Program overview

The Crop Science concentration within the Integrative Plant Science MPS focuses on applying knowledge of crop plants to optimize crop use of light, water, mineral nutrients, and temperature, and to limit diseases, weeds, and insects. 

Crop Science is the study of crop systems for growing food, feed and fiber crops. Field crops represent the largest sector of plant-based agriculture, therefore, crop scientists can choose from a wide range of professional opportunities that involve identifying traits and environmental factors that need optimization, using latest technology for monitoring and interpreting crop development and performance, and managing crops in a productive and environmentally responsible way.

CALS MPS program details

Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program is an accredited, course-based, one-year master’s degree program that emphasizes professional development and intellectual investigation in the areas of agriculture, life sciences and global development. (The Integrative Plant Science MPS program is STEM-designated degree program.)

Though similar to a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in its academic rigor, the MPS degree differs from a traditional M.S. degree in its structure and focus. An M.S. is research-based, with students building a thesis over the course of two or three years. In contrast, the MPS degree is a one-year, course-based program where students study the intricacies and in-depth questions of their field of study. Instead of a thesis or research project, MPS students complete a capstone project during their final semester. To understand this difference in greater detail, please visit our FAQ page.

MPS students are part of a community of diverse students and faculty who share common goals, connecting research and practice to solve complex problems. 

The Integrative Plant Science Master of Professional Studies program is a STEM-designated degree with coursework requirements that differ slightly from other MPS programs at Cornell.

 

Field of Integrative Plant Science MPS Degree Requirements: 

Students earning the MPS in Integrative Plant Science complete 30 credits of graduate level courses (5000+), with at least 20 of these credits earned through the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, and at least 18 of these credits taken for letter grade. (Note that physical education courses and language courses do not count towards degree.)

Specific course requirements of the Integrative Plant Science MPS Degree are as follows:

  • Core Courses (13 credits required):
    • Professional Development (5 – 9 credits)
    • Quantitative Literacy (2 – 6 credits)
    • Capstone Project (2 – 6 credits)
    • View core course details. 
  • Concentration Courses (12 credits required):
    • Courses specific to your concentration - See details for this concentration below. 
  • Elective Courses (5 credits required)
    • Graduate level course you choose in consultation with your advisor..

Note: 2.5 GPA required for graduation.

This project may be an action program, the development of a plan to address a pertinent problem, the development of materials or methodology suited to the student's situation, or the development and execution of research appropriate to the profession. A formal project report must be submitted to and approved by the candidate's faculty advisor. 

Browse recent projects.

Concentration Courses

12 credit minimum of Primary and Secondary with at least 5 credits from Primary.

