Beth K. Gugino is a third-generation PhD academic who was born in South Dakota, where her father had his first extension faculty position. She spent time on her mother's home farm in Iowa and at the land-grant institutions where her father was later an administrator. Gugino earned her BS in horticulture and her MS and PhD in plant pathology from The Pennsylvania State University. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship under the guidance of Dr. George Abawi at Cornell University, she returned to Penn State in 2008 as an assistant professor of vegetable pathology. In 2019, she was promoted to professor with a 75% extension and 25% research appointment. She received The American Phytopathological Society (APS) Northeast Division Early Career Achievement Award in 2011 for the direction of a regionally and nationally recognized extension education and adaptive research program that develops integrated management tools to manage important and emerging diseases of major vegetable crops. Her timely translation of research-based information for culturally appropriate educational programs results in real-time disease management and stakeholder impact.
Gugino is recognized for leading multistate/multidisciplinary projects that prioritize grower needs. Since 2008, she has led or participated in more than 75 research and extension projects funded by extramural competitive grants at the local, state, national, and international levels. In partnership with industry, she has conducted 43 conventional and biofungicide product efficacy trials evaluating more than 480 treatments on nine host–pathogen systems, including cucurbit downy mildew and powdery mildew and tomato early blight and late blight. The results have contributed to the fungicide recommendations provided in the Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Recommendations used by stakeholders in Pennsylvania and across the mid-Atlantic region to make management decisions. In addition, Gugino has coauthored 23 peer-reviewed journal articles and 28 Plant Disease Management Reports and 75 extension-related fact sheets and proceedings articles.
Gugino's efforts to understand the biology and epidemiology of bacterial diseases of onion are the direct result of her ability to identify needs and to strategize funding and collaborations. She leveraged funding from the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association to secure NE-IPM Competitive Grant and PDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Programs to identify potential sources of bacterial inoculum and identify on-farm factors associated with bacterial diseases through a unique systems approach. Based on these results, the evaluation of augmented management tactics focused on reducing soil temperatures at bulbing, the rate and timing of nitrogen application, host susceptibility, and the use of pre-plant transplant treatments to reduce bacterial populations to develop an IPM approach to disease management. Currently, growers are adopting silver reflective mulch or physically manipulating black plastic mulch to reduce soil temperatures and also augmenting nitrogen levels, which affect bacterial center rot disease.
Gugino currently serves as the secretary for the W3008 Integrated Onion Pest and Disease Management Multi-State Project (involving 23 researchers), and she participated in the W2008, which won the 2018 Western Region Excellence in Multistate Research Award and was runner-up for the National Award of Excellence. Likewise, she has become the project director for a USDA-AMS Specialty Crop Multi-State Program titled “Regional approach to cucurbit downy mildew prevention, monitoring, and management," which involves 15 eastern states that together account for 56% of the cucurbit production in the United States. This program builds on efforts initiated by Dr. Gerald Holmes and Dr. Peter Ojiambo, and it is estimated that more than 20,000 growers will benefit from the continuation of this area-wide monitoring and forecasting effort involving 19 co-PIs.
To serve the vegetable growers with limited or no access to computers or the Internet (primarily Anabaptists), Gugino provides timely disease updates during the growing season through the 1-800-PENN integrated pest management phone hotline. She led the establishment of informational kiosks at 10 of the 16 produce auctions, where informational posters and pest and disease forecasting information are updated regularly and growers can sign out and borrow production guides and diagnostic resources, similarly to a lending library. Gugino is known for her approachability and is ever present on farms and at grower meetings. During the past 10 years, she has made 217 presentations at more than 150 meetings, reaching over 16,000 stakeholders. She received a nearly perfect score in a recent extension teaching effectiveness survey. Her expertise is also in demand internationally. The USDA FAS recruited her to develop and deliver multiple 2-day workshops to crop scouts in Guatemala and Honduras on French bean and snow pea disease identification and management to reduce the rejection of crop loads for export to the United States due to pesticide violations.
In addition to research leadership, Gugino is a co-leader for the Penn State Vegetable, Small Fruit, and Mushroom extension program team; has served as a technical adviser for the Penn State Plant Disease Clinic (working closely with the coordinator to diagnose approximately 300 vegetable samples received annually); and has developed tailored management recommendations for commercial growers. She has served on the Pennsylvania Certified Organic Board of Directors and on the Pesticide Advisory Board, which advises the governor on issues related to agricultural pesticides, and she is an invited participant to the PVGA Board of Director meetings, serving as the Penn State liaison. She is a valued member of the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention Task Force, which organizes the program for the region's premier grower meeting.
Although Gugino has no teaching appointment, she leads her department's efforts for extension training by serving as the director of graduate studies, by co-teaching integrated pest management, and by mentoring graduate students, who have gone on to serve as extension faculty and diagnosticians. She has served APS as a senior editor of Plant Disease, Plant Health Progress, and Plant Disease Management Reports. She has also served APS regionally in the presidential lineage from secretary–treasurer through past president of the APS Northeast Division and is currently serving as a division forum representative.