Through comparative trials, publications, field days, training programs, and seed conferences, the section conducts many extension and outreach activities that provide reliable advice about crop varieties that perform best in New York and the Northeast. Faculty members use experience, technology, and innovation to interact with industry and growers' groups in New York State, the nation, and the world.

Crop Variety Testing

Faculty in Plant Breeding & Genetics conduct variety trials for a wide variety of crops including grains, forages, fruit, vegetables,industrial hemp and more.  See below for more information on our breeding programs.

man standing in a barley field



Vegetable breeders in the the Plant Breeding & Genetics section breed new and commercially appealing vegetables, research the genetics of important traits and develop new lines appropriate for regional growing conditions.

More information: 


Whether apples, grapes or berries, our researchers use the latest tools in genetics and selection to develop nutritious, appealing fruit varieties, adapted to local growing conditions and meeting the needs of the fresh and processing markets.

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Our researchers use advanced genetics tools for complex trait analysis and development of new varieties of small grains and maize with enhanced nutritional content and other traits of interest for product developers.

More information:

Industrial hemp, forage and bioenergy crops

Industrial hemp, forage crops, and plants used for biofuels represent important areas of research. They are the basis of emerging industries and in the case of forages, support New York state's dairy production.


Ornamental plant breeding introduces disease resistance, enhances winter hardiness and addresses consumer demand for new and interesting products. Much of Cornell's ornamental breeding is conducted at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead New York.

More information:

The Vegetable Breeding Institute (VBI) includes faculty at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison who are conducting basic and applied vegetable breeding research, as well as domestic and international members in the vegetable seed industry who actively support VBI research. Learn more.

Cucurbits and Peppers

  • New York is the nation's 4th largest squash producer and 7th largest cucumber producer.
  • Annual crop value: squash - $37M; cucumber - $18.5M.

The cucurbit and pepper breeding program breeds new varieties and evaluates several winter and summer squash, cucumber, melon, and pepper lines for release or pre-release based on yield, quality, novelty, and disease resistance. All variety testing is conducted at a single field site in Freeville, NY.

For more information, contact: Michael Mazourek

Onion and Tomato

Our breeder for these crops, Martha Mutschler-Chu, has retired.


  • NYS ranks 11th in potato production in the country.
  • Annual crop value: $61 million.
  • NYS potatoes are grown for both the chipping industry and fresh market sales.

The potato breeding program breeds and evaluates adapted potato lines in six field locations for release or pre-release based on yield, quality, novelty, and golden nematode resistance.

For more information, contact: Walter De Jong

The New York Seed Improvement Project (NYSIP) operates within Cornell's Plant Breeding extension program and consists of two divisions:

  • The Foundation Division amplifies and disseminates foundation seed stocks developed by Cornell breeders.

  • The Certification Division validates the identity, health and consistency of seed to enable seed growers and companies to market, promote and sell seed that is genetically pure.

Learn more.


The Field Crops website is for corn, forage, small grain, and soybean producers. Provides comprehensive information on each crop along with recommendations, a newsletter and more.

Cornell Field Crops

See also: Cornell Field Crop Variety Trials

The primary focus of the Forage Breeding Project is breeding and genetic research on alfalfa to improve yield, quality, and persistence.  Additionally, the project is also responsible for evaluating legume and grass cultivars for forage yield and quality, which consists of harvesting 4,000 – 5,000 plots at least three times per growing season. 

In addition to the more traditional “forages-as-feed” research, the project has evaluated perennial grasses and legumes as feedstocks for biofuel production.

Yield Testing Program

Dr. Julie Hansen leads the Forage evaluation part of the project in which legumes and grasses are tested in Ithaca and around the state.  Forage Yield Summaries and Trial Applications are available for download.

Perennial Field Crop Evaluation for Biofuel Production

Led by Dr. Donald Viands, with funding from the NY Farm Viability Institute and the Northern NY Agricultural Development Program, the goal of this program was to define diverse and ecologically-friendly sources of lignocellulosic feedstocks for New York's fast-growing ethanol production industry.

Multistate Project NE-1710: Improving Forage and Bioenergy Crops for Better Adaptation, Resilience, and Flexibility

The Forage Breeding Project is involved in NE-1710: Breeding and Genetics of Forage Crops to Improve Productivity, Quality, and Industrial Uses.

