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Plant Pathologist/Horticulturist

If selected, you will work at the APHIS National Plant Germplasm Quarantine Center (NPGQC), to establish and maintain foreign germplasm and cultivars under appropriate safeguarding conditions, conduct tests for pests, implement therapy if necessary, and distribute released plant propagules free of exotic and destructive pathogens. These activities prevent the introduction of damaging infectious agents and allow for gene research to improve U.S. agriculture.

The duties may include, but are not limited to:

  • Distinguish pest damage from symptoms due to improper watering or fertilizing, pesticide injury, or adverse environmental conditions.
  • Performs the necessary horticultural operations to propagate and grow seeds, roots, tubers, cuttings, scions, buds and plants under appropriate safeguards.
  • Perform basic and sophisticated laboratory procedures, and reads results of biological, serological and biochemical tests, and compiles results for the project leader and/or laboratory director.
  • Performs diagnostic procedures on samples submitted by post-entry inspectors or port officials, and test samples from emergency programs during eradication or containment efforts for novel pathogens.
  • Monitors the structure and function of quarantine facilities to ensure plant introduction survival, validity of tests, and pest containment.
  • Packages plant propagules, arranges for inspections, prepares invoices, ships released plant material, and arranges disposal in compliance with approved protocols and Federal and State regulations.
  • Processing different introductions of various prohibited crops through quarantine to detect a spectrum of pathogens, while maintaining accuracy in labeling and testing.
  • Assists in adapting, modifying and developing new techniques to improve the horticultural and testing procedures with other government and non-government agencies.

Conditions of Employment

  • You must be a US Citizen or US National


Applicants must meet all qualifications and eligibility requirements by the closing date of the announcement, including specialized experience and/or education, as defined below.

BASIC REQUIREMENT FOR THE 0434 SERIES: Degree: plant pathology; or a related scientific discipline that included at least 20 semester hours in basic botany or plant science, and 10 semester hours in plant pathology.

BASIC REQUIREMENT FOR THE 0437 SERIES: Degree: horticulture; or a related discipline of basic plant science that included at least 30 semester hours in the basic plant sciences, of which at least 16 semester hours were in horticultural subjects such as those dealing with the breeding, care, management, production, and post harvest handling of horticultural crops.

OR Combination of education and experience: courses equivalent to a major in horticulture or a related discipline of basic plant science that included course work as shown above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

FOR THE GS-11 LEVEL: Applicants must have one year of specialized experience (equivalent to the GS-9 level) that may have been obtained in the private or public (local, county, state, Federal) sectors which demonstrates:

  • Improving different aspects of plant care for plants.
  • Performing and improving multiple bioassays to test a wide range of plants for plant pathogens with minimal supervision.
  • Performing and improving multiple lab procedures to test a wide range of plants for plant pathogens with minimal supervision.
  • Experience continually updating and improving the pathogen testing databases.

OR 3 years of progressively higher level graduate education leading to a Ph.D. degree or Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree:

  • 0434 SERIES: Degree: plant pathology
  • 0437 SERIES: Degree: horticulture; or a related discipline

Equivalent combinations of education and experience are qualifying for this grade level.

How You Will Be Evaluated

You will be evaluated for this job based on how well you meet the qualifications above.

Applications will be evaluated in accordance with Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) Delegated Examining Procedures and USDA policy using category rating. Applicants who meet basic minimum qualifications will be placed in one of three categories: Best Qualified, Well Qualified, or Qualified. Within these categories, applicants eligible for veteran's preference will receive selection priority over non-veterans. Category placement will be determined based on applicants' quality of experience and the extent they possess the following knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) or competencies:


  • Agronomy
  • Botany
  • Pathology
  • Research
  • Speaking

Your application, including the online Assessment Questionnaire, will be reviewed to determine if you meet (a) minimum qualification requirements and (b) the resume supports the answers provided to the job-specific questions. Your resume must clearly support your responses to all the questions addressing experience and education relevant to this position. Those determined to be in the best qualified category will be referred to the selecting official for consideration.

Note: If, after reviewing your resume and/or supporting documentation, a determination is made that you have inflated your qualifications and or experience, your score may be adjusted to more accurately reflect your abilities, or you may be found ineligible. Please follow all instructions carefully. Errors or omissions may affect your rating. Providing inaccurate information on Federal documents could be grounds for non-selection or disciplinary action up to including removal from the Federal service.

To preview the application questionnaire, please visit: