Our Vision

Leveraging fundamental insights to sustain natural and agroecosystems in a changing climate, through resilient plants, sustainably managed, serving the world

Our Mission

To address global challenges of food security, environmental conservation, biodiversity, and human health in a changing climate

Our Values

Our values align with those of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and Cornell University which are:

  • Purposeful Discovery
  • Free and Open Inquiry and Expression
  • A Community of Belonging
  • Exploration across Boundaries
  • Changing Lives through Public Engagement
  • Respect for the Natural Environment

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Strategic Plan 2022

Plants, their ecosystems, the soils in which they grow, and their associated microbes, are foundational to the health of our planet, and therefore to the health of humanity. In the coming decade, our global community will be increasingly challenged by a changing climate and pressures on our natural, as well as food and agricultural, ecosystems. SIPS students, staff and faculty have identified community goals and grand challenges with accompanying objectives aimed at local and global needs. Many of the SIPS activities are, by design, multi-disciplinary and include inputs and collaborations with other life science disciplines, as well as those from social, physical, and computer sciences, engineering, and the humanities. The ultimate goal of this plan is to strengthen current connections and build new bridges across the disciplines.

  • ​​​​​​Empower the SIPS Diversity and Inclusion committee to identify, define, and carry out strategic initiatives
  • Identify opportunities to expand the diversity of our faculty in concert with the CALS Associate Dean for Diversity & Inclusion
  • Engage leaders at every level in educational opportunities to enhance DEI awareness, commitment, and engagement.
  • Implement accessible and inclusive curricula, classrooms and research infrastructure
  • Ensure diverse applicant pools for graduate programs through strong connections to inclusive institutions and organizations, reduced financial and administrative barriers, and participation in Diversity Preview Weekend
  • Translate research findings for the benefit of traditionally under-served stakeholders
  • Enhance communication and networking among sections and among faculty, staff, and students
  • Promote training at all levels in effective communication, leadership, and teamwork
  • Build a strong administrative, technical and academic staff to support the mission of SIPS
  • Review administrative structure by the management team to evaluate the functional support system against the goals outlined in the strategic plan. Engaging various stakeholder groups across the school, refinements will be identified and adjustments made to best align the staff structure to support these goals.

Grand Challenges

  • Leverage our knowledge of genetic diversity and plant physiology for crop plant improvement
  • Reduce crop losses through understanding of pathogen biology, plant resistance, and weed ecology
  • Enhance plant health with microbiome management and optimized growing conditions


  • Manage soil health for nutrient retention and beneficial water relations
  • Optimize cropping systems for diverse production scales and types (organic, conventional, perennial, annual)


  • Build systems for plant and soil health monitoring at multiple scales using sensing technologies
  • Create and deploy data analysis pipelines and decision support tools
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture through understanding and management of soil health, nutrient cycles, and soil microbiology
  • Remove atmospheric carbon dioxide using cropping systems, plant breeding, plant/microbe bioengineering, and carbon sequestration
  • Recycle agricultural, food, and human wastes as soil amendments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (circular economy)
  • Discover new opportunities for climate change mitigation via advances in remote sensing and geospatial applications


  • Describe and model climate impacts on plant and microbe biodiversity
  • Identify and manage climate-exacerbated weeds and pathogens
  • Detect and mitigate plant responses to climate stress with plant breeding and bioengineering of sensor plants and microbes (synthetic biology)
  • Build resilient landscapes for climate-vulnerable populations through diversified cropping systems and integrated plant, soil and ecosystem science
  • Develop and sustain green spaces in urban/peri-urban areas encompassing parks, community gardens, botanic gardens, turf, and green infrastructure
  • Improve strategies to select and maintain trees and other plants in urban environments
  • Monitor and promote soil health and remediation in developed landscapes
  • Enhance and promote the ecosystem services of built environments such as erosion and flood control, habitat for wildlife, and carbon storage
  • Promote the human wellness benefits of greenspaces
  • Facilitate the vitality of diverse and effective urban agriculture practices in soil, raised beds, rooftop gardens, and protected environments
  • Improve the sustainability and economic viability of production of high nutrient density food in protected and controlled environments such as high tunnels, greenhouses, rooftop, and vertical farms (Controlled Environment Agriculture)
  • Define and model the evolutionary history and trajectory of plants across a broad range of spatiotemporal scales
  • Determine the developmental and environmental factors that drive adaptation of plants and plant-associated microbes


  • Elucidate processes underlying plant development, physiology, environmental responses and nutrition
  • Discover mechanisms governing plant-environment and plant-microbe interactions that include both beneficial and pathogenic microbes
  • Characterize and model the diverse relationships between plant systems, soil biogeochemistry and nutrient cycling, and their impact on climate


  • Leverage and integrate diverse data sets to model and predictively modulate biological processes
  • Bioengineer plants and their microbes with novel biological properties, and generate new plant-based products and synthetic communities (synthetic biology)