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Plant & Soil Sciences

Plant & Soil Sciences | Courses | Faculty

100 French Hall

Degree: Bachelor of Science

Contact: Deborah J. Picking

Office: 206 French

Phone: 545-2249

Head of Department: Professor Peter L.M. Veneman. Professors Autio, Barker, Bhowmik, Boyle, Bramlage, Craker, Gerber, Greene, Herbert; Associate Professors Bernatzky, Cox, Han, Simkins, Torello, Xing; Assistant Professors Carter, Ebdon, Mangan; Adjunct Professors Amarasiriwardena, Bonanno, Caruso, DeMoranville, Hashemi, Konjoian, Kostecki, Lavigne, Peterson, Spitko, Tease, Tiner, Winkler; Lecturer Picking.

The Field

Plant and Soil Sciences is the academic home to faculty, staff, and students interested in environmentally conscious and socially responsible management of plant and soil systems. This includes managed crop production and the interface of managed and natural systems within urban and suburban settings, focusing on plant, soil, and water resource management. Research, teaching, and outreach programs emphasize the study of and technology transfer related to growth of food and ornamental crops, protection of soil and water resources, improvement of plants, development of new crops, management of harvested materials, remediation of pollution in soil and water, and use of urban and agricultural by-products.

Faculty members have expertise in a wide range of disciplines including: crop production; genetics and plant breeding; plant physiology, nutrition, and growth regulation; environmental stress; soil physics, chemistry, morphology, and microbiology; and mathematical modeling.

For students studying Plant and Soil Sciences, learning extends beyond the classroom and the library. With on-campus laboratories and greenhouses in addition to nearby orchard and farm facilities, students receive hands-on training that enhances the classroom learning experience. Faculty work closely with students to provide individualized academic advising and guidance of independent study projects.

The Major

In addition to completing core courses in plant biology, soil science, math, and chemistry, students majoring in Plant and Soil Sciences must select an option (Business Management or Science) and declare a concentration
in a specific field of study, permitting customization of the major to suit individual interests and career goals.

Business Management Option

This option emphasizes the managerial, marketing, and economic aspects of a career in plant and soil sciences. Course work may be supplemented with a summer internship or cooperative education experience, providing students with an awareness of the realities of the marketplace and the competitive economic system.

Science Option

This option prepares student for careers in research and development, graduate study, or other work in the scientific aspects of the field. In addition to taking courses that help integrate scientific theory with practical skills, students are encouraged to gain additional insights into the field by participating with faculty in laboratory and field research projects.

Areas of Concentration

General Studies provides students with the most diverse sampling of courses in Plant and Soil Sciences. This concentration is suited to students who do not wish to focus their studies on a single commodity area or discipline. Students select courses from a variety of subjects, giving them a broad-based background in plant and soil sciences. This breadth of training makes students competitive for a variety of employment opportunities, especially those requiring broad horticultural training.

Ornamental Horticulture focuses on the identification, production, marketing, and use of herbaceous and woody ornamental plants. Coursework includes classes in plant identification, floricultural crop production, plant propagation, and integrated pest management. Cultural practices and environmental effects on plant growth and health are covered in detail. The curriculum provides up-to-date information on relevant topics such as optimizing plant yield and quality, reducing ground water pollution, conserving energy, and using environmentally safe and economically feasible methods of pest control. The Ornamental Horticulture concentration prepares students for rewarding careers in private industry, state and federal agencies, public gardens, and conservatories.

Soil Science examines the role of soil in the environment, focusing on physical, biological, chemical, and morphological properties. Courses focus on the need for productive soils in plant growth, prevention of soil degradation, bioremediation, pollution transport processes, waste treatment, wetland issues, and control of water pollution by soilborne contaminants. With an emphasis on protecting valuable resources, students study soil chemistry, plant nutrition, soil physics, soil microbiology, soil and water conservation, soil classification, and the interaction of these areas while emphasizing the protection of our natural resources.

Sustainable Agriculture focuses on the production of food, fiber, and other plant commodities through ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially conscious approaches. Students have the opportunity to focus their studies in the areas of agronomy, fruit and/or vegetable production. The curriculum emphasizes sustainable crop production, cultural requirements, crop physiology, soil productivity, prevention of soil and water degradation, integrated pest management, food quality, and post-harvest handling and storage. The University's location in the Pioneer Valley, a major vegetable production area, affords students access to local farms for first-hand views of modern cultural practices. The nearby orchard serves as a living laboratory where students study commercial apple production and learn about stone fruits, small fruit, and berry crop production. The program stresses the concepts and practices vital to the preservation of natural resources in managed plant systems.

Turf Management is concerned with the production and maintenance of grassed areas, such as home lawns, parks, and golf courses. This concentration integrates scientific theory and practical experience, covering such topics as grass and seed identification, turfgrass culture, physiology, pest control, and equipment maintenance. Students receive a well-rounded education, preparing them for excellent career opportunities in turf management. Job placement of turf graduates approaches 100 percent.

Requirements, regardless of specialization, are as follows:

BIOL 103 Plant Biology or equivalent

PLSOIL 397P Introduction to Plant Physiology or BIOL 510 Plant Physiology

MATH 104


CMPSCI 105 or 121

Restricted Electives

Dictated by the area of concentration selected; including at least one CHEM course.

Thirty Departmental Credits to Include:

105 Soils

380 Junior Year Writing

At least 6 credits of 500 level or higher


Specific course requirements are governed by the Area of Concentration selected. No more than six credits may be Independent Study, Senior Honors, Internships, or similar courses. Independent study credits may not be used to satisfy 500-level credit requirement.

Career Opportunities

The Bachelor of Science degree in Plant and Soil Sciences qualifies graduates for numerous career opportunties which vary in nature depending on the Area of Concentration studied. Graduates are employed as golf course superintendents, environmental consultants, soil scientists, growers of ornamental and edible crops, horticultural managers, state regulatory officials, wetland scientists, grounds supervisors, teachers, sales representatives, floricultural specialists, research technicians, and Peace Corp volunteers. A significant number of graduates continue for advanced degrees which provide additional opportunities in research, teaching, consulting, and public service in their chosen areas of specialization.

The Minor

All students planning to minor in Plant and Soil Sciences must have completed BIOL 103 or equivalent, CHEM 110 or 111, and PLSOIL 105. In addition, a student must successfully complete 15 credits in Plant and Soil Sciences with at least three credits at the 500 level and at the most one 100-level course. Students interested in minoring should plan their courses with a PLSOIL faculty adviser, prior to commencement of the program. An appropriate adviser can be selected through the Departmental Undergraduate Program Office. Certain course selections within the minor in Plant and Soil Sciences are suggested to accommodate students specifically interested in Ornamental Horticulture, Sustainable Agriculture, Turf Management, or Soils.

Plant & Soil Sciences | Courses | Faculty