Dr. Lee M. Hutchins, 89, who was a plant pathologist with the Department of Agriculture for more than 35 years before he retired in 1955, died of a heart ailment Thursday at his home in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Dr. Hutchins joined the Department of Agriculture in 1941 as a scientific assistant in the bureau of plant industry.

After service in the Army in France during World War I, he returned to Agriculture and was sent to the Department's field laboratory in Fort Valley, Ga. He was in charge of the peach disease and horticultural field lab until 1935. He then became the director of all fruits tree disease investigations until he returned to Washington in 1941.

During his years in Georgia, Dr. Hutchins helped discover the cause of "phony" disease in peaches, and gained a reputation as an expert in the field of viral infections in fruit trees.

In Washington, he became head pathologist and chief of the division of forest disease research in the Department's forest service. He retired in 1955 and was given the Department's Superior Service Award.

In 1958, he went to Costa Rica to study plant diseases there. He worked in cooperation with the American Cocoa Research Institute and the inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences. He retired for a second time in 1976.

Dr. Hutchins, was born in Fennville, Mich. He earned a bachelor's degree at Michigan State University and a doctrate in plant physiology at Johns Hopkins University.

He served as president of the Botanical Society of Washington in 1952, and as vice president and then president of the American Phytopathological Society during the 1940s.

Among the many other organizations to which Dr. Hutchins belonged were the American Academy of the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Horticultural Sciences, and the Cosmos Club.

He leaves no immediate survivors.