Specializations

Graduate students studying in the following areas receive the M.S. and/or Ph.D. degree in Agronomy, although students in plant breeding may choose to receive their degree in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics.

Crop Production and Management

The majority of this research is of an applied nature generally conducted under field conditions.  Presently, research in this area emphasizes:

    • forage crop nutritive value,
    • chemical composition and preservation,
    • cultural practices for maximizing crop returns including fertilizer practices and mineral nutrition of crop plants,
    • the use of chemical growth regulators for crop yield enhancement,
    • crop sequence,
    • tillage interactions,
    • weed control practices,
    • sustainable agriculture.

Botany, soils, and agronomy courses are recommended frequently for students specializing in crop production and management.  Ph.D. students in this area frequently minor in botany or plant pathology, but other options, including soils or plant breeding and plant genetics, exist.

Agroecosystems

The majority of this research is of an applied nature generally conducted under field conditions.  Presently, research in this area emphasizes:

  • cropping systems,
  • organismal interactions,
  • soil ecology,
  • atmospheric science,
  • plant ecology,
  • simulation modeling.

Botany, soils, and agronomy courses are recommended frequently for students specializing in agroecosystems.  Ph.D. students in this area frequently minor in botany or soils, but other options, including entomology, plant pathology, and plant breeding and plant genetics, exist.

Molecular Biology

The techniques of molecular biology are being used to analyze various traits affecting crop productivity or quality. Some of the specific areas of interest in the Agronomy Department include:

    • the identification and use of DNA restriction fragments as genetic markers in crop plants and the analysis of molecular events associated with the generation of new genetic variation,
    • the molecular analysis of the expression of genes affecting crop quality,
    • the genetic construction of Rhizobium strains that are competitive for nodulation and provide increased legume productivity.

Courses in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, and botany are recommended to students with interests in molecular biology. These students may choose from a wide variety of minors including genetics, plant pathology, bacteriology, and biochemistry. The University also offers a graduate program in Cell and Molecular Biology which has separate admissions requirements. Students admitted to this program can be advised by Agronomy professors who are members of the program.

Plant Physiology and Biochemistry

Plant Physiology and Biochemistry research involves the study of fundamental processes of growth, development and metabolism in crop species. Current research being conducted in the Agronomy Department emphasizes:

    • nitrogen and carbon metabolism,
    • enzyme functions, seed development and germination,
    • interfacing plant biochemistry, molecular biology, and physiology with breeding and genetics.

Plant physiology and biochemistry students usually obtain a strong background in chemistry, biochemistry, and botany. Biochemistry and/or botany are frequently chosen by these Ph.D. candidates for a minor field of study.

Plant Breeding and Genetics

Plant breeding and genetics research focuses on the major Wisconsin crops:

    • corn,
    • forage legumes and grasses,
    • small grains,
    • soybeans and peas.

Both basic and applied research is conducted utilizing whole plant, biochemical, molecular and cytogenetic techniques. Most research involves concentrated field work in the summer, supplemented by greenhouse and laboratory research during the fall and spring semesters.

Many students interested in plant breeding and genetics elect to obtain their degree under the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program. Those electing this option must fulfill the requirements of that program. However, they are housed in Agronomy (if their advisor is in Agronomy) and participate fully in activities of the Agronomy Department.

Weed Science

Research in the area of weed science is of both an applied and basic nature. Applied research is primarily directed towards control of annual and perennial weed species in row crops and forages.

Applied (field) research includes:

    • experiments studying crop rotation,
    • minimum-tillage practices,
    • control of problem weeds,
    • herbicide evaluation,
    • modifications of cultural practices.

Basic research (weed physiology and biochemistry) currently emphasizes:

    • absorption and translocation of herbicides by plants,
    • enzymology of herbicide metabolism,
    • mechanisms of herbicide action and selectivity,
    • herbicide properties and persistence in soil.

Botany, soils, entomology, and plant pathology course work is stressed for students working on an applied project in weed science, whereas biochemistry and/or botany courses are stressed for students working on a basic project in weed science. Opportunities also exist for cooperative study with scientists in closely related fields.