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Welcome to the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section in the School of Integrative Plant Science

The Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a center of excellence for classical plant breeding, as well as molecular approaches to crop improvement and creation of superior agricultural, horticultural, and ornamental varieties.

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Back row, left to right: Charles Burnham, Marcus Rhoades, Rollins Emerson, and Barbara McClintock. Front row, kneeling: George Beadle

Founded in 1907 by Liberty Hyde Bailey, Plant Breeding and Genetics is home to a lengthy and distinguished tradition that includes Nobel Prize winners George W. Beadle and Barbara McClintock. The department’s legacy of pioneering work was solidly established during the 1920s - 1940s, a period regarded by many as the “Golden Era of Genetics.” During these important years, a remarkable number of great scientists and leaders in the field of genetics emerged from the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell.

Cornell continues to build on its legacy of leading edge efforts to link genomics and breeding. One of only a few academic institutions training students in plant breeding today, our work is informed by global perspectives coupled with local action to address issues of sustainability and economic viability.



Plant breeding is one of five undergraduate concentrations within the Plant Science major. Undergraduates who specialize in Plant Breeding and Genetics learn the application of genetics to improve cultivated plants in preparation for successful careers in research, industry, agricultural extension, government, and international programs. In addition to a plant breeding minor program, the section offers several undergraduate courses in plant breeding and genetics, tissue culture, and genetic diversity.


The Field of Plant Breeding at Cornell University offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the areas of Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics. These advanced degrees provide the credentials that are generally required to direct or lead plant breeding research at private companies or public institutions. High levels of outside funding from industry, state and local grants, and foundations provide support for graduate assistantships. Alumni are leaders in agricultural programs in over 50 countries and succeed in careers in diverse academic, industrial, and government positions.

Research & Extension


Research in the section encompasses a broad range of local, national, and international activities, from basic studies of crop plant genomes to host plant resistance to pathogens and pests. Crop targets include cereals, potato, alfalfa, fruits, and vegetables. High yield, enhanced crop quality, and suitability for sustainable agriculture are additional research strengths within the section.


Through comparative trials, publications, field days, training programs, and seed conferences, the section conducts many extension and outreach activities that provide reliable advice about crop varieties that perform best in New York and the Northeast. Faculty members use experience, technology, and innovation to interact with industry and growers' groups in New York State, the nation, and the world.