Courses of Study 2021-2022 
    Feb 21, 2024  
Courses of Study 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Plant Sciences

In the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences .

Course Offerings in Horticulture  

Course Offerings in Plant Biology  

Course Offerings in Plant Breeding and Genetics  

Course Offerings in Plant Pathology  

Course Offerings in Plant Sciences  

Course Offerings in Soil and Crop Sciences  


Plant Sciences Major

The program in Plant Sciences helps students understand how plants work from the molecular to ecosystem level so graduates can make new discoveries in the lab and field, produce enough food for a growing world population; breed plants to tolerate the heat- and drought-stress of climate change; develop sustainable cropping practices to produce healthful and nutritious food; investigate new methods to fight disease; and transform sterile urban environments into vibrant microcosms of nature.

Plant Sciences courses are taught by faculty in the School of Integrative Plant Science , which is the administrative home for the Sections of Horticulture, Plant Biology, Plant Breeding and Genetics, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, and Soil and Crop Sciences. Together, they represent one of the strongest groups of plant scientists in the world. Students in the program share a common interest in learning about topics associated with plant growth and development in the broadest sense, but beyond that common thread, individual career goals vary widely. Some have their sights set on careers in applied agriculture or teaching, others plan to contribute to advancements of our knowledge through research, and still others see study in plant science as a stepping-stone to specialized training in business, government, law or medicine.

More than 150 courses that deal directly with some area of plant science are offered in the School of Integrative Plant Science. There are also opportunities to engage in internships, undergraduate teaching, and research experiences. Students expecting to go on for a graduate degree are encouraged to participate in one or more of those experiences. Students who are planning to enter the workforce immediately upon completion of the B.S. degree are encouraged to obtain practical experience. This may involve summer employment in field research or in a plant production or maintenance-related industry such as a lawn and tree care company, commercial greenhouse, nursery, orchard, vineyard or winery, botanical garden or arboretum, crop production farm, or with Cooperative Extension.

In addition to classrooms and laboratories in five buildings on the Cornell campus proper, research and teaching facilities adjacent to the campus are freely available to students for hands-on practice, technical training, independent research projects, and internships. These facilities include research orchards and vineyards, golf courses and a turf research facility, the Cornell Botanic Gardens (including an arboretum and thousands of acres of natural areas), and vegetable and field crop farms. Demonstration/research facilities in Aurora (Cayuga County), Geneva (Ontario County), Highland (Ulster County), Lake Placid (Essex County), Middletown (Orange County), Odessa (Tioga County), and Riverhead (Suffolk County) are also available for undergraduate and graduate field study.

For more information about this major, see

Note: The faculty in the School of Integrative Plant Science have developed a revised curriculum for the Plant Sciences undergraduate program, as below. All students matriculating in Fall 2021 and later will be held to these revised requirements. Continuing students may choose, in consultation with their faculty advisor, to complete either the previous curriculum or the revised curriculum.

General Requirements

  • Prerequisites: The Plant Sciences major does not have any specific prerequisites for students matriculating as freshmen. However, general science coursework at the high school level, especially in biology and chemistry, will better prepare students for the rigorous science coursework in this major.
  • Plant Sciences majors are expected to take introductory coursework in biology, chemistry, and statistics, and a primary core of four plant-focused courses, followed by a selection of foundational courses and a suite of courses concentrating on the student’s area(s) of interest in the Plant Sciences, rounded out with a broadening course, an experiential practicum and a senior symposium.
  • Number of credits/category breakdown:
    • Introductory disciplinary courses: minimum of 14 credits
    • Primary plant science courses: 14 credits
    • Foundational plant science courses: minimum of 15 credits
    • Concentration courses: 10 credits
    • Broadening plant science course: minimum of 3 credits
    • Experiential learning course: 1 credit
    • Bookend courses: 6 credits

Program Requirement Details

  • Introductory disciplinary courses
  • Primary plant science courses
    • PLSCI 1101 : Plant Science and Systems (4 credits)
    • PLSCI 1420 : Functional Plant Biology (3 credits)
    • PLBIO 2410 : Introductory Plant Diversity and Evolution (3 credits)
    • PLSCI 4460  + PLSCI 4461 : Plant Behavior and Biotic Interactions, Lecture and Laboratory (4 credits)
  • Foundational plant science courses (students choose at least four courses from this list):
    • PLBIO 2480 : Vascular Plant Systematics (4 credits)
    • PLBIO 3420  + PLBIO 3421 : Plant Physiology, Lectures and Laboratory (4 credits)
    • PLBIO 3430  + PLBIO 3431 : Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering of Plants, Lectures and Laboratory (4 credits)
    • PLBIO 3440 : Evolutionary Plant Biology (3 credits)
    • PLBRG 2250 : Plant Genetics (4 credits)
    • PLPPM 3010 : Biology and Management of Plant Diseases (4 credits)
    • PLSCS 2600 : Soil Science (4 credits)
  • Concentration courses in Plant Sciences
    • Ten-credit minimum of related upper-level (3000+) courses from across the university that share a common plant-related theme built on foundational courses.
    • The courses chosen for a student’s concentration must be selected in consultation with their faculty advisor. Students are expected to submit a proposal to the Plant Sciences Curriculum Committee for approval of the concentration courses no later than pre-enrollment for the student’s first semester of the junior year–or if the student transferred in with junior standing, no later than pre-enrollment for the student’s second semester of the junior year.
  • Broadening course in Plant Sciences
    • Minimum of 3 credits, PLxxx at the 3000+ level, structured course
    • This course is selected in conjunction with the student’s faculty advisor to ensure that the student has sufficient breadth of learning in the discipline.
  • Experiential learning course in Plant Sciences
    • PLSCI 4900 : Reflection on Plant Sciences Experiential Learning (1 credit)
  • Bookend courses in Plant Sciences
    • PLSCI 1110 : Explorations in the Plant Sciences: Pathways to Success (2 credits) 
    • PLSCI 4925 : Plant Sciences Senior Portfolio (1 credit)
    • PLSCI 4950 : Senior Seminar in Plant Sciences (3 credits)
      This course is required of all graduating Plant Sciences students, including those who graduate early or in January or August.
  • Other requirements in Plant Sciences
    • ePortfolio: Plant Sciences students are required to create an ePortfolio to track and highlight their learning in the program. Plant Sciences students are expected to update their ePortfolio every semester and to present it to their advisor for academic credit in PLSCI 4925  before graduating. The ePortfolio requirement is introduced and started in PLSCI 1110 .

Learning Outcomes for the Major
Upon completion of the Plant Sciences major, students will be able to:

Use major concepts and principles from multiple areas of life science to explain plant-related phenomena

  • Describe plant biology at genetic, molecular, physiological, and organismal levels to integrate plant functionalities in a hierarchical manner, from individual cells to the biosphere.
  • Discuss evolution as the foundation of all biological systems and integrate evolutionary biology to describe patterns of plant diversity and ecological interaction.

Contribute to the expansion of the plant science knowledge base in the modern era

  • Formulate original questions about plants and translate these into empirically testable hypotheses.
  • Collect and analyze data obtained from original research, using methods that are reproducible.
  • Translate and apply experimental data to advance the field and solve real-world problems.

Articulate the influences of plant science on the world

  • Discuss natural and managed ecosystems at local, regional, and global levels and evaluate their effects on environmental sustainability and human health.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the ethical principles and global consequences associated with past, present, and future advances in plant science.
  • Succinctly and clearly communicate information about the breadth of issues in plant science to diverse audiences in oral and written formats.