M. Soledad Benitez Ponce

M. Soledad Benitez Ponce

M. Soledad Benitez Ponce

Department of Plant Pathology



214 Selby Hall
1680 Madison Avenue
Wooster, OH

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Areas of Expertise

  • Soil and plant-associated microorganisms
  • Microbial taxa in the plant-soil interface


  • PhD, Plant Pathology, The Ohio State University (2008)
  • MS, Plant Pathology, The Ohio State University (2007)
  • BS, Biological Sciences, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (2002)

Soledad Benitez Ponce received her BS in Biological Sciences from Pontificia Universidad Catolica (PUCE), Quito-Ecuador in 2002. After a two-year research and teaching position at PUCE she began her PhD training in Plant Pathology at The Ohio State University, graduating from Ohio State in 2008. After graduation, Dr. Benitez Ponce returned to Ecuador to teach at the Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas (ESPE), where she began working on aspects of tuber blight suppression in Andean soils, in collaboration with Oklahoma State University and the International Potato Center. After working in Ecuador, she completed two postdoc programs, at Duke University and a USDA Research laboratory in South Dakota, respectively. At both locations her research was focused on high-through put approaches for plant-associated microbial community analysis, with particular interest in seedling endophytes.

Dr. Benitez Ponce joined Ohio State as faculty in the Plant Pathology Department in August 2017. She specialize in studies of diversity and function of soil and plant-associated microorganisms and their contributions to plant health, from the perspective of beneficial interactions. A key component of her program is studying microorganisms at the community level, therefore evaluating multiple microbial taxa in the plant-soil interface, and their potential interactions. Within this context, her research program focuses on questions related to a) agricultural management practices effects on plant-associated microbial community dynamics; b) endophytic microbiome establishment and factors affecting endophytic microbiome composition; and c) relationships between plant microbiome diversity and dynamics and plant disease incidence. In addition, she is interested in understanding how plant-microbe-microbe-environment interactions can contribute to the success and stability of microbial inoculants in crop production. For this, the Benitez lab applies molecular techniques and bioinformatic approaches to characterize and monitor microbial communities in plants and soil, as well as classic microbiology and plant pathology methods to aim at studies of microbial function in agriculture. The lab integrates results from field, greenhouse and laboratory experiments through the use of multivariate data analyses. Dr. Benitez Ponce’s current research is focused on management practices that promote diversification of cropping systems with particular focus on Ohio’s corn and soybean production, as well as tomato.