The Department of Plant Sciences along with the fully integrated Crop Development Centre (CDC), provide a truly unique experience to students by offering teaching and research programs focusing on the physiology, development management and production of field and horticultural crops on the Canadian prairies and the management of non-arable lands.

We are the only plant sciences department in Canada capable of offering such a diverse experience in plant studies. Our close cooperation between the department and other research institutions on campus, such as the Plant Biotechnology Institute of the National Research Council, the Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Research Station, the Protein, Oil and Starch (POS) Pilot Plant and the Canadian Light Source allows graduate students to participate in interdisciplinary research.


Western Canada’s short, dry growing season makes rapid and efficient plant growth a critical issue to prairie producers, so scientists in the Department of Plant Sciences and Crop Development Centre conduct research to develop new crop varieties that will not only thrive under prairie growing conditions, but will supply vital commodities to global markets.

Agronomy of Horticulture and Field Crops

The agronomy of horticultural/medicinal crops includes research on crop improvement through standard breeding and molecular techniques, micro-climate modification, integrated pest management and various other aspects of the agronomy of potatoes, vegetable crops, spice crops and medicinal plants. 

Agronomy of field crops focuses on proper crop & weed management systems as well as non-herbicidal options of weed control. 

Principal Investigators: Steve Shirtliffe (field crops), Kate Congreves (horticultural crops)

 Applied Plant Ecology

Interactions between plants and their environment are studied at levels from molecular, individuals, populations, communities, and landscapes. Studies are conducted in a wide range of ecosystems including grasslands, forests, wetlands, and arctic tundra. Past and current research projects include plant species and genetic diversity, plant responses to climate change, vegetation dynamics in ecotones, ecosystem carbon balance, greenhouse gas emissions, conservation of species at risk, restoration ecology, fire ecology, and primary productions.

Principal Investigators: Eric LambYuguang Bai, Jonathan Bennett,

Organic Production Systems

Determining best organic weed control systems through the use of tillage, cultural methods and crop rotations are studied in both field and horticultural crops.

Principal Investigators: Steve Shirtliffe (field crops)

Nutrient management and biogeochemistry
Research focuses on fundamental mechanisms that regulate nitrogen and carbon cycling, ecosystem services, and crop nutrient use in intensive cropping systems such as vegetable production. Research projects explore: soil health and fertility as influenced by cropping system management; the edaphic and environmental factors regulating organic matter accumulation, loss, and stability; nutrient recycling and nutrient loss dynamics. Studies are conducted to examine soil health indices, soil organic matter composition, nitrogen transformations, nitrous oxide emissions, carbon sequestration, and crop nutrient use dynamics. Long-term results will provide a better understanding of soil ecosystem services and inform the development of better nutrient management practices.
Principal investigator: Kate Congreves
Integrated Forage Management & Ulitilization
Research combines a broad lens on the soil-plant-animal interface, using a systems-based research approach. Projects include ruminant nutrition, soil nutrient cycling, pasture management, winter feeding systems, greenhouse gas emissions and system economics. The work combines field and laboratory investigations using an interdisciplinary approach to understand how to optimize and enhance forage and beef production in dynamic biological systems.
Principal investigator: Bree Kelln

Research and training is focused on preparing students for a career in plant breeding, molecular genetics and genomics, and related disciplines. Research programs focus on training in classical and molecular breeding of field and horticultural crops with emphasis on deciphering the genetic basis of desirable phenotypes. Research is mulitdisciplinary, with integrated programs in plant pathology, genomics, biochemistry, physiology and agronomy, ecology and biodiversity, statistics and bioinformatics and crop end-use functionality. Unique to the Department of Plant Sciences is the full integration of the Crop Development Centre (CDC), which allows students the opportunity to focus on one of several crop species with economic value at the local and international level.

Breeding, Genetics and Management of Pulse Crops

Principal Investigators: Bunyamin Tar’an (chickpea), Kirstin Bett (dry bean) Bert Vandenberg (lentil and fababean), Tom Warkentin (field pea and soybean) 

Breeding, Genetics and Management of Cereal Crops

Principal Investigators: Curtis Pozniak (durum wheat), Pierre Hucl (spring wheat, specialty wheat, canaryseed),  Aaron Beattie (barley and oat)

Breeding, Genetics and Management of Oil Seed Crops

Principal Investigators: Bunyamin Tar’an (flax) 

Breeding, Genetics, and Management of Horticultural Crops

Principal Investigators: Bob Bors (fruit crops)

Breeding, Genetics and Management of Forage Crops

Principal Investigators: Bill Biligetu, Jonathan Bennett

Molecular Genetics and Genomics of Crop Plants

Principal Investigators: Ravi Chibbar, Curtis PozniakKirstin BettRandy Kutcher

Molecular Genetics and Genomics of Asexual Plants

Principal Investigator: Tim Sharbel

Plant Pathology

Plant Pathology research focuses on cereal, horticultural, and pulse crops and covers a variety of disciplines including epidemiology, fungicide research, integrated disease management, histology of infection processes, genetics of host-pathogen interactions, variation in pathogen populations, and breeding for disease resistance.

Principal Investigators: Randy Kutcher (cereal and flax crop pathology), Sabine Banniza (pulse crop pathology)

Weed Management

Weed Science research encompasses conventional, zero-till and organic cropping systems, integrated weed management strategies for various crops and weed biology/ecology. Herbicide studies concentrate on developing effective control measures for problem weeds in field and special crops, determining soil persistence and safe re-cropping intervals and improving herbicide efficacy through application technology.

Principal Investigators: Steve Shirtliffe (agonomy and weed ecology), Chris Willenborg (weed control)


Entomology research focuses on insects and arthropods that benefit or harm humans, primarily through their effects on crops. Research includes Integrated Pest Management (IPM), pollination biology, vector biology, biological control, and evaluation of breeding material for resistant and tolerance to insects.

Principal Investigator: Sean Prager

Abiotic Stress

Research encompasses plant responses and adaptation to environmental stressors including low temperature, early frost, salt, drought and heat stress from ecological to molecular levels. 

Principal Investigators: Karen Tanino

Physiology of Field Crops and Native Plants

The mechanisms of field crop plants grown on the Canadian Prairies as well as plant  from the Canadian Prairies and the Boreal Forest are studied with a focus on the regeneration using modeling approaches.

Field Crop physiology research focuses on growth and yield response to environmental factors and yield formation processes in field crops

Native plant past and current projects include seedbed ecology of grassland and forest species, dormancy induction and acclimatation of deciduous trees, using thermal and hydrothermal time to study seed germination, spatial variability in plant regeneration, germination of seeds in response to climate change, and abiotic stresses.

Principal Investigators: Yuguang Bai (native plants), Rosalind Bueckert (field crops)

Crop Adaptation

Research on the genetics and mechanisms of traits involved in plant adaptation provides the scientific knowledge base essential for informed crop breeding programs. Day-length sensitivity is an important factor in breeding crop cultivars, and early maturity (earliness) is an important trait in many regions of the world. In Canada, earliness is required due to the short growing season. Earliness may also protect the crop from various biotic and abiotic stresses such as diseases, heat, drought and frost. 

Characterization of early maturity (earliness) in crop plants allows plant breeders to combine this trait with other novel genes and create varieties targeted for different agronomic environments and management practices. This will improve overall productivity of the crop plant and lead to further knowledge on the genetic potential of crop plants for adaptation to environmental limitations.

Principal Investigators: Aaron BeattieBill Biligetu, Bob BorsBruce CoulmanPierre HuclCurtis PozniakBert VandenbergTom Warkentin

Crop Quality Genomics

Crop quality research focuses on using genetically modify carbohydrates and other bioactive ingredients in cereal and pulses to diversify their utilization. Research objectives are to improve grain quality (cereals and pulses) so that grain carbohydrates in addition to providing calories, grain based products improve gut health and reduce incidence of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. 

Principal Investigator: Ravindra Chibbar



Graduate Studies

Department of Plant Sciences along with the Crop Development Centre has the mission of teaching, research and outreach relating to the development, production and management of Field and Horticultural crops on the Canadian Prairies and the management of non-arable lands. The Crop Development Centre (CDC) is a “Centre of Excellence” field crop breeding organization that is fully integrated within the department.

The Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan provides a truly unique experience to students by offering studies in agronomy, crop science, horticultural science, plant ecology or rangeland studies in one department. We are the only plant sciences department in Canada offering such a diverse experience in plant studies at the master's and Ph.D. levels.

Students in the Plants Sciences Ph.D. degree program have the option to complete a dual Ph.D. degree. Students complete one thesis with two co-supervisors (one from each institution) and a joint committee composed of faculty from both institutions.  After fulfillment of all requirements, Ph.D. degrees are awarded from each of the United Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences (Japan) and the U of S in the field of plant sciences. Students pay tuition to their home institution and are based approximately half of the time at each institution.


Contact Us

Department of Plant Sciences
College of Agriculture and Bioresources
University of Saskatchewan
Room 4D36, Agriculture Building
51 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A8 Canada
Tel: 1 (306) 966-5855
Fax:1 (306) 966-5015

Department Head: Chris Willenborg