Primary:
  • PLSCI 6017 Cropping Systems Ecology (1 credit) - Crop ecology is the integrative study of biological, physical, social, and technological factors that govern the emergent properties arising from cropping systems at different spatial and temporal scales. It implicitly recognizes that achieving the goals for multi-functional (i.e. 'sustainable') agriculture cannot be achieved without understanding the functional interdependencies among these factors. This course serves as a graduate-level synthesis of 1) how crop and crop communities are influenced by the physical and chemical growth environment, 2) how the growth environment is modified by agronomy and, in turn, 3) how production processes are shaped by both managed and unmanaged factors. Readings and class discussions of key concepts compose the first half of the course, with the hands-on application of systems analysis tools emphasized in the second half.
  • PLSCI 5440/ENTOM 5440 Integrated Pest Management (4 credits) - Lectures integrate the principles of pest control, ecology, and economics in the management of pests across multiple systems. Labs consist of exercises to reinforce concepts presented in lecture and demonstrate pest monitoring techniques and the application of computer technology to management problems.
  • PLSCI 5210 Soil and Crop Management for Sustainability (3 credits) - Students learn about agronomy and recent advances in sustainable soil and crop management, and gain a lot of practical farming knowledge. Integrated perspectives on the physical, biological, and chemical aspects of soil management in the broader context of agroecosystems are explored. Soil and crop management practices and resulting interactions between soil, water, organisms, and organic and chemical inputs form the basis for discussions on diverse cropping systems, soil health, water quality and quantity, bioenergy, greenhouse gases, and sustainability.
  • PLSCI 5150 Weed Biology and Management (4 credits) - This course examines components of the biology, ecology, and management of weeds in crop and non-crop ecosystems, particularly in the Northeastern United States. The first part of the course focuses on biological/ecological factors that govern seed dormancy, plant growth, population dynamics, competitiveness, reproduction, and survival. Close attention is given to accurate identification of plants and to characteristics that make weeds competitive, undesirable, or both. The second part of the course examines strategies to control weeds, including their benefits and drawbacks. Aspects of chemical control, including classification, mode of action, selectivity, symptomotology, and resistance, are presented. Herbicide-tolerant crop (i.e., GMO) issues and health and environmental concerns of herbicide use are addressed. The use of integrated approaches to weed management is emphasized.
  • PLSCI 5140 Global Cropping Systems and Sustainable Development (3 credits) - With accelerating demands for food, feed, and fiber along with increasing recognition of the importance of agricultural systems to ecosystem services and rural livelihoods, the requirements of agricultural systems are simultaneously intensifying and diversifying. This course introduces foundational concepts that explain the distribution, productivity, and ecological impacts of the world’s major cropping systems from an interdisciplinary perspective, including soils, climate and water, markets, policies, and institutions. Through systems thinking and process-based agronomy, an emphasis is placed on assessing solutions for resolving core challenges to the sustainable development goals in the context of global change. Students gain insights into sustainable intensification technologies as well as the social process that support innovation. Evidence synthesis through a geographically-anchored case study and active participation in class discussions are required.
  • PLSCI 5110 Field Crop Systems (4 credits) - Principles of field-crop production of major crops used for food, feed, fiber and bioenergy. Includes introductory concepts of plant growth, development and maturation as they relate to crop performance and management, adaptation to soil, climatic and environmental conditions, tillage, mineral nutrition, pests, cropping sequences, management systems, and crop improvement. Grain, oilseed, biofuel and forage crops are emphasized. Laboratory includes field trips and demonstrations of the most important crop species, morphological and growth characteristics essential to environmental adaptation and response to management.
Secondary: 
  • PLSCI 6420 Mineral Nutrition: From Plants to Humans (3 credits) - Plants provide almost all essential minerals for humans and therefore plants are critical components of the human diet. Plant biologists address challenges of meeting the nutritional needs of the increasing world’s population by studying plants’ ability to uptake, translocate and accumulate mineral nutrients in edible tissues. By integrating basic plant biology with molecular breeding and genomics approaches, fundamental discoveries are utilized to have the greatest impact on solving biofortification of plant-based foods. This team-taught course explores the mechanisms of acquisition of mineral nutrients from the soil, translocation and accumulation in plant tissues, strategies to prevent mineral element deficiencies while avoiding their overload, and toxicity of noxious metals. Selected lectures focus on the relation between the nutrient status of plants and human nutrition and health.
  • PLSCI 6140 Weed Ecology and Management (3 credits) - Examines plant ecological principles governing weed population dynamics and weed-crop competitive interactions in crop and non-crop ecosystems. Development of sustainable weed management strategies.
  • PLSCI 6030 Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants (3 credits) - Genetic enhancement of crop value to humans began with domestication and continues with farmers' variety development and scientifically trained plant breeders' applications of Mendelian, quantitative, and molecular genetics. This course examines crop genetic improvement methods by discussing the history and current practice of plant breeding, tools available to breeders, choices and modifications of those tools to meet specific objectives, and challenges plant breeders face in developing varieties for the future.
  • PLSCI 5660 Soil Ecology (4 credits) - Discover the wonder of life underground. In this course, students study the amazing diversity of soil organisms along with their multifaceted functions in terrestrial ecosystems. The fundamental principles and features of biologically mediated processes in the soil and the functions of soil biota in both managed and unmanaged ecosystems are highlighted. Special topics include beneficial symbioses, biological control of plant pathogens, biogeochemistry of unique habitats, bioremediation and composting of organic wastes, among others. Laboratory focuses on molecular activities and traditional methods for assessing the abundance, activity, and diversity of soil organisms.
  • PLSCI 5600 Soil Science (4 credits) - Designed for students interested in a comprehensive introduction to soil science from both an environmental and plant management perspective. Divided into three units: (1) soil information unit introduces students to soil characterization, testing, mapping, classification, GIS, and land evaluation; (2) soil management unit addresses fertility, pest management, water, and microclimate, as well as erosion, conservation, pollution, and soil health; and (3) unit on the role of soils in ecosystems considers topics such as biodiversity, soils as sinks and sources of greenhouse gases, and the impact of soils on land use. Labs are initially field-oriented with an emphasis on learning practical skills needed to evaluate and manage soils. Subsequent labs focus on accessing, interpreting, and applying soil information.
  • PLSCI 5430 Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants (2 credits) - Introduction to current studies involving recombinant DNA technology and its application to the improvement of plants. Emphasizes genetic transformation methodology, gene expression systems, and strategies for increasing productivity. The course is directed toward undergraduates who wish to become familiar with the theory and practice of plant biotechnology.
  • PLSCI 5290 Remote Sensing and Modeling for Ecosystems (3 credits) - This course introduces advanced concepts of remote sensing and numerical modeling, with hands-on experience in data acquisition, processing, and interpretation. This course aims to explore key questions facing the agronomic and natural eco-systems using remote sensing techniques and ecological modeling at various scales. It provides hands-on experience in remote sensing techniques and using datasets/tools and model simulations to address research questions.
  • PLSCI 5010 Biology and Management of Plant Diseases (4 credits) - Introduction to the biology of the pathogens that cause plant diseases, and the diagnosis and management of plant diseases. Topics include the biology of bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, viruses, and nematodes; disease cycles; plant disease epidemiology; and the principles and practices of plant disease management. Intended for students who want a practical knowledge of plant diseases and their control, as well as for students preparing for advanced courses in plant pathology and plant-microbe biology.

