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North Florida Research And Education Center

North Florida Research And Education Center

Dr. Small, Ian

Assistant Professor

Plant Pathology

The goal of my integrated research and extension program is to improve our understanding of plant diseases and reduce their impact on food, feed, fiber and bioenergy crops in Florida. More specifically, my primary areas of interest within plant pathology are epidemiology, integrated disease management, smart crop protection, and plant breeding for disease resistance. I work closely with agronomists, plant breeders, and other scientists to evaluate genetic, cultural, biological, and chemical disease control strategies as components of integrated crop management of field crops such as peanut, cotton, and bioenergy feedstock crops. I also collaborate with computer scientists and agricultural engineers to develop and evaluate technologies such as decision support systems and phenotyping tools.

Please see my Research and Extension sections for more information.


  • Research

    Dr Small’s research program is structured around three themes:

    1. Integrated disease management. Systems approaches to the management of plant diseases. Our group’s goal is to integrate genetic, cultural, biological, and chemical control methods into practical strategies for effective, economical, safe, and sustainable disease management. Two key programs under this theme are the sod-based rotation system and the UF Carinata program.

    2. Plant disease epidemiology. Characterization of host – pathogen – environment interactions in order to improve our understanding of factors influencing disease progress. To develop predictive systems for plant diseases it is necessary to accurately and reproducibly assess the spatial distribution and severity of plant diseases. Through collaboration with remote sensing and computer science experts, my program’s current research applies remote sensing, image analysis and machine learning techniques to improve quantitative assessment of disease progress. Accurate quantitative assessment of disease progress combined with environmental data, such as soil mapping data, weather data and data from in-field sensors (envirotyping) will facilitate the development of plant disease models.

    3. Smart crop protection and phenotyping. Development of algorithms and decision tools to improve risk assessment and management of plant diseases affecting food, fiber, and bioenergy production. Our goal is to explore opportunities to utilize technology to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of cropping systems. We are also working on field-based phenotyping (UAS and ground-based) to enable accurate and reproducible assessment of traits and symptoms over space and time. We apply these technologies within our other programs, such as the sod-based rotation system and carinata program.
  • Extension

    Dr Small’s extension program strives to address stakeholder needs by creating, evaluating, and disseminating solutions to plant diseases affecting field crops such as peanut, cotton, carinata, and soybeans. Our efforts target the following aspects of UF IFAS Extension high priority initiatives:

    •  Increasing the environmental sustainability, profitability, and competitiveness of agricultural enterprises

    • Enhancing and protecting water quality, quantity, and supply by optimizing the use of water resources without compromising crop health

    • Enhancing and conserving Florida’s natural resources and environmental quality by creating tools to optimize the use of agricultural inputs
    • Producing and conserving traditional and alternative forms of energy by supporting the development of a carinata-based bio-economy in the southeast US and by optimizing the use of agricultural inputs.

    • Outreach to develop knowledge, life skills, and leadership abilities in Florida’s youth, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

    • Strengthening urban and rural community resources and economic development through the support of start-up businesses in the area of ag tech.

     We use applied research to evaluate technologies and strategies to improve the management of plant diseases. We work closely with extension faculty, crop advisors, agribusinesses, and commodity groups to improve the management of the diseases affecting field crops in the humid sub-tropical climate of North Florida.


Dr. Small, Ian
Assistant Professor
Plant Pathology
North Florida Research and Education Center
155 Research Rd.
Quincy, FL 32351
Phone: 850-875-7120
Fax: 352-846-6617

  • Education
    • Ph.D. Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University - 2016
    • M.S. Plant Pathology, Stellenbosch University - 2010
    • B.Sc. Agricultural Science (Plant Pathology and Agronomy), Stellenbosch University – 2007
  • Publications
  • Lab Group (Current & Alumni)

    Current Member(s):

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    Clohessy, James 
    Research Assistant
    Faculty: Dr. Small, Ian
    Phone: (716) 380-5387
    James applies computer vision, machine learning, and automation technologies to enhance plant phenotyping efforts at the Small Lab.  He has implemented numerous technologies including UAS, Photogrammetry, RTK-GPS, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Microcomputers to autonomously measure over time such attributes as plant height, canopy coverage, flower and stand counts, and plant disease symptoms.  James holds a bachelor's degree in computer science and a master's degree in business administration, both from Canisius College.

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    George O’Brien (Kelly)
    Biological Scientist
    Faculty: Dr. Small, Ian
    Phone:(850) 875-7163
    Kelly holds a BS in agronomy from The Ohio State University. He has worked in agronomic and biological research in field, greenhouse, and laboratory studies for more than 25 years. He is principally responsible for conducting investigations related to several important plant diseases on a variety of field crops including peanuts, soybeans, cotton, corn, and carinata .This is both from a disease management perspective as well as for developing high throughput phenotyping technology.

    Santosh Sanjel is a graduate student in the Small lab. He has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and a master’s degree in plant pathology from University of Florida. His research is focused on studying epidemiology of stem rot disease in peanuts. He is interested in using epidemiological models to study disease development in plants. He is also involved in optimizing processing of artificial intelligence based imagery using high throughput plant phenotyping tools.

    Matthew Burger is a PhD student in the Small lab. He has a B.A in Geography and a Plant Science, both from the University of Missouri. He also has experience in precision agronomy and breeding. For his doctoral research, his goal is to combine remote sensing, GIS, and plant pathology into a platform for improvement of crop management practices, to eventually disseminate to producers as part of the extension program.

    Shivendra Kumar is a postdoctoral associate in the Small lab. He has a Masters in life sciences and a PhD in botany with a strong background in plant breeding and genetics. His main research projects currently revolve around designing disease prediction systems by combining principles of epidemiology and information technology. He is also involved in standardizing methods for high throughput phenotyping of disease in multiple row crops.

     Rebecca Barocco (information forthcoming)