Collaboration for Plant Pathogen Strain Identification
Collaboration for Plant Pathogen Strain Identification
Collaboration for Plant Pathogen Strain Identification
University of California
Collaboration for Plant Pathogen Strain Identification

CPPSI Working Group Members

Suren Baliji - Bayer
Suren Baliji
Surendranath (Suren) Baliji is the Regional Head of Phytopathology – Americas for the Vegetable Seeds unit within the Crop Science division of BASF. Suren obtained his B.S. degree in Agricultural Sciences in India and his M.S. degree in Plant Pathology from Punjab Agricultural University in India. After earning his M.S. degree, he worked as a Senior Research Fellow in Plant Virology at Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, India. He then earned his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) where he worked on Spinach curly top geminivirus. Suren currently manages the phytopathology teams and activities in the Americas region. In addition, he supports the vegetable breeding teams in screening for disease resistance and in disease diagnostics.

Marco Bello, CPPSI
Marco Bello
Sakata Seed America
Marco is the Lead Plant Pathologist for Sakata Seed America at the Fort Myers, FL, Research Station, where his team provides pathology support to pepper, tomato, and watermelon breeding programs. He has worked on basic and applied aspects of plant pathology, and plant resistance breeding as well. Before joining Sakata in 2015, he was a Postdoctoral Scientist at USDA-ARS Dry Bean Breeding Program in Prosser, WA, working on genetic mapping and marker development for disease resistance loci.  Marco holds MS from Washington State University, and PhD from the University of California, Davis, both in Plant Pathology.

Francois Bertrand, CPPSI
Francois Bertrand
Bayer Crop Science
François is a Plant Pathologist, with a PhD from Paris-Orsay University, for work on Cucurbit Powdery Mildew at INRA Avignon. He has over 29 years of experience in the vegetable seed industry (successively UCAAB, Asgrow, Seminis, Monsanto), has been active in development of disease resistance protocols, breeding for disease resistance, diagnostics, supervision of pathology teams. Currently he is based in Saint-Andiol, France, close to Avignon, he focuses on Research Pathology, specializing on Cucurbits.





Philip Brown, CPPSI
Philip Brown
Sakata Seed America
Philip received B.S. degree in Crop Science – Vegetable Crops from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and his M.S. degree in Vegetable Crops – Genetics and Crop Improvement from University of California at Davis. After receiving his M.S. degree Philip worked as a post graduate researcher in the Plant Pathology Department at UC Davis for two years before being hired by Alf Christianson Seed Co. as a Research Associate to develop and implement disease screens for radish, beets, and Swiss chard. More recently the company has merged with Sakata Seed America, Inc. and Philip is now Technical Services Manager – PNW overseeing a seed lab, breeder support, seed health, extension, and diagnostic activities at the Pacific Northwest facility.

Catalina Cespedes Bayer, CPPSI
Catalina Cespedes
Catalina is an R&D specialist in the Phytopathology department. As an R&D specialist, she participates the development of disease resistance protocols and disease diagnosis for tomato. She also supports disease diagnostics for the melon and watermelon group. She started her career with Bayer after graduating with her M.S. degree in plant pathology from Michigan State University. While there, she worked on the cucurbit Downy mildew pathosystem.  She obtained B.S. and M.S. degrees in microbiology from University of Los Andes in Colombia where she studied Phytophthora infestans populations. 

Eelco Gilijamse
Eelco Gilijamse
Rijk Zwaan 
Eelco is a Specialist Phytopathology Research at Rijk Zwaan Breeding in the Netherlands.  He obtained his MS degree in Phytopathology from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. After working at Wageningen University as a phytopathologist for three years he moved to Rijk Zwaan in 1999 where he has been working on disease resistance and seed health. Over the last years he has been active as a member of the Plantum working groups 'Phytopathological Research' and 'Isolate Collection' and the ISF working group on Disease Resistance and Terminology.


Stephanie Greene, CPPSI
Stephanie Greene
Stephanie is a Supervisory Plant Physiologist and lead scientist of the Plant Preservation Program at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Plant and Animal Genetic Resources Preservation Unit. Dr. Greene is responsible for providing long term storage of the USDA National Plant Germplasm System Base seed collection. The Base collection serves as a safety back up of our Nation’s seed collection, and contains over 560,000 accessions. We also provide safety back up for domestic and international seed and microbe collections, including housing and distributing the CPPSI plant pathogen sets.  Dr. Greene’s main research focus is the conservation of crop wild relative species that are native to the United States. These wild species are important genetic resources that can be used by breeders to develop productive, climate-resilient crops. She also leads a team assessing the escape of genetically-engineered genes from alfalfa into the environment to better understand transgene dispersal and possible strategies to prevent escape. 

