Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
Professor, Department of Global Development
Associate Dean and Director, Cornell AES
Margaret Smith came to Cornell University in 1987 as a faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, focusing on corn breeding. Since August 2020, she has served as the Director of the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station and Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell. She devotes the other portion of her time to research and extension related to plant breeding.
Margaret’s research is primarily on field corn, but also includes a small amount of work on sweet corn. Her research program emphasizes breeding for productivity and adaptation to New York growing conditions, improving insect and disease resistance, and breeding for organic systems.
Since 2001 Margaret has served as the Extension Leader for Plant Breeding and Genetics, conducting educational programs for agricultural audiences on crop varieties and seeds and talks about plant genetic engineering for a wide range of public audiences. She also oversees the New York Seed Improvement Program, which produces Foundation seed of new Cornell varieties and carries out seed Certification inspections for seed growers.
From 2008 to 2020, Margaret served as the Associate Director for the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station and from 1998 until 2001, she served as the Associate Director for Cornell Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. For 15 years, Margaret taught a Cornell course on genetic improvement of crop plants. Before coming to Cornell, Margaret worked in Latin America, first as a plant breeder at the Tropical Agriculture Center for Research and Teaching in Turrialba, Costa Rica, and later as a maize breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Texcoco, Mexico. The focus of her work in both of these positions was on improving crop varieties for small-scale and subsistence farmers in the tropics – a research interest she maintains to date.
Selected Recent Publications
- Baseggio, M., M. Murray, M. Magallanes-Lundback, N. Kaczmar, J. Chamness, E.S. Buckler, M.E. Smith, D. DellaPenna, W.F. Tracy, and M.A. Gore. 2020. Natural variation for carotenoids in fresh kernels is controlled by uncommon variants in sweet corn. 2020. Plant Genome. 2020;e20008.
- Falcon, C.M., S.M. Kaeppler, E.P. Spalding, N.D. Miller, N.Haase, N. AlKhalifah, M. Bohn, E.S. Buckler, D.A. Campbell, I. Ciampitti, L. Coffey, J. Edwards, D. Ertl, S. Flint-Garcia, M.A. Gore, C. Graham, C.N. Hirsch, J.B. Holland, D. Jarquín, J. Knoll, N. Lauter, C.J. Lawrence-Dill, E.C. Lee, A. Lorenz, J.P. Lynch, S.C. Murray, R. Nelson, C.M. Romay, T. Rocheford, P.S. Schnable, B. Scully, M. Smith, N. Springer, M. Tuinstra, R. Walton, T. Weldekidan, R.J. Wisser, W. Zu, N. de Leon. 2019. Relative utility of agronomic, phenological, and morphological traits for assessing genotype-by-environment interaction in maize inbreds. 2020. Crop Science 60:62-81.
- Baseggio, M., M. Murray, M. Magallanes-Lundback, N. Kaczmar, J. Chamness, E.S. Buckler, M.E. Smith, D. DellaPenna, W.F. Tracy, and M.A. Gore. 2019. Genome-wide association and genomic prediction models of tocochromanols in fresh sweet corn kernels. Plant Genome 11:180038.
- Kass, L.B., E.H. Coe, M.N. Cook, M.E. Smith, J.L. Singer (Eds.) 2019. Founding of the Maize Genetics Cooperation News Letter at Cornell University: A 90th Anniversary Tribute. (Foreword by E.S. Buckler) [e-book] Internet-First University Press, Ithaca, New York.
- Emmett, B.D., D.H. Buckley, M.E. Smith, and L.E. Drinkwater. 2018. Eighty years of maize breeding alters plant nitrogen acquisition but not rhizosphere bacterial community composition. Plant Soil 431:53-69.
- Gage, J., D. Jarquin, M. Romay, A. Lorenz, E. Buckler, S. Kaeppler, N. Alkhalifah, M. Bohn, D. Campbell, J. Edwards, D. Ertl, S. Flint-Garcia, J. Gardiner, B. Good, C. Hirsch, J. Holland, D. Hooker, J. Knoll, J. Kolkman, G. Kruger, N. Lauter, C. Lawrence-Dill, E. Lee, J. Lynch, S. Murray, R. Nelson, J. Petzoldt, T. Rocheford, J. Schnable, P. Schnable, B. Scully, M. Smith, N. Springer, S. Srinivasan, R. Walton, T. Wekdekidan, R. Wisser, W. Zu, J. Yu, and N. de Leon. 2017. The effect of artificial selection on phenotypic plasticity in maize. Nature Communications 8:1348.
- Huffman, R.D., C.A. Abel, L.M. Pollak, W. Goldstein, R.C. Pratt, M.E. Smith, K. Montgomery, L. Grant, J.W. Edwards, M.P. Scott. 2018. Maize Cultivar Performance under Diverse Organic Production Systems. Crop Sci. 58:253-263.
