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Complete profiles of the multiple research interests of many faculty and senior academics can be found in the Faculty and Senior Academics Directory. To search for faculty in specific disciplinary areas, see lists in the various Graduate Fields

Food Security

Global and national food security is one the greatest challenges we face. Here in the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) we are working on many fronts to develop strategies for increased food production.

  • Crop Systems

    • Optimizing inputs for enhanced productivity and sustainability
    • Genetic sources of tolerance to drought and other abiotic stress
    • Imaging for high precision resource management and digital agriculture
       
  • Biotic Interactions

    • Effective and sustainable weed control
    • Disease identification and early detection
    • Effective and sustainable pathogen control
       
  • Enhanced Food Value

    • Maximize productivity in diverse environments
    • Develop new cultivated plants with enhanced food value
    • Analytical strategies for genome-assisted breeding
    • Breeding methods and agricultural strategies targeted to the developing world

Crop Systems

Development and deployment of crop systems that use plant genomic diversity and field-data systems to maximize productivity, minimize resource inputs, and increase stress tolerance is integral to food security. Several focus areas are highlighted, though there are clear links to research areas described under other grand challenges.

Optimizing growing conditions to maximize productivity

  • Greg Peck researches strategies for increasing the production of value-added fruit-based products such as hard cider using sustainable management practices (news)
  • Steve Reiners focuses on cultural practices and variety selection for the processing vegetable industry, with particular interest in using cover crops to maximize nutrient cycling and reducing disease incidence
  • Terence Robinson is dedicated to improving fruit production through identification of rootstocks most suitable for New York growers and development of orchard management practices that improve fruit size and quality
  • Justine Vanden Heuvel researches how light and temperature influence flavor and aroma in wine grapes and how these environmental variables can be optimized to improve fruit quality (news)
  • Marvin Pritts focuses on berry production and how cultivation practices such as environment management with high and low tunnels can enhance growth in colder climates
  • Chris Watkins, in addition to his responsibilities as Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, researches management strategies for extending post-harvest storage of apples.
  • Anu Rangarajan, Director of the Cornell Small Farms Program, researches sustainability of vegetable production with a focus on reduced tillage systems in both organic and conventional production (SEA) (news)
  • Tim Martinson, Northern Grapes Project leader, focuses on how best to integrate varieties and cultural practices to maximize productivity and fruit quality in the New York environment (SEA) (news)

Controlled Environment Agriculture

  • Neil Mattson investigates how different environmental variables affect the growth of greenhouse crops and how variables such as lighting and greenhouse infrastructure can optimize indoor crop production (news)

Digital Agriculture

Learn more about the Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture (CIDA), an initiative which involves multiple SIPS faculty

  • Michael Gore’s research includes a major project focuses on development and application of field-based, high-throughput phenotyping tools for plant breeding and genetics research, and, in collaboration with Rebecca Nelson, image analysis for diagnosis of Northern corn leaf blight (news)
  • Sarah Pethybridge has generated image analysis tools such as Leaf Doctor and Estimate for diagnosis of fungal diseases, as part of their work on the epidemiology and control of diseases of processing vegetables (news)
  • Terry Bates collects and integrates data from soil, canopy, and crop sensors to understand spatial relationships and improve management of Concord vineyards (SRA)

Faculty and senior researchers with involvement in these areas: Neil Mattson - Jason Londo - Marvin Pritts - Steve Reiners - Terence Robinson - David G. Rossiter - Tim Setter - Justine Vanden Heuvel - Michael Gore - Sarah Pethybridge - Greg Peck - Rebecca Nelson - Terry Bates (SRA) - Tim Martinson (SEA)

Imaging technology for environmental analysis, resource management, and digital agriculture

  • Ying Sun, uses remote sensing of solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence and land surface modeling to quantify photosynthesis and its response to changing climate/stress.
  • Susan Hoskins, RS Program Leader at IRIS, is focused on collecting and summarizing information on the type and location of land use and land cover, as well as on other renewable and non-renewable resources
  • Stephen Smith, GIS Program Leader at IRIS, is focused on methods of spatial analysis, statistics and cartography, and their many applications to environmental analysis

Faculty and senior researchers working in Crop Systems:
Susan Hoskins - Robert Howarth - Jason Londo - David G. Rossiter - Tim Setter - Frank Shotkoski - Stephen Smith - Ying Sun - Harold van Es - Justine Vanden Heuvel - Peter Woodbury


Biotic Interactions

Plants fight to grow and thrive in the face of threats from weeds and pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and oomycetes. SIPS researchers are investigating ways of combating these threats using a range of strategies including early detection, reduction in inoculum, and chemical control. Several focus areas are highlighted, though there are clear links to research listed under our other grand challenges.

Strategies for effective and sustainable weed control

  • Toni DiTommaso’s and Matt Ryan’s research focuses on understanding how different environments influence weed species and how soil properties and biological agents, and cultivation practices can be used in weed control

Strategies for pathogen detection and control

  • Gary Bergstrom conducts research on disease of small grains, maize, and soybean focusing on factors that increase the risk and spread of disease, and the efficacy of different control methods for fungal diseases (news)
  • Kerik Cox investigates fungal pathogens of fruit crops such as apples, stone fruit, and bush berries, and how different management practices alter the pathogen life cycle 
  • David Gadoury explores innovative ways of controlling powdery mildew disease with UV-B light (news)
  • Keith Perry, Director of the New York State Foundation Seed Potato Program, has developed macroarrays for virus detection in potato and grapevine, facilitating the screening of plant material for large numbers of pathogens and having applications in quarantine and clean seed programs
  • Margaret McGrath is focused on management of vegetable crop diseases grown on Long Island using both conventional and organic production
  • Chris Smart’s research involves detection and management of fungal, oomycete and bacterial diseases of vegetables. Smart collaborates with the Mazourek program on selection of disease resistant lines.
  • Alan Taylor is focused on seed biology and development of seed treatments that protect against insect pests and pathogens