Phyllis Himmel, CPPSI
Phyllis Himmel
Phyllis joined the UCD Seed Biotechnology Center in July 2015 to lead the seed industry funded Collaboration for the Identification of Plant Pathogen Strains (CPPSI). She brings 25 years of experience in disease resistance discovery and development, research leadership, product discovery and development in the Agricultural Sciences. Phyllis received her MS and PhD in Plant Pathology from the University of Arizona. After a 3 year USDA/ARS Post Doc researching WSBMV in hard red winter wheat at the University of Illinois, Phyllis joined the Asgrow (later Seminis, Monsanto) Vegetable Seed Company as a research pathologist. She established and led a program to identify and develop resistance in vegetables to viral pathogens, eventually leading the global pathology team of 64 scientists and staff as Director of Research Pathology. While at Marrone Bio Innovations, Phyllis held personnel and product management roles in the discovery and development of plant and microbe based biopesticides.

Nicki Phillips, Enza Zaden
Nicki Phillips
Enza Zaden
Nicki obtained a BS in Botany from Oregon State University and an MS in Plant Pathology from Kansas State University. She has over 30 years of experience in the vegetable seed industry. In her current position with Enza Zaden Research she is working with breeders to develop disease resistance in lettuce, peppers and onion. 


Laura Gallegos
Laura Gallegos
Bayer Crop Science
Laura is the Applied Pathology Lead at the Bayer Crop Science Vegetable R&D site in Woodland, CA, USA. She manages a team that supports the breeding pipeline in delivering critical disease resistance traits to vegetable germplasm in a variety of crops. Her team provides diagnostic and phytosanitation support in addition to their primary function of disease resistance phenotyping. Laura has been with the company for over 10 years and has held roles in the molecular lab and the trait genetics department where she mapped disease resistance traits prior to joining the pathology department. She received her B.S. degree in Evolution and Ecology from the University of California, Davis and her M.S. in Plant Pathology, also from UCD.

Padma Sudarshana
Syngenta Seeds
Padma is a Plant Pathologist at Syngenta Seeds, Woodland, CA. Her focus is on trait discovery research in vegetable crops and support the development of disease resistant varieties. She also has expertise in seed health and plant disease diagnostics. Prior to moving to Syngenta, Padma worked as a senior scientist at California Seed and Plant Labs and Research Scientist at Monsanto Vegetable Seeds. She has a Ph.D. degree and in Plant Pathology from the University of Idaho and Post-doctoral research experience from the University of California, Davis.



Alyson Thorton, CPPSI
Alyson Thorton
Alyson is the Regional Support Platform Manager for the Pathology and Cell Biology teams in AMPA, based in Davis, CA. She is responsible for managing the high throughput application teams located in this region.  She has been in this role since July of 2015 and has been with HM.Clause for 21 years in total. Prior to her current role, she was a research plant pathologist for the company working in California and Wisconsin. Alyson graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with a B.S in Horticulture and an M.S in Plant Pathology where she worked on Fusarium oxysporum in spinach.  Before joining HM.Clause, she performed research in a molecular lab focused on developing biocontrol agents of weeds.


Elisabetta Evivoda, HM.Clause
Elisabetta Vivoda
Elisabetta manages discovery projects at VoloAgri that are aimed at the identification of genetic resistance to diseases that have an economic impact on vegetable production. She is part of the pathology department.  Elisabetta earned her Master’s in Plant Pathology at UC Davis.


Kimberly Webb, USDA-ARS
Kimberly Webb
Kimberly is a Research Plant Pathologist with the Soil Management and Sugar Beet Research Unit of USDA-ARS located in Fort Collins, CO.  She has a B.S. in Agronomy from Colorado State University and earned her doctoral degree from Kansas State University in Plant Pathology. After earning her PhD, Kimberly gained experience working with the vegetable seed industry when she joined STA Laboratories and served as their Seed Health Manager. While at STA Laboratories she was responsible for the development and validation of seed health assays for vegetable and row seed crops.  In 2008, Kimberly joined USDA-ARS where she now works on characterizing fungal plant pathogens and their interactions with their hosts. Her role with the CPPSI includes serving as the liaison to the American Phytopathological Society hosting committee (Germplasm and Collections), assisting with the distribution of pathogen differential sets and the development of new fungal differential sets.

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