- Smith, M.E., S.A. Norman, and J. Singer. 2020. 2019 New York Hybrid Corn Grain Performance Trials. Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Plant Breeding and Genetics 2020-1. 12 pp.
- Lawrence, J., A. Kerwin, T. Overton, H. Darby, M. Smith, M. Van Amburgh, N. Dineen, S. Norman, K. Payne, D. Fisher, and S. Ziegler. 2019. New York and Vermont Corn Silage Hybrid Evaluation Program. Cornell University: Pro-Dairy, Animal Science, and Plant Breeding & Genetics; and University of Vermont Plant and Soil Science; Ithaca NY. 40 pp.
- Smith, M.E. and J. Singer. 2019. Corn guidelines: Hybrid selection. pp. 53-59. In: Thomas-Murphy, J. (ed.) 2020 Cornell Guide for Integrated Field Crop Management. Pesticide Management Education Program, Cornell University, Ithaca NY. 169 pp.
- Smith, M.E. and M.E. Sorrells. 2019. Small grain crops guidelines: Variety selection. pp. 122-128. In: Thomas-Murphy, J. (ed.) 2020 Cornell Guide for Integrated Field Crop Management. Pesticide Management Education Program, Cornell University, Ithaca NY. 169 pp.
Selected Recent Presentations
- Smith, M.E. 2020. From breeder selections to usable corn hybrids. Aurora Farm Field Day, virtual event, 6 August 2020.
- Smith, M.E. 2020. Breeding corn for organic systems: Experiences from the fringe (i.e., not the Corn Belt!). Illinois Corn Breeders School, Champaign-Urbana IL, 2 March 2020.
- Smith, M.E. 2020. Field corn varieties and breeding for organic systems. New York Certified Organic spring meeting series, Waterloo NY, 14 January 2020.
- Smith, M.E. 2019. Organic corn breeding. NOFA-NY and Organic@Cornell Field Day, Poplar Ridge NY, 16 July 2019.
- Smith, M.E. 2019. 20+ years of genetically engineered crops: What’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and have we learned anything?? University of Maine Cooperative Extension 2019 In-service Training for Agricultural Service Providers. Portsmouth NH, 31 January 2019.
- Smith, M.E. 2019. What does GMO mean to my farm? New York Pork Producers Annual Meeting, Corfu NY, 26 January 2019.
- Smith, M.E. 2019. Operationalizing gender data in breeding programs: priority setting and practicum. GREAT Gender Responsive Legume Breeding Course, Kampala Uganda, 17 January 2019.
- Smith, M.E. 2018. What you need to know about genetically modified plants to answer your customer’s questions, Floriculture Field Day, Cornell University, 8 August 2018.
- Smith, M.E. 2018. Managing corn diseases through breeding and genetics. Aurora Farm Field Day, Poplar Ridge NY, 12 July 2018.
- Smith, M.E. 2018. Plant breeding, genetics, and GMOs. Bergen Farm School Tour, Schuyler County Farm Bureau, Odessa NY, 30 May 2018.
- Smith, M.E. 2018. Who put those genes in my food?? Facts and myths about “GMOs.” Horticultural Inspector Training, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Albany NY, 1 February 2018.
- Smith, M.E. 2018. Understanding the (so-called) “GMO” issue. Catskill Regional Agriculture Conference, CCE-Delaware, Delhi NY, 11 January 2018.
- Smith, M.E. 2017. Sustaining public plant breeding: What are the funding problems? Keynote, p. 20-24. In: W.F. Tracy, J.C. Dawson, V.M. Moore, and J. Fisch (eds.), Intellectual Property Rights for Public Plant Breeding Summit, Raleigh NC, 13-15 August 2016. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Smith, M.E. 2017. GMOs: Food supply saviour or the devil in disguise? Proceedings 2017 Western Canadian Dairy Seminar. March 7-10, 2017. Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. WCDS Advances in Dairy Technology 29:19-34.
- Smith, M.E. 2017. Genetically engineered crops: Top-notch designer genes or the gene(ie) that got out of the bottle? pp. 8-15. In: 2017 Winter Crop Meeting Proceedings, Cornell Cooperative Extension South Central New York Dairy & Field Crops Team. January 20, 2017. Ithaca NY.
Maize breeding and genomics
Abiotic stress tolerance
Insect and disease resistance
Awards & Honors
- Outstanding Faculty Award (2015) College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Association
343 Roberts Hall
215 Garden Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14853
mes25 [at] cornell.edu
School & Section
- Bachelor of Science
Margaret in the news
More than 140 farmers, educators, consultants and researchers viewed the latest Cornell grain and forage crop research at 2023 Musgrave Research Farm Field Day in Aurora, N.Y., August 3. “As leaders in agriculture research, it’s really important...
- Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station
- Musgrave Research Farm
Two long-time research farm managers — with a combined 70 years of dedication to Cornell — retired this year, after careers spent facilitating research that has strengthened New York’s food system and agricultural industry. Steve McKay, former...
- Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station
- Freeville Research Farm
- Musgrave Research Farm