Plant Sciences

The major in Plant Sciences, offered by the Department of Plant Sciences and Entomology, prepares undergraduates for professional careers in the many public and private sectors of horticulture. After successful completion of the major, students are awarded a degree in Plant Sciences in one of three tracks: turfgrass management, ornamental horticulture and sustainable crop production. Graduates of this program pursue careers ranging from landscape contractor, golf course superintendent, director of parks, botanical gardens or arboreta, garden center or floral shop proprietor, plant propagator, nursery production manager, vegetable or fruit grower, lawn service manager or technical representative for seed, equipment, and chemical companies, to name just a few of the opportunities available. Other graduates enter graduate school and pursue careers in research and education at public and private institutions. The unifying theme of the major is the development of sustainable culture and use of plants for amenity or food.

Graduates can meet the standards of several certification organizations. Students in the ornamental horticulture track qualify for certification with the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association and the International Society for Arboriculture. Graduates of the turfgrass management track qualify for certification as turfgrass managers or turfgrass specialists with the American Registry of Certified Professionals in Agronomy, Crops, and Soils, Ltd. of the American Society of Agronomy. These same graduates also meet the requirements for registration with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

The department manages over 50 acres of turfgrass, horticulture, and agronomy farms for teaching, research, and outreach. The C. Richard Skogley Turfgrass Center is the oldest turfgrass research/teaching program in the U.S. The department also maintains a 15,000 square foot controlled environment greenhouse complex for hands-on learning and research. These facilities are closely allied with the URI Botanical Gardens and E.P. Christopher Arboretum.

The Plant Sciences degree requires a total of 120 credits: 29-30 credits of pre-professional natural sciences that all majors must take including PLS 150, PLS 200, PLS 255, BIO 101, BIO 103, BIO 102, BIO 104, CHM 103, CHM 105 (or CHM 101 and CHM 102) or their equivalent; 30 credits in concentration courses; and 15 credits of supporting electives approved by a faculty advisor which are specific to the interests of the student.

Turfgrass Management Track.  The turfgrass management option is intended primarily for students who are interested in managing golf courses, athletic fields, commercial turf properties, sod farms or any other facilities comprised primarily of turf.  Students in this option will gain competencies in all aspects of turf production and management, with a focus on sustainable practices and integrated pest management systems.  Additionally, students interested in landscape management may also fall under this option but may take slightly different concentration courses which will address some of the other aspects of managing large, heterogeneous landscape properties.  These students may also take a number of classes in the Landscape Architecture program, which can fulfill their supporting electives.

In addition to the pre-professional courses all Plant Sciences majors must take, students in this track are also required to take PLS 215 and PLS 250.  Turfgrass Management students are also required to take 30 credits of concentration courses and it is suggested that in earning those credits, they take PLS 306, PLS 322, PLS 341, PLS 361, PLS 390, PLS 440, PLS 442, ENT 387 and ENT 411.

Ornamental Horticulture Track.  The ornamental horticulture option is intended primarily for students who are interested in nursery management, greenhouse production, the floral industry and the production and management of woody and herbaceous materials for landscapes and urban areas.  Students in this option will develop a wide set of skills allowing them to work in a diverse number of industries where ornamental plant production and management are practiced. Students interested in landscape management can also select this option, instead of the turfgrass management option, if their interests are focused more on trees than on turf.  As with the turfgrass management option, these students may also take Landscape Architecture classes to fulfill supporting electives.

In addition to the pre-professional courses all Plant Sciences majors must take, students in this track are also required to take PLS 215 and PLS 250.  Ornamental Horticulture students are also required to take 30 credits of concentration courses and it is suggested that in earning those credits, they take PLS 301, PLS 306, PLS 331, PLS 350, PLS 353, PLS 354, ENT 385 or ENT 387 and ENT 411.

Sustainable Crop Production Track.  The sustainable crop production option is intended for students with an interest in growing plants for food, managing food systems and developing sustainable approaches that minimize farming impacts on the environment while maintaining or improving the quality of food and the environment, where possible.  This option does require some animal science but its primary focus is on plant systems.  Students in this track will learn techniques and strategies for managing small, sustainable farming systems in addition to incorporating food production into the urban environment.

In addition to the pre-professional courses all Plant Sciences majors must take, students in this track are also required to take AVS 101, AVS 102 and AVS 132.  Sustainable Crop Production students are also required to take 30 credits of concentration courses and it is suggested that in earning those credits, they take PLS 275, PLS 311, PLS 312, PLS 324, PLS 325, PLS 332, NRS 212, ENT 385 and ENT 411.