Apr 09, 2020  
2020-2021 General Catalog (Year Under Revision) 
2020-2021 General Catalog (Year Under Revision)

Plants, Soils and Climate

Interim Department Head: Paul Johnson
Location: Agricultural Science 344A
Phone: (435) 797-7039
FAX: (435) 797-3376
E-mail: paul.johnson@usu.edu
WWW: http://psc.usu.edu/

Undergraduate Advisor:

Lisa Allen, Agricultural Science 416, (435) 797-0454, lisa.allen@usu.edu

Undergraduate Off-Campus Advisor:

Jen Forest, Salt Lake Center, (385) 646-7667, jen.forest@usu.edu

Graduate Program Coordinator:

Astrid Jacobson, Agricultural Science 338, (435) 797-2184, astrid.jacobson@usu.edu

Degrees Offered: Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Land, Plant and Climate Systems; BS in Residential Landscape Design and Construction, and Plant Science; Master of Science (MS), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Climate Science, Plant Science, Soil Science and Ecology; Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture (MPSH)

Undergraduate emphases:  Land, Plant and Climate Systems BS, BA - Environmental Soil Science; Sustainable Food Production; Applied Climatology ; Plant Science BS-Horticulture and Cropping Systems; Plant Science, BS-Research; Residential Landscape Design and Construction

Graduate specializations: Biometeorology MS, PhD—Agricultural Meteorology, Climatology, Micrometeorology, Remote Sensing, Turbulence in Plant Canopies; Plant Science MS, PhD—Crop Physiology, Crop Production and Management, Molecular Biology, Plant Breeding and Cytology, Plant Biotechnology and Tissue Culture, Plant Nutrition, Space Biology, Weed Science; Soil Science MS, PhD— Molecular Biology, Soil and Water Chemistry, Soil Biochemistry and Ecology, Soil Conservation Systems, Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition, Soil Physics, Soil-Plant-Water Relations, Soil Taxonomy and Genesis, Soils and Irrigation; Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture (MPSH)—Water Efficient Landscaping

One Year Certificate and Associate of Applied Science Degree: Ornamental Horticulture - AAS  

Full Details of the learning objectives, assessment plan, student outcomes, and evidence of continuous improvement for these programs of study can be found at psc.usu.edu/assessment.

Undergraduate Programs


The departmental curricula emphasize understanding the physical, chemical, and biological mechanisms that operate in the continuum of the soil, plants, and the atmosphere; and how they affect management of a wide range of agricultural and natural systems.

The undergraduate teaching program facilitates the acquisition and application of knowledge, understanding, and skills by students within their chosen field of study. The program also prepares students to develop lifelong learning skills, understand and appreciate diversity, be productive citizens of the world, and be professionals in their vocations.

The department also provides training of undergraduates for graduate school and maintains a strong graduate program in biometeorology, plant science, and soil science. The research that underlies the graduate program is conducted in biometeorology (micro- and meso-scale), crop biotechnology, crop ecology, crop physiology, crop science, horticulture (general and ornamental), plant breeding, soil microbiology, pedology, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil fertility, environmental soil and water science, and arid landscaping.

A major effort is directed at extending research and teaching programs to all citizens of the State of Utah.

Departmental Facilities

To support these objectives, departmental facilities include well equipped laboratories and greenhouses on campus. The University has significant acreage for field research at strategic locations throughout the state. In addition, the USU Botanical Center in Kaysville offers opportunities to a broad spectra of clientele. The department maintains state-of-the-art analytical equipment for the measurement of critical soil, plant, and climatic variables.


Departmental Admission Requirements

Persons meeting the admission requirements for the University are admitted to the Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate by listing the department major code on the University admission application form. A change of major form is used when students in good standing wish to transfer from another department to the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate.

ARCPACS Certification

Students who meet specific requirements are eligible, after five years of work experience, for professional certification as an Agronomist, Crop Scientist, Crop Specialist, Horticulturist, Soil Scientist, Soil Specialist, or Soil Classifier through the American Registry of Certified Professionals in Agronomy, Crops, and Soils (ARCPACS). General information about ARCPACS certifications can be found at https://www.agronomy.org/certifications/. Students interested in becoming certified should inform their advisor of their intent. This certification is granted in addition to the bachelor's degree.

