Plant Health Program, Doctor of


First Advisor

Gary L. Hein

Document Type

Doctoral Document

Date of this Version

Fall 11-29-2016


Miller, Joshua J., "The Role of Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Research to Meet the Challenges Facing Agriculture in the 21st Century" (2016). Doctoral Documents from Doctor of Plant Health Program. Paper 12.


A Doctoral Document Presented to the Faculty of The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Plant Health, Major: Doctor of Plant Health, Under the Supervision of Professor Gary L. Hein. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2016

Copyright (c) 2016 Joshua Jay Miller


Throughout human history, scientific advancements have increased our understanding of the physical world. However, as our breadth of knowledge has increased, scholarship and research have become increasingly more specialized in order to add to the body of knowledge. University structures encourage this specialization through disciplinary learning and discovery. Although this model is necessary to continue growing the body of knowledge, the complex issues facing humanity, especially in regards to agriculture, require solutions that no single discipline can provide. These issues require an interdisciplinary approach to integrate the insights across multiple disciplines. Interdisciplinarity can be achieved through collaborative processes, but these efforts are often difficult because of epistemological differences among individuals from various disciplines. Another alternative model is the role of an interdisciplinary generalist that has a broader understanding across disciplines.

Agricultural interdisciplinary generalists are being trained to become professional plant practitioners at two universities in the United States, the Doctor of Plant Health program at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and the Doctor of Plant Medicine program at the University of Florida. The objective of this paper is to provide further insight into the role of interdisciplinary scholarship and research as it pertains to agriculture, and present the professional plant practitioner as a new profession to help meet the complex challenges currently facing agriculture.

Chapter 1 of this document focuses on the available literature associated with interdisciplinary scholarship. Chapter 2 presents the challenges facing agriculture and how interdisciplinary research is needed to address them. Finally, Chapter 3 describes the DPH and DPM programs and how interdisciplinarian plant practitioners fit into the challenge. Alumni from these programs and their employers were surveyed to evaluate the effectiveness of the degree programs. These programs are unique in their mission, and the graduates they are producing are filling roles in academia, industry, and government. Graduates reflect positively on their training and employers praise their abilities to perform in various positional roles. The biggest disservice to both programs is the overall lack of recognition by potential employers. To remedy this, graduates are gaining employment in high-level agricultural jobs and performing exceptionally. As the number of graduates continues to grow, the impact of professional-level agricultural interdisciplinary generalists will be realized in solving the challenges facing agriculture in the 21st century.

Advisor: Gary L. Hein