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Yuan Zeng

Assistant Professor


I have a three-way appointment in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and at Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center covering 10 % teaching, 45% research, and 45% extension. My research program has three foci: 1) plant disease epidemiology, 2) plant-pathogen-microbiome interactions, and 3) autonomous identification of plant diseases in the Piedmont region of Virginia. My extension program mainly addresses needs of field-crop growers and other stakeholders in the region, including conducting field trials to evaluate fungicide efficacy and susceptibility of different varieties to fungal and fungal-like pathogens, providing lab-based disease diagnostic services, and disseminating knowledge on plant pathology and integrated pest management strategies. I will co-instruct Advanced Topics in Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science (PPWS 6004) course starting in Fall Semester 2023.


  • Plant Pathology
  • Host-microbe interactions
  • Data science


  • Ph.D. Entomology/Microbiology, Auburn University, 2017
  • M.S. Probability and Statistics, Auburn University, 2017
  • M.S. Forest Health, Auburn University, 2012
  • B.S. Forest Resources Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, 2008
  • B.S. minor. Computer Science, Beijing Forestry University, 2007
  • Developing field-crop disease forecasting models by integrating multi-comics and environmental sensing technologies
  • Harnessing plant-pathogen-microbiome interactions to promote crop health
  • Autonomous identification of tobacco diseases using sensor-based robots or unmanned aerial vehicles 
  • Conducting disease and yield evaluation of corn, soybean, and tobacco varieties
  • Testing fungicide efficacy in corn, soybean, and strawberry diseases in Virginia’s Piedmont region
  • Offering plant disease diagnostic services to field-crop growers in Virginia’s Piedmont region
  • Providing educational services to field-crop growers and other stakeholders in Virginia’s Piedmont region
  • PPWS 6004: Advanced Topics in Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science

Assistant Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist | 2022-Present
Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center
School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Postdoctoral Researcher | 2017-2022
Department of Agricultural Biology
Colorado State University

Biologist III | 2017
Infectious Diseases & Outbreaks Division
Alabama Department of Public Health

  • Professional Development and Travel Award, Colorado State University, 2021
  • International Graduate Student Showcase for International Congress of Entomology, Entomological Society of America (ESA), 2016
  • Outstanding Ph.D. student, Auburn University, 2015
  • Graduate Student Dissertation Fellowship, Auburn University, 2015
  • The Alabama Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ALEPSCoR) Graduate Research Scholars Program (GRSP) Round-9 Fellowship, Alabama EPSCoR. 2014
  • Second place, President’s Prize, Graduate Student Poster Competition, ESA Annual Meeting, 2014
  • James Floyd Googan’s Endowed Fellowship in Forest Biology, Auburn University, 2014
  • Outstanding M.S. Student, Auburn University, 2012
  • The Drummond Fellowship, Auburn University, 2012
  • National Scholarship, Ministry of Education, China, 2007
  1. Taylor, D, Charkowski, A.O., and Zeng, Y. 2021. Laboratory assays used to rank potato cultivar tolerance to blackleg showed that tuber vacuum infiltration results correlate with field observations. Plant Disease 105(3):585-591.
  2. Zeng, Y., and Charkowski, A.O. 2021. The role of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters in bacterial phytopathogenesis. Phytopathology 111(4):600-610. (Selected as the Editor’s pick for April 2021)
  3. Zeng, Y., Fulladolsa, A.C., Cordova, A.M.^, O’Neill, P., Gray, S.M., and Charkowski, A.O. 2020. Evaluation of effects of chemical soil treatments and potato cultivars on Spongospora subterranea soil inoculum and the incidence of powdery scab and potato mop-top virus in potato. Plant Disease 104(11):2807-2816.
  4. Zeng, Y., Abdo, Z., Charkowski, A.O., Stewart, J.E., and Frost, K. 2019. Responses of bacterial and fungal community structure to different rates of 1,3-dichloropropene fumigation. Phytobiomes Journal 3(3):212-223. (Selected as the Editor’s pick for October 2019)
  5. Zeng, Y., Fulladolsa, A.C., Houser, A., and Charkowski, A.O. 2019. Colorado seed potato certification data analysis shows mosaic and blackleg are major diseases of seed potato and identifies tolerant potato varieties. Plant Disease 103(2):192-199.
  6. Zeng, Y., Hu, X.P., Cao, G.Q., and Suh, S. 2018. Hemolymph protein profiles of subterranean termite Reticulitermes flavipes challenged with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosaScientific Reports 8(1):13251.
  7. Zeng, Y., Hu, X.P., and Suh, S. 2016. Characterization of antibacterial activities of eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, against human pathogens. PLOS One 11(9):e0162249.
  8. Zeng, Y., Hu, X.P., Yu, X.Q., and Suh, S. 2014. Multiple antibacterial activities of various proteins in crude extracts from the eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes Kollar (Blattodea:Isoptera:Rhinotermitidae). Advances in Research 2(8):455-461.
  9. Zeng, Y., Kidd, K.R., and Eckhardt, L.G. 2013. The effect of thinning and harvesting on root-feeding bark beetle population dynamics in loblolly pine plantations in central Alabama and Georgia. Pest Management Sciences 70(6):915-921.
  10. Matusick, G., Menard, R.D. Zeng, Y., and Eckhardt, L.G. 2012. Root-inhabiting bark beetles (Coleoptera:Curculionidae) and their fungal associates breeding in dying loblolly pine in Alabama. Florida Entomologist 96(1): 238-241.
  11. Li, J., Luo, Y.Q., Zeng, Y., Shi, J., Ma, L.Y., Yang, X.H., Wang, Z.J., and Heliövaara, K. 2009. Plant diversity patterns in different forests in Aershan, Inner Mongolia. Forestry Studies in China 11(1):55-60.