UACES Facebook Extension pathologist finds footing in Arkansas
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Extension pathologist finds footing in Arkansas

Sept. 29, 2023

By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Fast Facts:

  • Nicolli’s background in rice pathology; will also conduct research affecting soybean, corn
  • Initially recruited on strength of working group presentation
  • Holds dual citizenship in Brazil, Italy

(597 words)
(Newsrooms: With both candid and portrait of Nicolli)

STUTTGART, Ark. — Like many agricultural researchers working in Arkansas today, Camila Nicolli, extension plant pathologist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, traveled a long and winding road to get here.

NEW ADDITION — Camila Nicolli, extension plant pathologist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

After completing a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, followed by a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in plant pathology at Brazil’s Federal University Lavras in 2018, Nicolli spent several years as an assistant professor and researcher for various institutions and entities in Brazil. In 2021, she relocated to the United States and began conducting her post-doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

In 2022, Nicolli attended an annual meeting of the Southern Soybean Disease Workers, a pathology meeting held in Pensacola. At that meeting, Terry Spurlock, extension plant pathologist for the Division of Agriculture, saw her deliver a presentation. Afterward, he informed Nicolli of an upcoming opening in Arkansas, due to the retirement of rice pathologist Yeshi Wamishe.

“Two or three days later, the position was posted, and I applied,” Nicolli said. “I was considering that position because I did my Ph.D. with rice. The position also deals with soybeans and corn — all crops I’ve worked with in the past.”

“I was impressed with the work she was doing,” Spurlock said. “At that time, she was working as a post-doc in Damon Smith’s lab at the University of Wisconsin, which is a well-respected program and also a nice mix of applied and basic science.

“I encouraged Camila to consider applying because I knew that she had skills and experience that could be an asset to both our Entomology and Plant Pathology department and, most importantly, the growers in our state. Fortunately for us, she did apply.”

Nicolli, who holds dual citizenship in both Brazil and Italy, has an initial three-year plan for propelling her research in Arkansas.

“My entire career, I’ve been working on ecology and epidemiology, how the cycles of the seasons affect pathogens,” Nicolli said. “Most of my work has also been with fungi, as opposed to other pathogens. In plant pathology, we have nematodes, fungi and viruses.

“I’m going to stay focused on rice for this first year because that’s what my colleagues have already been working on recently,” she said. “We’re also doing research trials for industry, and we also have a breeding project.”

She said that next year she plans to expand her research into soybean pathology in an effort to help growers increase profitability while also improving soil health.

“For the third year, I’ll be looking for collaboration on corn,” Nicolli said. “Although I’m still learning about the issues that face corn producers here.”

Ken Korth, entomology and plant pathology department chair for the Division of Agriculture, said he is excited to see how Nicolli’s research benefits growers in Arkansas and beyond.

“We were very fortunate to recruit Dr. Nicolli for this position,” Korth said. “She came into our group with a broad set of experiences in plant pathology and production agriculture. She has a strong background in agricultural education and research, working in both academic and industry positions prior to coming here.

“The overall goals of her postdoctoral work were to bring science to farmers through new technologies, and I have no doubt that she will have an impact in Arkansas in similar ways,” he said. “Camila’s experience in field research has meant that she was able to hit the ground running as a new faculty member. She arrived just before the growing season started and has already demonstrated an ability to connect with growers and organize important research activities.”

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact:
Ryan McGeeney