School of Plant & Environmental Sciences
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

  • Virginia’s Turfgrass Council’s President’s Award, 2017
  • Bruce Perry Scholarship Recipient, PPWS, Virginia Tech, 2015-2016 
  • Outstanding Recent Alumni Award, PPWS, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Organization, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, 2012-2013 
  • JoAnn Ridpath Award Recipient (Most Outstanding Staff Member), PPWS, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, 2007
  • President: Graduate Student Organization, PPWS, Virginia Tech, 2002-03
  1. Sykes, V. R., Horvath, B. J., McCall, D. S., Baudoin, A. B., Askew, S. D., Goatley, J. M., & Warnke, S. E. (2019). Screening Tall Fescue for Resistance to Rhizoctonia solani and Rhizoctonia zeae Using Digital Image Analysis. Plant disease, PDIS05191070RE. doi:10.1094/pdis-05-19-1070-re
  2. Badzmierowski, M. J., McCall, D. S., & Evanylo, G. (2019). Using Hyperspectral and Multispectral Indices to Detect Water Stress for an Urban Turfgrass System. AGRONOMY-BASEL, 9(8), 15 pages. doi:10.3390/agronomy9080439
  3. McCall, D. S., Ervin, E. H., Shelton, C. D., Reams, N., & Askew, S. D. (2017). Influence of Ferrous Sulfate and Its Elemental Components on Dollar Spot Suppression. CROP SCIENCE, 57(2), 581-586. doi:10.2135/cropsci2016.05.0383
  4. McCall DS, X Zhang, DG Sullivan, SD Askew, and EH Ervin (2016). Enhanced soil moisture assessment using narrowband reflectance vegetation indices in creeping bentgrass. Accepted 30 August, 2016, Crop Science.
  5. Post A, D McCall, S Askew (2016). Preemergence Control of silvery threadmoss (Bryum argenteum) grown from spores and bulbils in axenic culture. Weed Technology 30(1): 198-206.
  6. Cutulle M, J Derr, D McCall, A Nichols, B Horvath, T Sanchez (2015). Evaluation of chitinase activity in tall fescue cultivars inoculated with Rhizoctonia solani . J. Environ. Hort. 33(4):143-147.
  7. Amaradasa B, D Lakschman, D McCall, B Horvath (2014). In vitro fungicide sensitivity of Rhizoctonia and Waitea isolates collected from turfgrasses. J. Environ. Hort. 32(3):126-132.
  8. Cutulle M, J Derr, D McCall, A Nichols, B Horvath (2014). Effect of mowing height and fertility on bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) encroachment and brown patch severity in tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum), Weed Technology: 28(1): 225-232.
  9. Cutulle M, J Derr, D McCall, B Horvath, A Nichols (2013). Impact of hybrid bluegrass and tall fescue seeding combinations on brown patch severity and weed encroachment, HortSci: 48(4):493-500.
  10. Cutulle M, J Derr, A Nichols, D McCall, B Horvath (2012). Impact of bispyribac-sodium on annual bluegrass control and brown patch severity in tall fescue. J. Environ. Hort. 30: 195-200. 
  11. Ervin E, D McCall, B Horvath (2009). Efficacy of phosphite fungicides and fertilizers for control of Pythium blight on a perennial ryegrass fairway in Virginia. Online. Applied Turfgrass Science doi:10.1094/ATS-2009-1019-01-BR.