Sample Four-year Plans

Students should consult with their advisor to develop a plan of study tailored to their individual needs and interests. Due to the many changes and new major options, degree plans are not published in this catalog. To obtain current information, students should visit the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Student Services Center.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The Plants, Soils, and Climate Department is dedicated to providing undergraduate students with opportunities to participate with faculty members in research and creative activities. Examples of recent research include seed germination requirements, plant growth regulators, salt cedar control, pasture growth dynamics, soil-less media characteristics, gene sequencing, and essential oils from native plants. In addition to faculty mentorship of such activities, students may obtain  grants of up to $1,000 for support of their projects. For further information, students may contact any departmental faculty member, or view the research website at: http://research.usu.edu/

Departmental Assessment

Review and assessment of departmental programs is a commitment of the Plants, Soils, and Climate Department. In 2010, the department completed a USDA-National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) review. On an ongoing basis, the department evaluates all academic programs. More information about departmental assessment can be found at: http://psc.usu.edu/htm/about/assessment/

University Honors Program

The University Honors Program offers students in all colleges and majors the unique opportunity to deepen their educational experience with hands-on practical applications of their academic knowledge. The Honors Program admits incoming, transfer, and existing USU students based on application. High achieving students with at least one year remaining are encouraged to apply.  See the University Honors Program catalog entry and website (honors.usu.edu) for more information.

Additional Information

For more information about requirements for undergraduate programs and the sequence in which courses should be taken, see major requirement sheets available from the Plants, Soils, and Climate Department.

Graduate Programs

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for the Plant, Soils and Climate department are similar to those of the USU School of Graduate Studies.  Students without an undergraduate or graduate degree in plant science, soil science, climate, or other biological or physical science discipline may be required to complete selected coursework prior to full matriculation into the graduate program. Qualified applicants are sometimes denied admission because faculty members do not have funding or time to advise additional students. Therefore, it is highly recommended that applicants discuss his or her goals with appropriate members of the graduate faculty prior to preparing an application. 

Degree Programs and Specializations

Research projects associated with the following degrees will vary over time so students are encouraged to visit the home page websites of the graduate faculty to determine research interests and lists of recent publications psc.usu.edu/htm/people. The Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees are offered as follows:

Plant Science: This degree includes research in the areas of environmental plant physiology, genetics, molecular biology, plant breeding, crop production, sustainable and organic crop and forage production systems, weed science, urban landscape management, and water management in agricultural and horticultural crops, including turf and other ornamentals.

Soil Science: This degree includes research soil and water chemistry/biogeochemistry, soil biology and ecology, soils and nutrient bioavailabilty, soil physics, soil and water management, soil genesis, morphology and classification, and sustainable agroecosystems.

Climate Science: This degree includes research of climate dynamics and variability, regional climate modeling, modeling of hydrological processes, spatial variation in surface fluxes of heat and water vapor, micrometeorology, and remote sensing.

Ecology: This is an interdepartmental program in cooperation with the Ecology Center.

A Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture (MPSH) is a Plan C Masters degree (coursework only) that prepares students for positions in urban water conservation, with the emphasis on urban landscape water management. This program is available to out-of-state students at in-state tuition rates through WICHE-WRGP.

Course Requirements

Course requirements for the degrees are determined by the student and his or her supervisory committee. Coursework will reflect areas of specialization and the student's academic background. Credit requirements can be found in the Graduate Degree Requirements . Students working toward an MS or PhD degree must also participate in the Plants, Soils and Climate departmental seminar.

Financial Assistance and Assistantships

The financial awards provided by the School of Graduate Studies  are listed in this site. Most monies used to assist students in the department come from research grants controlled by individual faculty members. Negotiations for financial assistance (research assistantships or part time employment) are made between faculty members and students.The MS and PhD in Biometeorology and the Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture are Western Regional Graduate Programs.

Additional Information and Updates

Additional information and updates concerning graduate faculty and graduate student opportunities can be obtained from the Web at: http://psc.usu.edu/

FACULTY - College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences