SIPS Plant Breeding & Genetics Section

Plant breeding is a critical tool in the fight for food security and responsible environmental stewardship in the 21st century. For more than one hundred years, Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University has been widely recognized for developing novel breeding methodologies and discovering economically important genes and varieties.

Ranked the top plant breeding department in the nation, our scientists and students conduct translational research that bridges the gap between fundamental research and its implementation in applied breeding programs. Learn more about the history of our section and the vision of our school.

Diversity of crops


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.

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Diversity of crops


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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Diversity of crops


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.

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Diversity of crops

Hemp & forage

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.

Diversity of crops


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.

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man in hat examines potatoes in the field
woman displaying apple varieties
man standing in a field of grain observed by a women wearing a red hat
two men working together at a lab bench
single pink flower blossom

Cross-cutting themes & tools

two drones in a corn field

Plant Breeding & Genetics faculty are developing and using the latest tools in digital agriculture for rapid and precise analysis of plant traits.

Woman giving a lecture

Our faculty are leaders in international agriculture, addressing problems in global food security through advanced breeding of rice, cassava and other staple crops.

people standing in a grain field

Whether developing new barley varieties, identifying lines of hemp, or breeding vegetables for regional conditions and markets, our faculty play an important role in supporting New York economic development.

Graduate and undergraduate training

Plant Breeding & Genetics offers degrees and training opportunities at all stages of the educational pipeline

group of researchers in a lab setting

Graduate field of plant breeding

Students interested in obtaining an MS or PhD degree in the graduate field of plant breeding can select among two concentrations.

  • Plant breeding

  • Plant genetics

Undergraduate — plant sciences major

Undergraduates majoring in the plant sciences can choose to concentrate in plant breeding and genetics, preparing them for careers in plant improvement and policy whether in private industry or public government/university sectors.

Undergraduate — plant breeding minor

Cornell is one of few places in the United States where students can receive in-depth training in plant breeding. Undergraduate students in diverse majors can add a minor in plant breeding, and gain in depth knowledge of this discipline.

Undergraduate research — Plant Genome Internship

The National Science Foundation-sponsored Plant Genome Internship introduces high school and undergraduate students to state-of-the-art techniques in plant biology and trains students in scientific ethics, laboratory safety, and data presentation.

Undergraduate research — other

The Office of Undergraduate Research provides information about exploring the wealth of research opportunities at Cornell.

The Honors Program in Biological Sciences is designed to offer advanced training in laboratory and field research through the performance of an original research project under the direct guidance of a member of the Cornell faculty.

Master of Professional Studies

Our MPS programs are one-year, course-based degrees, ideal for individuals interested in in-depth study of the issues and advancements in plant and soil sciences. Choose from specializations in Controlled Environment Agriculture, viticulture, public garden leadership, hemp science, plant protection, geospatial applications and more.

News from the SIPS Plant Breeding & Genetics Section

Learn more about recent developments in our research, outreach, and education

a field of malting barley growing


Cornell-bred malting barley has a name: Excelsior Gold
Formerly called CU-31, the barley got its name as a result of a contest co-hosted this fall by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Richard Ball, commissioner of Ag and...
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
A hand touches cassava stacked in basket


Next generation cassava varieties approved for release in Nigeria
Five new cassava varieties developed with support from NextGen Cassava have been approved for release in Nigeria. These next generation varieties deliver promising options for smallholder farmers in resisting cassava diseases and marketing their...
  • Department of Global Development
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
Tomatoes on a plant


Tomato could get genetic reboot from wild ancestor
Although today’s tomatoes are larger and easier to farm than their wild ancestor, they also are less resistant to disease and environmental stresses like drought and salty soil. Researchers from Boyce Thompson Institute have created a high...
  • Boyce Thompson Institute
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
brown soil laid out on a white counter


Worm-like, soil-swimming robots to measure crop underworld
Now, a Cornell project funded by two separate three-year grants will develop worm-like, soil-swimming robots to sense and record soil properties, water, the soil microbiome and how roots grow. A $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant...
  • Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Horticulture Section