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

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
An apple tree outside against a blue sky with a banner that says "Grow-NY Food & Ag Summit: Virtual Pitch Competition & Symposium - November 17-18, 2020. Registration: FREE, VIP Package: $75.


Virtual Grow-NY Summit to feature food and ag innovation
Smart drones that distribute beneficial insects on crops, packaging materials to extend the shelf life of bread, and technology to transform food waste into nutrients for hydroponic farming – these are a few of the innovations to be featured at...
  • Center of Excellence in Food and Agriculture
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
A female reaching for an apple hanging in a tree


Study charts how orchards can leverage mechanical thinning and pruning without spreading fire blight
New findings from the lab of Kerik Cox, associate professor of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology, indicate that there may be hope for producers vying to use these technologies. Published by the American Phytopathological Society in...
  • Cornell AgriTech
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section
A woman harvests in a valley


Ceres2030 project aims to help smallholder farmers cope with climate change
In academic publishing, one measurement of a work’s importance is how many other academics have cited it. This long-standing system has the benefit of simplicity and helping to form a common knowledge base. But especially for those working to...
  • Department of Global Development
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section
A statue of Norman Borlaug


USDA team honored with gene stewardship award from Cornell's BGRI
A research team from the United States earned the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) 2020 Gene Stewardship award for their pioneering work protecting global wheat crops from vulnerabilities to fungal pathogens that threaten global food...
  • Department of Global Development
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section