Research is at the heart of advancing the horticultural understanding that will improve upon our practices for the next generation. Our researchers produce knowledge on a wide range of plant species, including the traditional horticultural plants, fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The department also conducts research on Minnesota’s native plant populations, including exotic species with invasive potential. Minnesota’s interesting climate—which in a single year can produce temperatures ranging from -50 to 100° F—offers researchers and students a special opportunity to study plant life in extreme conditions. The stable climate of Alderman Hall offers others the opportunity to research plant life on a more fundamental level in laboratories furnished with the latest technology.
Plant Breeding and Genetics
The special demands of our climate, with its hot summers and extreme winter cold, drive industry and public demand for University-developed cultivars and germplasm. We take this demand seriously and maintain breeding and genetics programs in apples, grapes, flowers, woody landscape plants, tomatoes, dry beans, and turf and ornamental grasses. Our research programs will continue to utilize emerging technologies to develop plants that can withstand climatic extremes, while requiring low inputs of water, nutrients, and pesticides.
Plant Growth and Development
Understanding the mechanisms that govern plant growth and development are central to all horticultural research, and the department’s investigation into these phenomena embraces both the molecule and the ecosystem—and everything in between. Our researchers in this area transverse the normative boundary that separates application-oriented science from basic cellular and molecular sciences.
Diminishing resources, climate change, and invasive species challenge our ability to grow plants even as the demand for high quality horticultural products rises. Sustainable horticultural practices are necessary in order to conserve natural resources, enhance our environment, provide economic opportunities, and meet our nutritional needs. Increasingly research on this topic is occurring in urban and peri-urban settings, and encompassing social programs to promote health and improve the quality of life for local communities.
Understanding the needs of supply chain members (such as breeders, producers, market intermediaries, and consumers) is critical for horticultural products’ success in the marketplace. Our researcher in horticultural marketing works with researchers from different disciplines and market stakeholders from the United States and around the world to evaluate alternative strategies for addressing statewide, national, and international demand for—and distribution of—horticultural crops through the application of marketing and economic principles and tools.