Faculty and senior researchers with involvement in these areas:
Gary Bergstrom - Kerik Cox - Antonio DiTommaso - Marc Fuchs - Margaret McGrath - Keith Perry - Sarah Pethybridge - Matt Ryan - Chris Smart  - Alan Taylor - Courtney Weber - Michael Gore - Rebecca Nelson - Margery Daughtrey - David GadouryJuliet Carroll - Lance Cadle-Davidson


Enhanced Food Value

Development of new cultivated plants and analytical strategies that make use of the latest genomic tools is integral to regional, national, and global food security. The highlighted focus areas are clearly connected to research listed under our other grand challenges including foundational research on plant genomics.  See also: Plant varieties licensed by SIPS faculty

Development of new cultivated plants with enhanced food value

  • Thomas Björkman is involved in development of commercial broccoli varieties from existing germplasm that are capable of thriving in growing conditions of northeastern states, thereby minimizing the flavor-killing lag between harvest and consumption that occurs when broccoli is imported from more temperate regions (news)
  • Susan Brown studies apple genetics and uses marker assisted breeding and transgene technology to develop new apple varieties including the recently released SnapDragon and RubyFrost.
  • Walter De Jong works on genetic improvement of potato by conventional and molecular genetic means as well as identification of genes that control tuber color and shape. (news)
  • Phillip Griffiths is focused on genetic improvement of snap bean and brassica crops, with particular focus on traits conferring resistance to plant diseases.
  • Susan McCouch conducts genetic analysis of rice and identification of genes and quantitative trait loci in wild and exotic species that enhance productivity of modern rice cultivars (news)
  • Martha Mutschler-Chu works on the genetic improvement of tomatoes and onion with a particular focus on pathogen and insect pest resistance.
  • Bruce Reisch specializes in development of new grape varieties with the aid of marker-assisted breeding technology. Wine quality, disease resistance, and cold tolerance are among the traits of greatest interest. (news)
  • Margaret Smith focuses on genetic improvement of maize with an emphasis on traits that enhance performance in marginal environments
  • Mark Sorrells is engaged in genomic analysis of small grains and the mapping and characterization of candidate genes associated with stem rust resistance, nutritional quality and other kernel properties (news)

Development of new analytical strategies for genome-assisted breeding

  • Kelly Robbins conducts advanced modeling and computational analyses for improving the efficiency of breeding programs and increasing understanding of complex traits
  • Ed Buckler’s research group uses genomics and statistical genetics to understand and dissect complex traits in maize and other crops, and develops software for relating genotype to phenotype
  • Jean-Luc Jannink’s primary focus is on developing statistical methods to use DNA markers in public sector small grains breeding
  • Michael Gore’s research group engages in genetic dissection of metabolic seed traits related to nutritional quality and contribute to the development and application of field-based, high-throughput phenotyping tools for plant breeding and genetics research

Faculty and senior researchers with involvement in these areas:
Thomas Björkman - Susan Brown  - Walter De Jong - Jeff Doyle - Michael Gore - Phillip Griffiths - Neil Mattson - Susan McCouch - Martha Mutschler-Chu - Rebecca Nelson - Marvin Pritts  - Stephen Reiners - Bruce Reisch - Kelly Robbins - Terence Robinson - Margaret Smith - Mark Sorrells - Alan Taylor - Chris Watkins - Gennaro Fazio - Edward Buckler - Jean-Luc Jannink - Tim Martinson  - Maricelis Acevedo

Application of breeding methods and agriculture strategies targeted to the developing world

SIPS researchers with interests in plant breeding and environmental conservation have a long history of involvement in international research, with collaborations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America and with a wide range of organizations. Selected international activities, not included under other focus areas, are described here. Read more about CALS International Programs

  • Ronnie Coffman, Cornell’s Director of International Programs, is engaged in developing world agriculture on several fronts including the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project and the NextGen Cassava Project
  • Andrew Mcdonald comes to SIPS from CIMMYT in Nepal and brings extensive experience in the global area to his position in international cropping systems
  • Rebecca Nelson is Scientific Director for The McKnight Foundation's Collaborative Crop Research Program that funds agricultural research in developing countries. Her research program investigates natural genetic diversity for quantitative disease resistance in maize
  • Sarah Davidson Evanega, Director of Alliance for Science, is focuses on leadership development and promotion of scientific innovation in developing countries in addition to advancing the role of women in agriculture
  • Vernon Gracen, Associate Director of the West African Center for Crop Improvement, trains plant breeders in traditional methods and new molecular technologies at locations in Africa and Thailand

Faculty and senior researchers with involvement in International Agriculture: Ronnie Coffman - Susan McCouchTim Setter - Johannes Lehmann - Rebecca Nelson - Julie LaurenMarvin PrittsKelly Robbins - Janice Thies - Harold van Es - Jian Hua - Phillip Griffiths - Michael GoreMark Sorrells - Andrew Mcdonald -  Dawit Solomon - Frank Shotkoski - Sarah Davidson Evanega - Peter Hobbs - Vernon Gracen  - Peter Gregory - Kandukuri Raman - Hale Ann Tufan - Maricelis Acevedo - Jean-Luc Jannink