Foundational Knowledge

Learn the ways our research in the School of Integrative Plant Science is advancing foundational knowledge of plants as model organisms, systematics and biodiversity, soil properties, and plant-associated microbes

  • Margaret Frank uses grafting as a tool to look at the coordination of growth and development between root and shoot systems, and the molecular mechanisms underlying grafting-induced traits.
  • Jian Hua’s research explores the molecular mechanisms underlying how plants respond to temperature variation and associated regulation of development and immunity.
  • Robert Turgeon investigates the physiology of phloem transport and its relation to leaf development and the structure and function of plasmodesmata.
  • Lailiang Cheng's research group is finding new ways to manipulate the sugar and acid content in apples in ways that enhance fruit quality.
  • Olena Vatamaniuk's research group is identifying proteins involved in metal transport and signaling with potential use in creation of iron fortified foods
  • Susheng Gan's research group is focused on regulation of senescence as a strategy for increasing crop yield and minimizing post-harvest loss
  • Li Li's research group is investigating plant genes involved in biosynthesis of pigments like carotenoids, as a means of enhancing nutritional value in crop plants
  • Jim Giovannoni, Carmen Catala and their research groups are characterizing developmental changes associated with ripening, revealing new genetic targets for improving flavor in tomatoes.
  • Laura Gunn studies nature’s vital, but notoriously inefficient, CO2-fixing enzyme, Rubisco, using synthetic biology to express more efficient Rubisco variants in crops.
  • Klaas van Wijk’s research group investigates the development and repair of photosynthetic apparatuses in plants using different photosynthetic pathways
  • Maureen Hanson’s research group has successfully re-engineeered chloroplasts of higher plants with high efficiency Rubisco from an alga and is working on transferring additional algal components to allow high efficiency function under normal atmospheric conditions
  • Mike Scanlon's research group investigates the developmental biology of leaves, revealing new strategies for optimizing leaf angles so light is more efficiently captured by the whole plant.
  • Adrienne Roeder analyzes plant developmental patterning over time by generating computational models from confocal microscope images (Roeder news)
  • Wojtek Pawlowski studies meiotic recombination using genetics, biochemistry and several advanced microscopy methods, such as restorative deconvolution, multiphoton excitation, and structured illumination microscopy.
  • Taryn Bauerle images very fine-scale spatial relationships between competing tree roots in a 3D space using X-ray computed tomography.
  • Gaurav Moghe’s research involves in silico process modeling and creation of predictive computational models to reveal enzyme function, pathway organization, and secondary metabolite pools (Moghe news
  • Joss Rose's research group is developing new protocols and computational tools to characterize cell wall proteins with particular emphasis on cell wall changes during fruit development and molecular interactions with pathogens
  • Zhangjun Fei's group has focused on developing computational tools and resources to analyze and integrate large scale “omics” datasets”, which help researchers to understand how genes work together to comprise functioning cells and organisms
  • Lukas Mueller's group coordinates the SOL Genomics Network which provides resources for genome analysis and genomic selection of solanaceous crop plants including tomato, potato, pepper, and eggplant.

Biodiversity resources such as the L.H. Bailey Hortorium are becoming ever more important for genomic study of biodiversity and evolution. The Hortorium's mission includes systematic studies of wild and cultivated plants, ethnobotany, molecular systematics, paleobotany, phylogenetic theory, biodiversity studies, and pharmaceutical studies of tropical plants.

  • Chelsea Specht investigates the processes and patterns involved in the evolution and diversification of monocots, with a focus on the Zingiberales.
  • M. Alejandra Gandolfo’s research centers on paleobotany, answering questions about the origin of angiosperms, the evolution of seed plant characters, and evolution of floras in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Kevin Nixon focuses on evolution and systematics of angiosperms with emphasis on the Fagaceae. He has also written software packages used for phylogenetic analysis.

Cornell's long history as a center of mycology and the study of fungal diversity and taxonomy is carried on by the faculty and staff associated with the Cornell Plant Pathology Herbarium

  • Kathie Hodge works on the biodiversity and ecology of fungi with a focus on insect-associated and food-spoilage fungi and is a national expert on fungal identification and poisoning

Understanding the properties of soils, soil impact on plant productivity, and the soil microbial communities is foundational to both environmental conservation and food security.

  • Dan Buckley investigates the soil microbiome and its impacts on ecosystem health, the plants we grow, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.
  • Jenny Kao-Kniffin investigates how soil microbes can be used to confer selective growth benefits to plants, providing a potential strategy for promoting growth of desirable plants and suppressing weeds without the use of chemicals
  • Janice Thies looks at the fate of insecticidal Bt-toxin in the soil, the role of the rhizosphere microbial community, and how different agricultural practices alter soil properties.
  • Johannes Lehmann's research is focused on understanding of biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrient elements in soil, developing methods for soil carbon sequestration with biochar, resource recycling from waste to fertilizers, and providing important insight into regional and global element cycles. (Lehmann news)
  • Harold Van Es’s program concerns precision soil management, with emphases on a holistic soil health management framework, and a computational tool for precision nitrogen management (Adapt-N) that was recently commercialized (Van Es news)
  • Enid Martínez focuses on molecular scale investigations of the interaction of organic carbon and nitrogen at mineral surfaces and the movement of major, trace, and toxic elements through plants and soil.
  • Maria Harrison 's group studies arbuscular mycorrizhal fungi which form associations with the roots of flowering plants and provide plants with phosphate in exchange for other nutrients. Understanding the molecular interactions that underlie phosphate transfer and development of symbiotic interactions may reveal new strategies for optimizing nutrient transfer to the host plant
  • Teresa Pawlowska's group studies also studies arbuscular mycorrizhal fungi and how bacterial endosymbionts of the fungi contribute to the symbiotic relationship.
  • Robert Raguso's research group studies how volatile plant chemicals influence behavior of insect pollinators and pests. By understanding the biosynthetic pathways responsible for production of these chemicals as well as the receptors and biochemical response pathways in insects, these interactions can be manipulated to promote plant growth and health.
  • Clare Casteel's research program focuses on viral pathogens of plants, their transmission by insect vectors, and the ecological and molecular bases of virus-host and virus-vector-host interactions
  • Adam Bogdanove's research group works on TAL effector proteins that are injected into host plant by pathogenic bacteria and activate expression of genes that determine susceptibility and resistance. By identifying new effectors and their target sequences in host plants, the targets can be genetically altered to promote disease resistance. TAL effectors are additionally being used as biotechnological tools for DNA modification.
  • Lori Huberman uses genetic and genomic tools to study how plant pathogenic fungi sense and respond to their environment. Accurate nutrient sensing is important for fungi to exploit environmental resources during plant infection or when breaking down dead plant material.
  • Awais Kahn explores mechanisms of disease resistance in apples; particularly to fire blight and apple scab using quantitative genetics and high-throughput methods for plant resistance phenotyping
  • Michele Heck's group uses affinity purification and mass spectroscopy to identify factors in host plants and insect vectors that interact with viruses and bacterial pathogens during different stages of transmission and disease development.  Factors important for virus transmission can be targeted by genetic modification of RNA silencing
  • Xiaohong Wang's research group is identifying nematode virulence factors that promote parasitism in potato.  RNA-silencing of nematode parasitism genes may prove an effective strategy for generating resistant cultivars.