Crop and Soil Sciences

Crop and Soil Sciences

Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences


Dr. James Crum
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Phone: 517-353-0134

Dr. Karen Renner
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Phone: 517-353-0233

Crop and soil sciences are the disciplines and technologies involved in managing the soil and using plants for food, fuel, feed and fiber, and turfgrass for lawns, golf courses and sports fields. Soil scientists, agronomists and plant pathologists promote soil health and improve crop production in sustainable systems all over the world while protecting our soil and water resources. Turfgrass managers work outdoors to improve the performance of turfgrass.

Plant, soil and microbial scientists seek solutions to problems related to world hunger, soil remediation, the effects of climate change on crops, water quality, plant diseases and much more. The major program and research areas within Crop and Soil Sciences are crop physiology and management, environmental soil sciences, microbial ecology, plant pathology, plant breeding and genetics,production ecology, soil fertility and management, turfgrass science and weed science.

Students engage in experiential learning through laboratory exercises at the Plant and Soil Sciences Building, the Hancock Turfgrass Teaching and Research Center, the MSU Agronomy Teaching and Research Center, and professional internships.

Students choose one of the following concentrations. Elective courses in each track allow students to customize the program to suit their interests and career goals.

  • Agronomic sciences prepares graduates to work as agronomists for agricultural businesses and government agencies such as departments of agriculture and/or natural resources, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Extension. Core areas of study are the chemistry and applies physics of soil, weed managemnet, plant biology and genetics, entomology and biotechnology.
  • Turfgrass management prepares graduates for careers in the management of golf courses, athletic fields, lawns, and parks and grounds. Core areas of study are turfgrass soil fertility, biology and chemistry, plant biology and genetics, turfgrass physiology and entomology, irrigation, and pesticide and fertilizer application
  • Advanced study is specifically for those who plan to pursue graduate studies. Students who complete the other two concentrations may also pursue graduate study, but this concentration requires the completion of advanced levels of mathematics and advanced courses in basic sciences.

Professional internship program

Crop and soil sciences students are required to complete a professional internship as part of their major requirements for graduation. This program provides an opportunity for students to bridge the gap between academia and experience, and a chance for employers to preview potential candidates for permanent employment. For the past four years, 100% of graduates have found employment.

Core areas of study 

  • Plant biology, physiology and chemistry
  • Soil physics
  • Soil science (chemistry and biology)
  • Plant genetics
  • Entomology
  • Plant pathology
  • Biotechnology
  • Weed management


The department awards over $100,000 per year in scholarships to students who demonstrate outstanding academic performance, character, leadership, and involvement in departmental, university and/or community service activities. Many scholarships also are available from related industry and civic groups.

Sample career opportunities

  • Agribusiness, manager
  • Agronomist
  • Crop advisor/consultant
  • Farm manager
  • Fertilizer, seed and crop protection chemical sales
  • Soil conservation
  • Research technician 
  • Golf course superintendent
  • Sports field manager
  • Professional lawn care service
  • Sod production

Course listing

To read more about this major and the classes required for it, visit: