Plant Breeding

2014-15 Tuition

Research degree: $20,800; professional degree: $30,785

Application deadlines

Fall, Dec. 1; spring, July 1

Requirements summary

  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for Non-Native English Applicants
  • three recommendations
  • GRE general test for U.S. applicants (advised for non-U.S. citizens and all applicants seeking financial support)
  • GRE subject test encouraged

Degrees

  • M.P.S.
  • M.S.
  • M.S./Ph.D.
  • Ph.D.

Subjects

  • Agriculture and Life Sciences (M.P.S.)
  • Plant Breeding (M.S., M.S./Ph.D., Ph.D.)

Major concentrations

  • plant breeding
  • plant genetics

The field of plant breeding encourages applications from students interested in crop improvement in the context of global agriculture. Faculty research areas include not only applied breeding of major crops such as cereals, forages, potato, and diverse fruits and vegetables but also molecular genetics and genomics of crop plants.

The applied breeding program deals with development of plant materials for greater yield, disease resistance, adaptability, quality, etc. and with studies of breeding methods and principles. Molecular and biochemical studies to identify and isolate agriculturally important genes seek to relate information from model species to crop plant genomes, to compare crop genomes, to assess genetic diversity, and to develop bioinformatic tools relevant to crop improvement. Conservation and evolutionary genetics of crop plants and their wild relatives is an additional topic of research. Many faculty members include both applied breeding and molecular study in their programs.

Faculty are located in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Boyce Thompson Institute, USDA Robert W. Holley Center (all in Ithaca) and in the Department of Horticultural Sciences (Geneva). Extensive greenhouse and field facilities are available. The molecular programs benefit from well equipped laboratories, the many plant-oriented programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and collaborative activities with other areas of life sciences at Cornell.

Course work available ranges from plant breeding methods to molecular breeding to intellectual property issues. Special opportunities are available for students interested in international experience. Graduate students receive a broad education preparing them for careers in many areas of plant biology and agriculture.

Prospective applicants may wish to correspond with faculty members in their area of interest. The list below gives general topics of research and/or crops studied for each field member. Additional information, including more detailed descriptions of faculty research and courses, is available on the Plant Breeding web site or from the graduate field office.

Mark Bridgen -- Concentrations: plant breeding; Research interests: breeding and development of ornamental plants; plant propagation
Susan Brown (Geneva) -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: apple breeding and genetics
Thomas Brutnell -- Concentrations: plant genetics; Research interests: transposon tagging in maize; light signaling in maize
Edward Buckler -- Concentrations: plant breeding; Research interests: maize diversity and functional genomics
Ronnie Coffman -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: international agriculture
Walter de Jong -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: potato breeding; molecular genetics
Jeffrey Doyle -- Concentrations: plant genetics; Research interests: plant molecular systematics; gene and genome evolution; polyploidy
Elizabeth Earle -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: applications of tissue culture and gene transfer for crop improvement
James Giovannoni -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: molecular and genetic mechanisms impacting fruit maturation and ripening
Michael Gore -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: breeding for nutrition, high-throughput phenotyping
Vernon Gracen -- Concentrations: Research interests: corn breeding, seed production, international agriculture, breeding methods
Phillip Griffiths (Geneva) -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: vegetable breeding and genetics
Owen Hoekenga -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: unintended effects of transgenic crops on plant composition and performance; metal interactions; biofortification of food crops
Jean-Luc Jannink -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: cost-effective methods of using DNA markers in public section small grains breeding
Stephen Kresovich -- Concentrations: plant breeding; Research interests: plant genetics; genomic diversity
Li Li -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: molecular approaches for improving crop nutritional and health values
Michael Mazourek -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: breeding; genetics and biochemistry of vegetables
Susan McCouch -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: rice molecular genetics; comparative grass genome analysis; database curation and design
Martha Mutschler -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: tomato breeding and genetics
Rebecca Nelson -- Concentrations: plant genetics; Research interests: disease resistance and management
Christopher Owens (Geneva) -- Concentrations: plant breeding; Research interests: molecular genetic variation and molecular biology underlying key traits and processes in cultivated grapevines
Wojciech (Wojtek) Pawlowski -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: plant breeding; plant genetics
Bruce Reisch (Geneva) -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: grapevine breeding and genetics
Larry Robertson (Geneva) -- Concentrations: Research interests: genetics and breeding of vegetable crops; genetic resources
Lawrence Smart -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: willow breeding and genetics
Margaret Smith -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: maize breeding and genetics
Mark Sorrells -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: plant molecular genetics and small grains breeding; comparative genomics
Donald Viands -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: forage breeding and genetics
Courtney Weber (Geneva) -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: breeding and molecular genetics of small fruits, especially strawberries and raspberries
Kenong Xu -- Concentrations: plant breeding; plant genetics; Research interests: tree fruit genomics

Assessment Plan for M.S. students

1. Learning outcomes
When students complete the M.S. they should be able to:

  • Assist in conducting original, publishable research in plant breeding/genetics
  • Demonstrate broad understanding about plant breeding/genetics
  • Write and speak effectively to professional and lay audiences about their research

Learn more about the assessment plan for the M.S. program in the graduate field of plant breeding.

Assessment Plan for Ph.D. students

1. Learning outcomes
When students complete the Ph.D., they should be able to:

  1. Conduct original, publishable research in plant breeding/genetics
  2. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge about plant breeding/genetics and at least one other area of study (i.e., their chosen minor field(s))
  3. Write and speak effectively to professional and lay audiences about their research and current issues in the discipline

Learn more about the assessment plan for the Ph.D. program in the graduate field of plant breeding.