Plant Breeding Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Plant Breeding

Program Description

The field of plant breeding encourages applications from students interested in crop improvement in the context of global agriculture. Faculty research areas include not only applied breeding of major crops such as cereals, forages, potato, and diverse fruits and vegetables but also molecular genetics and genomics of crop plants.

The applied breeding program deals with development of plant materials for greater yield, disease resistance, adaptability, quality, etc. and with studies of breeding methods and principles. Molecular and biochemical studies to identify and isolate agriculturally important genes seek to relate information from model species to crop plant genomes, to compare crop genomes, to assess genetic diversity, and to develop bioinformatic tools relevant to crop improvement. Conservation and evolutionary genetics of crop plants and their wild relatives is an additional topic of research. Many faculty members include both applied breeding and molecular study in their programs.

Faculty are located in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Boyce Thompson Institute, USDA Robert W. Holley Center (all in Ithaca) and in the Department of Horticultural Sciences (Geneva). Extensive greenhouse and field facilities are available. The molecular programs benefit from well equipped laboratories, the many plant-oriented programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and collaborative activities with other areas of life sciences at Cornell.

Course work available ranges from plant breeding methods to molecular breeding to intellectual property issues. Special opportunities are available for students interested in international experience. Graduate students receive a broad education preparing them for careers in many areas of plant biology and agriculture.

Prospective applicants may wish to correspond with faculty members in their area of interest. The field list of faculty gives general topics of research and/or crops studied for each field member. Additional information, including more detailed descriptions of faculty research and courses, is available on the Plant Breeding web site or from the graduate field office.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-3267

231 Emerson Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • plant breeding
  • plant genetics



Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec. 1

Requirements Summary:

Please note: the GRE general test is not required.

Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes for the field of plant breeding are broad as they are intended to encompass the shared core competencies that all students must have to succeed in their graduate work and future careers.
When students complete the Ph.D., they should be able to:
  • Conduct original, publishable research in plant breeding/genetics
  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge about plant breeding/genetics and at least one other area of study (i.e., their chosen minor field(s))
  • Write and speak effectively to professional and lay audiences about their research and current issues in the discipline