Multistate Project NE-1710 is a cooperative research project among perennial forage breeders in North America. There are four main objectives:

  1. Breeding crops with higher forage yield, improved forage quality for livestock production, longevity, and resistance or tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress conditions to provide more economical food production.
  2. Developing forage crops that will be productive under abiotic stresses, including drought, flooding, cold and warm temperatures, and soil salinity.
  3. Developing cultivars with improved biomass and quality, with improved resistance or tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress conditions. Research will include: improved seed germination, seedling vigor, biomass production, disease and insect resistance, etc., across multiple environments, especially on marginal soils where these species are likely to be used without competing with food crops.
  4. Improving the yield, nutritional quality, and storability of forage crops to ensure an ample supply of good quality feed to animals, an essential step in securing the food chain to the consumer.

Research Project Descriptions


Surya Acharya (LRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) surya.acharya [at] (surya[dot]acharya[at]agr[dot]gc[dot]ca)
Brian Baldwin (Mississippi State Univ.) bsb2 [at] (bsb2[at]msstate[dot]edu)
Bill Biligetu (SRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) bill.biligetu [at] (bill[dot]biligetu[at]usask[dot]ca)
Arvid Boe (South Dakota State Univ.) arvid.boe [at] (arvid[dot]boe[at]sdstate[dot]edu)
Charlie Brummer (UC Davis) ecbrummer [at] (ecbrummer[at]ucdavis[dot]edu)
Yves Castonguay (AAFC, St. Foy, Quebec, QC) yves.castonguay [at] (yves[dot]castonguay[at]agr[dot]gc[dot]ca)
Annie Claessens (AAFC, St. Foy, Quebec, QC) annie.claessens [at] (annie[dot]claessens[at]agr[dot]gc[dot]ca)
Bruce Coulman (SRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) bruce.coulman [at] (bruce[dot]coulman[at]usask[dot]ca)
Nancy Ehlke (Univ. Minnesota) nancy [at] (nancy[at]umn[dot]edu)
Michael Fitzner (USDA-CSREES) mfitzner [at] (mfitzner[at]csrees[dot]usda[dot]gov)
Andy Hopkins (Noble Foundation) AAHopkins [at] (AAHopkins[at]Noble[dot]org)
Zulfi Jahnufer (AgResearch, NZ ) zulfi.jahufer [at] (zulfi[dot]jahufer[at]agresearch[dot]co[dot]nz)
Nitya Khanal (SRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) nitya.khanal [at] (nitya[dot]khanal[at]usask[dot]ca)
Maria Monteros (Noble Foundation) mjmonteros [at] (mjmonteros[at]noble[dot]org)
Jesse Morrison (Mississippi State Univ.) jim46 [at] (jim46[at]msstate[dot]edu)
Ivan Mott (USDA-ARS) ivan.mott [at] (ivan[dot]mott[at]ars[dot]usda[dot]gov)
Yousef Papadopoulos (CLRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) yousef.papadopoulos [at] (yousef[dot]papadopoulos[at]agr[dot]gc[dot]ca)
Michael Peel (FRRL, USDA-ARS) mike.peel [at] (mike[dot]peel[at]ars[dot]usda[dot]gov)
Tim Phillips (Univ. of Kentucky) tphillip [at] (tphillip[at]uky[dot]edu)
Heathcliffe Riday (USDA-ARS, WI) heathcliffe.riday [at] (heathcliffe[dot]riday[at]ars[dot]usda[dot]gov)
Joseph Robins (USDA-ARS)  Joseph.Robins [at] (joseph[dot]robins[at]ars[dot]usda[dot]gov)
Donn Vellekson (Univ. of Minnesota) velle001 [at] (velle001[at]umn[dot]edu)
Don Viands (Admin. Advisor, Cornell Univ.) donald.viands [at] (donald[dot]viands[at]cornell[dot]edu)

Additional Information

NIMSS web site


Edward S. Buckler's Maize Genetics and Diversity Lab

The Buckler lab utilizes functional genomic approaches to dissect complex traits in plants, specifically maize and Arabidopsis.  Researchers exploit the natural diversity of these plant genomes to identify the individual nucleotides responsible for quantitative variation.  Current research is focused on developing tools and resources for complex trait dissection, such as drought tolerance and nitrogen use.

Public Seed Initiative

The Public Seed Initiative (PSI) is a collaborative effort of universities, government agencies, non-profits, and vegetable growers working to make organic vegetable varieties more easily available to all.