Horticultural Biology Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study


Program Description

Although emphasis is on horticultural plants and systems commonly found in areas of temperate climate, graduate study on species and cropping systems of tropical areas is also possible by use of our extensive greenhouse and growth chamber facilities, and through conduct of thesis research in tropical areas.

Members of the graduate field of horticulture reside in the Section of Horticulture on the Ithaca campus, and at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. In addition, some faculty members of other sections such as Plant Biology, Plant Breeding, Soil and Crop Science, etc., may also be members of the graduate field of horticulture.

Minor fields of study may be selected from such areas as plant physiology, pathology, anatomy, or ecology; biochemistry; botany; entomology; taxonomy; genetics; education; soils; agricultural, resource, and managerial economics; communication; agricultural and biological engineering; and landscape architecture.

All students receive experience in academic education and Cooperative Extension programs.

Research facilities.
At the Ithaca campus, research facilities include laboratories equipped for studies of all aspects of plant physiology, including photosynthesis, pre- and postharvest physiology, biochemistry, biotechnology, photobiology, analysis for chemical elements, and tissue culture. Extensive greenhouse and growth chamber facilities permit varying degrees of plant environmental control. Facilities for postharvest research include rooms for refrigerated and controlled atmosphere storage. Field facilities include two research orchards for study of fruit crops, two vegetable research farms, an outdoor nursery, turfgrass research areas, and the Cornell Botanic Gardens, an extensive botanical garden. At the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, laboratories, greenhouses and growth chamber facilities similar to those in Ithaca are found. In addition, 600 acres of orchards and 200 acres of vegetable experimental farmland are available for research purposes. A wide range of apple, grape, and vegetable germplasm is maintained by the USDA Plant Introduction Station, the National Clonal Repository and the fruit and vegetable breeders. Research is also conducted at the Hudson Valley Lab (fruit research), the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center (grape and vegetable research), and the Fredonia Grape Research Station.

Contact Information

Website: https://cals.cornell.edu/school-integrative-plant-science/school-sections/sips-horticulture-section
Email: hortgrad@cornell.edu
Phone: 607-255-9573

134A Plant Science Building
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • breeding of horticultural crops
  • horticultural crop management systems
  • human-plant interactions
  • physiology and ecology of horticultural crops


Visit the Graduate School's Tuition Rates page.

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall: Dec 1; Spring: check with field

Requirements Summary:

A strong background in life sciences is important, as evidenced by grades, coursework and research projects undertaken. Three letters of recommendation are required. For all applicants submitting TOEFL scores, a minimum TOEFL of reading 20, writing 20, listening 15 and speaking 22 (Internet-based test) is required and a cumulative score is not acceptable. We urge serious candidates to contact our graduate faculty to introduce themselves, to discuss mutual research interests; and if appropriate, to plan a visit to Cornell. All application materials must be received by Dec. 1 for the fall term, or Sept. 15 for the spring term.

Learning Outcomes

The overall goal is to train future leaders in horticultural research, education and outreach in both industry and public landscape spheres.

  • Students will develop a working knowledge of commercial horticultural plant management (i.e. crop production and/ or landscape management).
  • Students will develop proficiency in horticultural research systems using appropriate current technologies and methods.
  • Students will become effective horticulture teachers and extension educators by first-hand experience with teaching assistantships (TAs) and extension- outreach assistantships (EOAs) and through participation in departmental outreach efforts.

Foster scholarship, research and communication skills in horticultural science

  • Students will master the application of the scientific method to experimental design and interpretation.
  • Students will have a contemporary knowledge of the biology underlying the horticultural processes they study beyond what is taught in graduate courses.
  • Students will develop effective writing skills that communicate research results to appropriate audiences.
  • Students will be proficient at delivering presentations based on their research results to diverse audiences, as measured by audience evaluations.

 Engage in and conduct original research

  • Students will advance knowledge in their discipline.
  • Ph.D. graduates will have the knowledge and training to design and implement original research, and share research findings through written and oral communication.
  • Students will, where appropriate, master and improve contemporary research techniques used in their discipline.
  • Students will become a national authority in the subject area of their thesis research.

 Prepare to be professionals in their discipline

  • Students will know, and be known to, leaders in their discipline.
  • Students will be familiar with the expectations of professionals in their field. (For those pursuing faculty positions, these expectations include curriculum development, teaching, grant writing and administration, publishing, team management, collegiality, professionalism, and outreach.)