SIPS Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology Section

We are making new scientific discoveries about the interactions between plants and microbes and developing innovative solutions to address the challenges of 21st century agriculture across the globe. We offer students and postgraduate scholars unparalleled opportunities to study the origins and consequences of plant diseases. At the same time, we provide essential information to decision-makers, including agriculture producers, educators, policymakers, home gardeners, and local communities. Learn more about the history of our section and the vision of our school.

Diversity of Pathogens

Fungi & oomycetes

Fungi and oomycetes represent some of the world most devastating plant pathogens and important plant symbionts as well as being critically important part of the plant and soil microbiome. Our faculty, staff and students include experts in fungal and oomycete taxonomy, molecular interactions, ecology and control.

Diversity of Pathogens


Bacteria are the sources of many important diseases. Our faculty, staff and students are experts in the control of bacterial disease as well as the fundamental interactions at a molecular level that control susceptibility and resistance.

Diversity of Pathogens


Viruses are important pathogens, studied by several of our research groups. Areas of investigation include interactions with transmitting insects, diagnosis of viral diseases and pathogen control.

Diversity of Pathogens


Several types of nematodes including the Golden Nematode represent serious threats to New York state agriculture. Researchers affiliated with Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology are experts the characterization of molecular virulence determinants as well as the biology and ecology of nematode pathogens.

woman examining fungi with a microscope
leaf with disease lesions
woman sitting in a research lab
three people examining plants in a lab

Cross-cutting themes & tools

From fundamental biology to sustainable disease management with cutting-edge tools of digital agriculture, to pathogen management in international settings, research in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology addresses many important questions and needs

woman bending over to look at test tubes in a fume hood

PPPMB researchers are identifying virulence factors and their targets to uncover sources of susceptibility and resistance and exploring how beneficial interactions with microbes can promote plant health.

woman in hat stnading in a vineyard

Plants fight to grow and thrive in the face of threats from diverse pathogens. Our researchers combat these threats with strategies like early detection, reduced inoculum and control measures, making use of cutting-edge tools in digital agriculture.

group of people with sacks of grain in India

The PPPPMB Section has a long history of research on global food security with individual faculty participating in a network of collaborations at Cornell and international centers and universities.

Graduate and undergraduate training

Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology offers degrees and training opportunities at all stages of the educational pipeline

students examine fungi

Graduate field of PPPMB

Graduate field of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology: Students interested in obtaining an M.S. or Ph.D. degree in this field can select among three concentrations:

  • Plant pathology
    Biology and integrated management of plant disease organisms

  • Fungal and oomycete biology
    Fungi and oomycetes including genomics, ecology and systematics

  • Plant-microbe biology
    Molecular genetics of interactions between microbes and plants

Undergraduate — plant sciences major

Undergraduates majoring in the plant sciences can choose to concentrate in plant pathology and plant-microbe biology, preparing them for careers related to disease and pest management, and for graduate study in plant pathology, mycology and the biology of plant-microbe interactions. 

Undergraduate — Fungal Biology Minor

Cornell is one of few places in the United States where students can receive in-depth training on fungi and their impacts. Undergraduate students in diverse majors can add a minor in fungal biology that provides a deep knowledge of fungi and expands their versatility in the workplace.

Undergraduate research — Summer Research Scholars

The Summer Research Scholars Program for undergraduates is offered by Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. Undergraduate students participate in exciting research projects in one of three disciplines including plant pathology and plant-microbe biology.

Undergraduate research — Microbial Friends & Foes

The Microbial Friends & Foes undergraduate research experience is sponsored by the Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease. Participants are placed in host labs at Cornell working on many different aspects of microbial interactions with plants and animals.

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 PPPMB Section

Learn more about recent developments in research, outreach, and education in Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe biology

2021 Gene Stewardship Award Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada team earns BGRI research award
The rust-resistant wheat cultivar development team at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) earned the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) 2021 Gene Stewardship Award for their long-standing innovations and strategies to combat wheat rust in...
  • Department of Global Development
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
Bunches of grapes hanging on vine


Breeding Insight – a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) project that provides cutting-edge resources to specialty crop breeding programs – and VitisGen2 – a multi-institution research collaboration led at Cornell AgriTech to develop new grape...
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section
Scientists look at plants.


A new multi-institution, transdisciplinary center will develop systems for two-way communication with plants, allowing scientists to remotely sense a plant’s biology and its immediate ecosystem, in hopes of one day using the information to improve plant growth.
  • Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture
  • Plant Biology Section
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
Colorful graphic with representations of wheat


This year the BGRI will host a virtual conference October 6-8 with the theme “Global Resilience: Science, Pandemics, and the Future of Wheat.” The 2021 BGRI Virtual Technical Workshop will explore how nearly two decades of monitoring and responding to wheat rust epidemics can provide lessons for other global disease outbreaks such as COVID-19. Keynote speakers will draw attention to how we can apply the lessons learned from wheat research and epidemic response to other pandemic diseases facing today’s world.
  • Department of Global Development
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section
Basil leaves with orange between veins, symptomatic of basil downy mildew


Nothing spells disappointment more during pesto-making season than visiting your basil patch only to find your carefully tended crop ravaged. But that is exactly what happened to Meg McGrath, a plant pathologist based at Cornell’s Long Island...
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Horticulture Section
  • Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section