Spudman 7: Neil Gudmestad
Neil C. Gudmestad has conducted research on the diseases of potato for over 39 years. He began his career in seed potato certification with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and joined the faculty at North Dakota State University in 1985. Gudmestad’s research program conducts research on the biology and management of potato diseases with a special emphasis on studying emerging and re-emerging pathogens of potato in the United States.
He has published over 350 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, technical papers and other publications over his career. Gudmestad has been honored by a number of national and international potato industry organizations including Meritorious Service Awards from the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in 1996, the National Potato Council in 2000, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Potato Congress and the Potato Man for All Seasons, both in 2015.
He was named a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and an Honorary Life Member of the Potato Association of America, the highest honor those two professional organizations can bestow. Gudmestad was named one of the inaugural University Distinguished Professors at NDSU in 2007 and he was appointed the first Neil C. Gudmestad Endowed Chair of Potato Pathology in 2014.
What are the best words of advice you’ve received?
“No matter what you do for a living, you can be successful by simply out-working the other guy.” My father told me that when I became an assistant professor.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Identify and hire another self- motivated molecular person to augment my lab’s expertise, successfully teach my plant disease management class, obtain two more “clean” PET scans, and celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary in Italy with my beautiful wife.
What do you do to relax?
I like to tend and harvest from my vegetable garden in the summer. Drink wine with the neighbors at the lake and make wood-fired pizza.
What job or work would you have pursued if you had not become involved in the potato industry?
Prior to my coming to the realization that I couldn’t walk away from agriculture (I grew up on a small farm), I was trying to decide between two areas, archaeology and marine biology. To this day I am still a sucker for archaeology and read about or visit sites whenever I have an opportunity.
What would you like to be your lasting legacy?
I think my lasting legacy will be the Neil C. Gudmestad Endowed Chair of Potato Pathology at North Dakota State University. It is a long story, but in the strategic plan that originally existed for our department and our college of agriculture was
for there to be only one potato pathology research program moving forward. One of the two current potato pathology faculty would be lost to attrition upon retirement and that was most likely going to be me. There was an opportunity for the potato industry to get matching funds from the North Dakota legislature, and I was fortunate that 40 donors from 13 states agreed that this was an opportunity that could not be ignored. So, my legacy is that there will continue to be a potato pathologist at NDSU working to solve disease problems for the entire potato industry in the U.S.
What are three things on your bucket list?
I have already started to check a few things off of my bucket list, but have three more very important ones. I want to visit Machu Picchu (which I will do at the next World Potato Congress), walk a significant length of Hadrian’s Wall in the U.K. soon after my retirement, and visit the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. If the internal conflict still exists in Egypt, I will substitute the pyramids with a visit to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney in Scotland.
What is the one truth you’ve learned about the potato industry?
If you ever get to the point where you think you have seen or experienced it all in the potato industry, you haven’t.