next step spotlight

Deadline to apply: January 15*

*For regular Fall Semester start. Late applications may be accepted under exceptional circumstances.  Contact Tara Reed for more information: tln2 [at] cornell.edu (tln2[at]cornell[dot]edu).

robot and drone in corn field

Meet some of our Crop Science faculty

Faculty spotlight

Matt Ryan

Matt is an agroecologist who conducts research on sustainable cropping systems, cover crops,  ecological weed management, and perennial grains, and teaches  Principles and Practices in Certified Organic Agriculture.

"Our program works to increase cropping system sustainability through ecological intensification," he says. "Our research aims to answer applied agricultural questions that will directly benefit farmers."

Learn more about his research at the Sustainable Cropping Systems Lab website.

matt ryan in perennial grain field
Jerome Cherney
Jerome Cherney

E.V. Baker Professor of Agriculture

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Jerome Cherney
Profitable management of forage crops
Environmental sustainability
Grass bioenergy
Antonio DiTommaso
Antonio (Toni) DiTommaso

Professor and Section Head

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Antonio (Toni) DiTommaso
Weed ecology and biological weed management
Invasive plant species
Climate change impacts on weed performance and distributions
Peter Hobbs
Peter Hobbs

Adjunct Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Peter Hobbs
International agriculture
Tropical cropping systems
Agroforestry
vipan kumar headshot
Vipan Kumar

Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Vipan Kumar
Integrated weed management, including weed biology and ecology, crop-weed competition and cover crops
Herbicide-resistant weeds and herbicide-based weed control
Artificial intelligence and precision weed control
louis longchamps
Louis Longchamps

Assistant Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Louis Longchamps
  • ll928 [at] cornell.edu
Farm data management
Farmer-centric on-farm experimentation
Precision agriculture
Andy McDonald
Andrew McDonald

Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Associate Professor

Department of Global Development

Andrew McDonald
  • ajm9 [at] cornell.edu
Cropping systems ecology
Climate change adaptation and mitigation
Agricultural sustainability, food security, water resources, international agriculture, policy, and applied social sciences
man in field
Matt Ryan

Associate Professor

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Matt Ryan
Sustainable cropping systems and agroecology
Cover crops and ecological weed management
Organic production
Peter Woodbury
Peter Woodbury

Senior Research Associate

School of Integrative Plant Science

Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Peter Woodbury
Agricultural and forest ecosystems
Greenhouse gas emissions
Geospatial modeling, land use and environmental quality

Questions about Integrative Plant Science MPS? Contact us:

Dan Buckley
Director of Graduate Studies
Graduate Field of Integrative Plant Science (IPS)
Phone: (607) 255-1716
Email: dhb28 [at] cornell.edu (dhb28[at]cornell[dot]edu)

Tara Reed
Program Coordinator
Graduate Field of Integrative Plant Science (IPS)
Phone: (607) 255-2131
Email: tln2 [at] cornell.edu (tln2[at]cornell[dot]edu)

Marvin Pritts
Student Experience Coordinator
Graduate Field of Integrative Plant Science (IPS)
Phone: (607) 255-1778
Email: mpp3 [at] cornell.edu (mpp3[at]cornell[dot]edu)