Spudman 7: Chaks Mattupalli goes from finance to plant pathology
Chakradhar “Chaks” Mattupalli’s experience in agricultural financing in India put him on a very different career path: plant pathology. In dealing with growers on a daily basis, Mattupalli was inspired by their stories of dealing plant diseases and how they affected crop yields. He wanted to help, and now he is a research professor and Extension specialist at Colorado State University’s San Luis Valley Research Center. Mattupalli has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, a master’s in horticulture and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
1. Could you share a little about your background?
Over the past several years, I have been working on soilborne fungal pathogens affecting crops such as potato and alfalfa. My last assignment was with the Noble Research Institute (in) Oklahoma, where I utilized drones for studying plant diseases and came up with ways to incorporate high-resolution aerial imagery for making site-specific recommendations to growers. A common theme in my research involves working on applied research projects that focus on development of disease monitoring and management systems for improving crop productivity.
2. What is your focus at CSU?
(It is) 60 percent research and 40 percent Extension responsibilities. My program will focus on applied research and building grower engagement programs on disease management of various crops grown in the San Luis Valley, primarily in potatoes.
3. What is at the top of your to-do list?
Since I joined this position (four) months ago, I have been interacting with various growers, consultants and stakeholders in the San Luis Valley to get an understanding of the problems that are of importance in this region. Some of the immediate projects that I will be working on include management of powdery scab and foliar diseases of potatoes. I will also be working on projects that would incorporate drones for high throughput phenotyping and plant disease detection.
4. What is your biggest goal for 2019?
My biggest goal for 2019 is to set up an on-site, state-of-the-art pathology laboratory at the San Luis Valley Research Center that will cater to the research and Extension needs of growers and other stakeholders in the valley.
5. What is the most common misconception about plant pathology?
During my graduate studies, one of my friends from a different scientific field was surprised to learn that I study plant diseases and asked me if plants get sick like humans. I was really surprised and had to explain that growers encounter myriad crop protection and production issues while growing crops, in contrast to the healthy-looking fresh produce available in a grocery store.
6. What’s your favorite way to eat potatoes?
Potatoes have been my favorite vegetable since my childhood, although I am used to eating mostly yellows and reds. In my opinion, homemade potato fries are a delectable way to enjoy potatoes — this is the only exception where I enjoy eating deep fried foods!
7. What do you enjoy doing away from work?
Besides work, I enjoy spending time with my family. I love reading books to my 7-year-old son and playing with my year-old daughter. They keep my wife and I on our toes. The San Luis Valley is an awesome place with lot of opportunities for outdoor activities and we are excited to explore this beautiful location and enjoy the wonders of Mother Nature.
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