I joined the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology in 1992. I had just finished a Post-doc with the USDA Agricultural Research Service at Washington State University in Pullman, WA, where I studied soil edaphic factors that impact biological control with Pseudomonas and Trichoderma species of take-all disease of wheat. My mentors were Drs. David Weller and R. James Cook. My interest in biological control, plant pathology, mycology, and soil science stems from undergraduate and graduate training with Dr. Lindsey Olive at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Gareth Morgan-Jones at Auburn University, and Dr. Mike Benson at North Carolina State University.

I value equity and diversity and firmly believe that diversity is the greatest strength of innovative organizations, especially research-intensive institutions like The University of Tennessee. I am committed to activities that increase access to education for all people, especially underserved and underrepresented groups.I am currently the Graduate Director of EPP, and am here to encourage and assist our students in achieving their academic and professional goals.

Research Focus

My research program is focused on pathosystems involving soilborne plant pathogens, such as Rhizoctonia solani, various species of Bipolaris and Fusarium, Sclerotium rolfsii, and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. I am currently working with organic growers to evaluate the efficacy of biostimulants and biofertilizers for plant growth, yield, and disease control, and determine their value to producers. My laboratory is also studying various biological and cultural and methods to control diseases of a variety of specialty crops. We are interested in environmental, edaphic, and crop factors that influence whether biological disease control methods will be effective.

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Extension and outreach focus

My academic outreach has focused on working with the Girl Scouts in a program called Gadget Girls. The goal is to engage middle and high school girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities to encourage them to continue their education in college and beyond in a STEM field.

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Teaching focus

My teaching and research activities are highly integrated. I teach courses on mycology, soilborne plant pathogens, and phytobacteriology. I have mentored one postdoctoral associate, 19 graduate students, and have served on the graduate advisory committees of 45 additional students. I also actively engage undergraduates in my research projects. All of my graduate students and several undergraduates have presented their work at professional scientific meetings and/or university competitions.


EPP 505 Mycology
EPP 512 Soilborne Plant Pathogens
EPP 514 Phytobacteriology
EPP 531 Plant Disease Diagnosis and Reporting

Bonnie H. Ownley

office (865) 974-0219
mobile (865) 300-6997
fax (865) 974-4744

414 Plant Biotechnology Building
2505 E.J. Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4560

B.S., Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
M.S., Microbiology, Auburn University
Ph.D., Plant Pathology, Minor in Soil Science, North Carolina State University

professional appointment
80% Research, 20% Teaching

Graduate program concentrations
M.S. – Plant Pathology
Ph.D. – Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Molecular Interactions; Organismal Biology, Ecology, and Systematics; Sustainable Disease and Integrated Pest Management Systems

Areas of expertise
Biological and cultural control of soilborne plant pathogens, microbial ecology of beneficial plant bacteria and fungi; mechanisms of microbial biological control

key words
Biological control, cultural disease control, microbial ecology, organic agriculture, plant disease, soilborne plant pathogens, vegetable and fruit crops

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Current lab members

  • Mary Dee, Research Associate
  • Wilson Ouma, Ph.D. Student

Selected Publications
Camfield, E.Bowman, A.Choi, J.Gwinn, K.Labbe, N.Rajan, K.Ownley, B.Moustaid-Moussa, N., & D’Souza, D. H. (2022). Switchgrass extractives to mitigate Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium contamination of romaine lettuce at pre- and postharvestJournal of Food Science873620– 3631https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.16249

Gwinn, K., Hansen, Z., Kelly, H., and B.H. Ownley. 2017. Diseases of Cannabis sativa caused by diverse Fusarium species. Frontiers in Agronomy 3: 108. https://doi.org/10.3389/fagro.2021.796062