Department of Plant Science

Offering Penn State degrees in agroecology, golf course turfgrass management, horticulture, landscape contracting, and turfgrass science.

Plant Science News

Sunset over a northern Illinois cornfield ... The shift doesn’t mean that Iowa and Illinois will stop producing crops, but it might mean that farmers in those states will adapt to a warmer climate producing two crops in a year or a different mix of crops
Warming Midwest conditions may result in corn, soybean production moving north
May 4, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — If warming continues unabated in the Midwest, in 50 years we can expect the best conditions for corn and soybean production to have shifted from Iowa and Illinois to Minnesota and the Dakotas, according to Penn State researchers. Using machine learning — a form of artificial intelligence that enables a computer system to learn from data — the team considered more than three decades of county-level, crop-yield data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service for 18 states in the central region of the United States. That area produces the majority of these crops. The researchers evaluated crop yields along with weather data. They considered fundamental climate variables to find yield predictors specific to each of the crop-growing phases. The study also analyzed the relationships between climate and corn, sorghum and soybean grain yield from 1980 to 2016.
The seed grants are supporting 47 projects aimed at preventing and treating COVID-19 and creating tools that address the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.Image: Fusion Medical Animation, Unsplash
Seed grants jump-start 47 interdisciplinary teams to conduct COVID-19 research
April 15, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With speed and ingenuity, more than 100 researchers across Penn State are shifting their research programs to address the COVID-19 crisis, thanks to funding from a seed grant initiative led by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. In total, the initiative awarded $2.25 million to 47 teams of researchers from three campuses, 10 colleges and more than 25 departments. “I am inspired by the nimbleness of our faculty to transition their research programs toward finding solutions,” said Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. “Our infrastructure at Penn State facilitates this transition. For example, the University houses a high-security BSL-3 laboratory that enables in vitro drug testing, as well as facilities for conducting genomics, metabolomics, fermentation and cryogenic electron microscopy, among many other features.”
Cereal rye shown here is being mechanically terminated with a roller-crimper in an organic no-till soybean system. Researchers compared tillage-based soybean production with reduced-tillage soybean production.
Organic soybean producers can be competitive using little or no tillage
April 1, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Organic soybean producers using no-till and reduced-tillage production methods that incorporate cover crops — strategies that protect soil health and water quality — can achieve similar yields at competitive costs compared to tillage-based production. That’s the conclusion of a new study by researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. These findings are significant, according to lead researcher John Wallace, assistant professor of weed science, because they may contribute to increased sustainable domestic production of organic soybeans.
Inside the movable high tunnel structure showing the experimental plot at Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center. The research is aimed at maintaining good soil health long term in high tunnels
Technique used to suppress soil pathogens, pests in high tunnels can work in Pa.
March 11, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A biological technique used to suppress soilborne pests and pathogens already used in warmer climates, with some modifications, will work in Pennsylvania and other more northern locations, according to a team of researchers. That’s good news for the growing number of vegetable and small-fruit growers using high tunnel cultivation structures who face difficulties maintaining good soil health long term, said team member Francesco Di Gioia, assistant professor of vegetable crop science, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.