Food Security

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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

Develop and deploy crop systems that use plant genomic diversity and field-data systems to maximize productivity, minimize resource inputs, and increase tolerance of abiotic environmental stresses.

Enhanced productivity and sustainability by optimizing nutrients and other environmental variables

  • Harold van Es's research group is looking at how environmental factors and management practices influence soil health. The van Es group has developed the Adapt-N program which growers can use to guide precision application of fertilizer, reducing costs minimizing environmental impact
  • Robert Howarth’s research group studies how land use and land management practices influence nitrogen and phosphorus cycles
  • David Wolfe’s research group examines the contributions of agroecosystems to global warming and advises growers on adaptation to climate change
  • Justine Vanden Heuvel’s group researches how light and temperature influence flavor and aroma in wine grapes and how these environmental variables can be optimized during vineyard management to improve fruit quality

Genetic sources of tolerance to drought and other abiotic stress

  • Tim Setter’s research group looks at the genetic sources of drought tolerance in cassava and maize with the goal of developing cultivars better able to grow in drought-prone parts of the world
  • Jason Londo’s research group looks to genetic sources of drought and cold tolerance in wild grapes species for use in breeding with cultivated grapes to produce no varieties that can be grown in more diverse environments. 

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.  Many SIPS researchers are investigating ways of combating these threats using a range of strategies including early detection, reduction in inoculum, and chemical control

Strategies for effective and sustainable weed control

  • Antonio DiTommaso’s research group is focused on understanding how different environments influence weed species and how soil properties and biological agents such as fungal pathogens or insects can be used in weed control
  • Russell Hahn’s research group is focused on development of weed control strategies with emphasis on no-tillage cropping systems and pest management guidelines that minimize development of herbicide resistance

Disease identification and early detection

  • Chris Smart’s research program engages in detection of fungal, oomycete, and bacterial pathogens of vegetables. Genome sequences of pathogens both to identify sources of inoculum and to distinguish among pathogen isolates with different levels of virulence.
  • Keith Perry’s 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

Strategies for effective and sustainable pathogen control

  • Gary Bergstrom’s group 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
  • Kerik Cox’s research group investigates fungal pathogens of fruit crops such as apples, stone fruit, and bush berries, and how different management practices alter the pathogen life cycle 
  • Marc Fuchs’ program focuses on the biology, spread, and control of virus disease of grapevine and assists with management of virus diseases of fruits and vegetables
  • Sarah Pethybridge’s program focuses on understanding the epidemiology and control of fungal diseases of processing vegetables including beans, beets, carrots and potatoes
  • Margaret McGrath’s research program is focused on management of vegetable crop diseases grown on Long Island using both conventional and organic production
  • Juliet Carroll coordinates Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for tree fruit berry and grape growers, working closely extension educators, faculty and growers to minimize pesticide use
  • Courtney Weber's research group develops improved berry varieties with emphasis on disease and insect resistance, fruit quality, and beneficial phytochemicals
  • Wayne Wilcox’s research program focuses on biology and management of grapevine fungal diseases addressing questions such as what factors contribute to disease susceptibility and how cultural practices alter disease development

Faculty and senior researchers working in Biotic Interactions: Gary Bergstrom - Elizabeth Bihn - Lance Cadle-Davidson - Juliet Carroll - Kerik Cox - Margery Daughtrey - Antonio DiTommaso - Marc Fuchs - David Gadoury - Margaret McGrath - Keith Perry - Sarah Pethybridge - Christine Smart Karen Snover-Clift - Courtney Weber - Wayne Wilcox

Enhanced Food Value

Optimizing growing conditions to maximize productivity in diverse environments

  • Neil Mattson’s program investigates how different environmental variables affect the growth of greenhouse crops.  Given that flower growers frequently grow many different cultivars and species in the same greenhouse, there is particular interest in identifying variables that benefit a wide range of plants.
  • Marvin Pritts’ research group focuses on berry production and how cultivation practices such as environment management with high and low tunnels can enhance growth in colder climates
  • Steve Reiners’ research 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’s program 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
  • Tim Martinson, Northern Grapes Project leader,is focused on how best to integrate varieties and cultural practices to maximize productivity and fruit quality in the New York environment
  • Alan Taylor’s research program is focused on seed biology and development of seed treatments that protect against insect pests and pathogens.
  • Chris Watkins, in addition to his responsibilities as Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, researches management strategies for extending post-harvest storage of apples.   

Development of new cultivated plants with enhanced food value

  • Thomas Björkman’s program 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
  • Susan Brown’s research group 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’s program works on genetic improvement of potato by conventional and molecular genetic means as well as identification of genes that control tuber color and shape
  • Phillip Griffiths’ research is focused on genetic improvement of snap bean and brassica crops, with particular focus on traits conferring resistance to plant diseases.
  • Susan McCouch’s program is focused on genetic analysis of rice and identification of genes and quantitative trait loci in wild and exotic species that enhance productivity of modern rice cultivars
  • Martha Mutschler-Chu’s research group 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.
  • Margaret Smith’s program focuses on genetic improvement of maize with an emphasis on traits that enhance performance in marginal environments
  • Mark Sorrells’ research group 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
  • Kenong Xu’s program is focused on characterization of regulatory networks in apple with an emphasis on those involved in stress resistance and fruit quality and longevity

Development of new analytical strategies for genome-assisted breeding

  • 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

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

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.

Faculty and senior researchers working in Enhanced Food Value: Terence Bates - Thomas Björkman - Susan Brown - Edward S. Buckler - C Thomas Chao - Ronnie Coffman - Walter De Jong - Jeff J. Doyle - John Duxbury - Sarah Davidson Evanega - Gennaro Fazio - Michael Gore - Vernon Gracen - Peter Gregory - Phillip Griffiths - Jean-Luc Jannink - Timothy Martinson - Neil Mattson - Susan McCouch - Martha Mutschler-Chu - Rebecca Nelson - Marvin Pritts - Kandukuri Raman - Stephen Reiners - Bruce Reisch - Larry Robertson - Terence Robinson - Margaret Smith - Mark E. Sorrells - Alan Taylor - Hale Ann Tufan - Christopher Watkins - Kenong Xu - Gan-Yuan Zhong