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.
- Faculty involved in breeding specific crops are found on the SIPS Research by Crop page
- Additional resources are listed on the Plant Breeding & Genetics Research page
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.
- Mazourek Lab (cucurbits, peppers, peas)
- Mutschler-Chu Lab, (tomatoes, onions)
- DeJong Lab (potatoes)
- Griffiths Lab (brassicas and beans)
- Vegetable Breeding Institute
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.
- Reisch Lab (grapes)
- Weber Lab (berries)
- Brown Lab (Horticulture Section, apples)
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.
- Small grain trials (wheat, oats, barley, triticale)
- Corn Grain
- McCouch Lab (rice)
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.
- Cornell Hemp
- Willowpedia (willow bioenergy crops)
- Forage trials
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.
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
- NYS ranks 5th in onion production in the U.S.
- Annual onion crop value in NYS: $54.2 million.
- NYS ranks 11th nationally for tomato production.
- Annual tomato crop value in NYS: $28.5 million.
For more information, contact: Martha Mutschler-Chu
- 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 goal of this division is to develop foundation seed stocks from breeder seed as the base for further production. Plant breeders normally produce only small amounts (i.e., ounces or pounds) of new varieties of seed. The Foundation Division of NYSIP develops breeder seed at larger quantities (i.e., bushels or tons) required as planting stocks for Certified seed growers.
Certified seed is recognized in national and state legislation as seed meeting high standards for genetic purity and quality. In New York, seed certification responsibilities are delegated to Cornell by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. At Cornell, these responsibilities are assigned to the NY Seed Improvement Project (NYSIP) within the Section of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Trained inspectors from the project inspect seed fields to make sure they meet the high standards required for Certified seed. Harvested seed lots must pass high quality standards. Certified seed, labeled with its distinctive blue tag, provides a standard for seed quality for NY farmers.
2021 New York State Certified Seed Directory
2021 New York State Certified Seed Potato Directory
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.
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:
- 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.
- Developing forage crops that will be productive under abiotic stresses, including drought, flooding, cold and warm temperatures, and soil salinity.
- 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.
- 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] agr.gc.ca
Brian Baldwin (Mississippi State Univ.) bsb2 [at] msstate.edu
Bill Biligetu (SRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) bill.biligetu [at] usask.ca
Arvid Boe (South Dakota State Univ.) arvid.boe [at] sdstate.edu
Charlie Brummer (UC Davis) ecbrummer [at] ucdavis.edu
Yves Castonguay (AAFC, St. Foy, Quebec, QC) yves.castonguay [at] agr.gc.ca
Annie Claessens (AAFC, St. Foy, Quebec, QC) annie.claessens [at] agr.gc.ca
Bruce Coulman (SRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) bruce.coulman [at] usask.ca
Nancy Ehlke (Univ. Minnesota) nancy [at] umn.edu
Michael Fitzner (USDA-CSREES) mfitzner [at] csrees.usda.gov
Andy Hopkins (Noble Foundation) AAHopkins [at] Noble.org
Zulfi Jahnufer (AgResearch, NZ ) zulfi.jahufer [at] agresearch.co.nz
Nitya Khanal (SRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) nitya.khanal [at] usask.ca
Maria Monteros (Noble Foundation) mjmonteros [at] noble.org
Jesse Morrison (Mississippi State Univ.) jim46 [at] msstate.edu
Ivan Mott (USDA-ARS) ivan.mott [at] ars.usda.gov
Yousef Papadopoulos (CLRC, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada) yousef.papadopoulos [at] agr.gc.ca
Michael Peel (FRRL, USDA-ARS) mike.peel [at] ars.usda.gov
Tim Phillips (Univ. of Kentucky) tphillip [at] uky.edu
Heathcliffe Riday (USDA-ARS, WI) heathcliffe.riday [at] ars.usda.gov
Joseph Robins (USDA-ARS) Joseph.Robins [at] ars.usda.gov
Donn Vellekson (Univ. of Minnesota) velle001 [at] umn.edu
Don Viands (Admin. Advisor, Cornell Univ.) donald.viands [at] cornell.edu
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.
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.