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Sustainable Plant Systems

Degree: BS

Campus: Columbus

College: Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

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

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.

Controlled environment agriculture is an interdisciplinary crop production science integrating horticultural science, plant health management, applied environmental science, and applied biological engineering to achieve sustainable crop production in various climate regions. Students will take classes in plant science, greenhouse management, hydroponics, fruit and vegetable production, plant health management, agricultural meteorology, and introductory engineering principles.

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 researchers are a valuable part of the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science (HCS). Our undergraduate students, including SPS majors, have a variety of opportunities to gain valuable hands-on research experience while learning new skills and techniques, which can be broadly applied across fields. 

Students conducting research will also get to work one-on-one with faculty and present their work at college and university level forums. They may also be eligible to receive a "Distinction" endorsement to their degree. Learn more about getting started in undergraduate research.

The following student organizations are just a few examples of groups that may be of interest to SPS majors:

  • Crops and Soils Club: We fundraise (including growing and selling tomatoes) to send our Soils Judging and Weeds teams to compete in events around the United States.
  • Student Growing Collaborative: We learn about and advocate for sustainable agriculture and food justice through workshops and events. We have a four-acre student farm that helps us learn first-hand about agriculture from crop planting to weed and soil fertility management.
  • Pi Alpha Xi (PAX): We're a national honor society, and our purpose is to promote fellowship between student, educators and the professional horticultural community who believe in enrichment of human life through plants.
  • Turf Club: We provide students interested in turf management the chance to interact professionally and socially with other students and industry and academic professionals both from Ohio State and around the nation.

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. 

Controlled environment agriculture opens doors to a wide array of career pathways, including crop care specialists, lead growers, directors of integrated pest management or food safety and quality, data scientists, computer or industrial engineers, logistics and inventory coordinators, and many more.

Horticulture graduates can find careers 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.