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Sustainable Plant Systems

Degree: BS

Campus: Columbus

College: Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Sustainable plant systems is broken down into five areas of specialization: agroecology, agronomy, horticulture, plant biosciences and turfgrass science. As the population continues to expand, there is an increasing need to limit our reliance upon imports while protecting the environment and ecosystem. Each of these disciplines play a special role in providing the world with plants for food, pleasure and recreation, and environmental improvement.

Admitted students who indicate their major as sustainable plant systems on their application directly enroll in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. A faculty member in the department is assigned as an advisor to assist students in program planning and is available for academic consultation. 


Agroecology focuses on understanding and applying ecological principles in crop production to integrate natural biological cycles and controls, make efficient use of resources, enhance environmental quality, and increase biodiversity. 

Agronomy is the application of biological, chemical and physical principles to crops and cropping systems to increase their efficiency in converting light and supplemental resources into food, feed and fiber products. Students learn to effectively regulate crop productivity through management decisions as they study the interrelationships among physical and biological factors.

Horticulture is the application of scientific principles to grow vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants as well as business principles to sell the commodities. Horticulture professionals must know many different kinds of plants and their basic characteristics: scientific and common names and how they grow, develop, reproduce and adapt to different environments. Using this knowledge they create growing conditions specific for a plant to have optimal growth and yield and reduce potential problems such as pests and diseases.

Plant biosciences is the study of plant form and function, diversity, reproduction, evolution and uses.

Turfgrass science is an integrated program that studies the grasses used to enhance our environment. Turf reduces glare, noise, air pollution, heat buildup and visual pollution; provides recreational benefits to outdoor sporting events such as golf, football, baseball and soccer; and creates an aesthetically attractive surrounding for homes, buildings and cities. Students learn to manage and maintain turf as they gain knowledge in plant biology, soil and turfgrass science.



Students can study abroad in Chile, China, England, Scotland, South Africa, Poland, Russia, Mexico and the Czech Republic, as well as other nations. 

All students are required to complete an internship locally, nationally or internationally.

Students in the sustainable plant systems major are encouraged to participate in research, working one-on-one with faculty and presenting their work at college and university level forums. Students conducting research can receive a "Distinction" endorsement to their degree. 

Student organizations of interest to majors of the sustainable plant systems program include the following:

  • OSU Crops and Soils Club
  • OSU Weed Science Judging Team
  • Soil Judging Team
  • Student Farmers Coalition
  • Landscape and Floriculture Forum
  • Turf Club
  • Pi Alpha Xi, the national honor society for horticulture

Agroecology graduates can find careers as conservation scientists, farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers; secondary and postsecondary agricultural sciences and conservation science teachers; and first-line supervisors of farming, fishing and forestry workers. Graduates can also find careers in the Peace Corps and graduate school. 

Agronomy graduates are employed by agrochemical, seed, grain and food processing companies and may become independent crop producers or professional agricultural consultants. Within the public sector, agronomists find employment with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), local and regional planning agencies, and the Cooperative Extension Service. 

With a specialization in horticulture, a student could be employed as a fruit/vegetable production manager, grower/manager in a greenhouse growing vegetables or ornamentals, nursery grower/manager, garden center manager or plant care specialist, farm market manager, community garden manager, research assistant, or horticulture pest management consultant. Students interested in landscape design and management may find employment as a designer, landscaper, landscape company manager or sales representative, interiorscaper, public or private garden manager or curator, tree care specialist, or landscape pest management consultant. 

Plant bioscience opens doors to a diverse array of career pathways including business, research in both governmental and private sectors, teaching, and agricultural extension. Students in plant bioscience are prepared for careers in plant biotechnology, pharmaceutical, energy, and chemical industries; in food and seed companies; in botanical gardens, museums and herbaria; or for graduate study in the field of plant biology and related plant science disciplines.

Turfgrass science graduates may find positions as golf course superintendents and assistants, athletic field managers, grounds maintenance managers, lawn care operators and sod producers.