Plant Sciences

With both the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture in the Top 10 nationally, no other university has Purdue's expertise and resources to address the world's food needs with the planet's population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050. To feed everyone, we must grow plants that deliver higher yield, are more nutritious, use water and nutrients more efficiently, and tolerate more environmental variations than today's agricultural crops.


  • Lead the world in understanding plant biology, translating those discoveries to commercially important crops, using automation to assess the performance of these crops under field conditions, and moving these improved plants or plant products through a pipeline for commercialization.
  • Expand research and education in plant biology by establishing a Center for Molecular Agriculture with 10 faculty positions. The center will conduct research into the customization of plants that will meet emerging needs locally and globally.
  • Develop a plant transformation facility that bridges the gap between the identification of valuable plant genes and their commercialization.
  • Develop an automated field phenotyping laboratory. This lab will position Purdue to be a leader in this new field.
  • Create a plant commercialization incubator facility that will enhance the value of Purdue intellectual property and make Purdue the preferred partner of industry.
  • Develop student leaders in the plant sciences.


  • Purdue has invested more than $20 million in the College of Agriculture for plant sciences research and education to strengthen the University's leadership in developing novel ways to help feed a rapidly growing world population.
  • In December 2015, Purdue announced a $2 million fund called Ag-Celerator to help launch startups and innovations focused on advancing crop traits and higher yields, and to support Purdue innovators who wish to commercialize patented intellectual property or Purdue know-how technologies in plant sciences. 
  • Purdue is hiring the researchers and developing the facilities needed for the University to strengthen its leadership in critical plant sciences research areas. Here are a few examples:
    • Center for Molecular Agriculture: This center, interdepartmental by design, gives researchers access to cutting-edge DNA sequencing and genome-editing technology that allows them to gather large data sets; integrate data into predictive models; and test those models through the production of specific, directed changes in the plant genome. The center also hired seven new faculty in the area of basic plant biology, and is in the process of hiring three more. 
    • Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center: This 25,500 square-foot facility at the Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE) was dedicated August 2016 and is the only facility of its kind at an American university. The center is designed to generate cross disciplinary research and profitable farming practices to address the increasing global demand for food security. The center is supported with a combined $4 million investment from the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council. AgReliant Genetics, Ag Alumni Seed and ALMACO are also key partners in the project. Researchers and students working in the center are learning how the genetic makeup of a plant adapts and reacts to the environment to produce complex plant traits such as growth, tolerance, and yield — otherwise known as phenotyping. 
    • Controlled Environment Phenotyping Facility: When complete in January 2018, this facility will allow highly uniform growth conditions for precise control and replication of experimental variables that cannot be easily controlled in the field. Researchers will be able to study a range of environmental and atmospheric conditions, watering, plant nutrition and soils, all while testing additional variables such as the effects of chemical application.
    • Beck’s Molecular Genetics Teaching Lab in Lilly Hall: Opened fall 2015, this student-centered, state-of-the-art learning facility accommodates twice the number of students in genetics laboratory courses each semester.
    • Seven new faculty positions in basic plant biology have been filled, with three more planned for the near future, and five new field science faculty have been hired.
  • Faculty from the colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, Science and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute are using sensors to gather information about how plants grow in the field. Massive data sets are being developed to integrate data into predictive models so that researchers can select the most promising plants for further research.
  • The Molecular Agriculture Summer Institute (MASI), an undergraduate and pre-college summer program, was created in 2014 to expose high school students and undergraduates to the wide-ranging field of plant sciences and molecular agriculture research. This popular program is designed to attract pre-college students into STEM, promote undergraduate research in plant biology, stimulate student and faculty collaboration, and train students for high-tech science careers.
  • In October 2015, the Office of Research and Partnerships and the Office of the Provost launched the Pillars of Excellence in Life Sciences Initiative, aimed at enhancing Purdue’s life sciences research and graduate education. These selected pillars will coalesce faculty interdisciplinary expertise around the life sciences, contributing to the plant sciences and drug discovery initiatives of Purdue Moves.

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