Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food & Environment

Integrated Plant & Soil Sciences - Graduate


credit hours

thesis option master's


credit hours

non-thesis master's


credit hours

doctoral degree

Restart your search

The interdepartmental graduate program in Integrated Plant and Soil Sciences offers graduate work leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees with specialization in Crop Science, Horticultural Science, Forest Science, Plant Biology, and Soil Science. Our faculty belong to the Departments of Forestry, Horticulture, and Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment.   IPSS builds strength in the current graduate M.S. and Ph.D. research areas of Crop Science, Horticulture, Forest Science, Plant Biology, and Soil Science. The integrated program provides a unique opportunity to cultivate and exploit the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to graduate education and research. The IPSS program provides a dynamic environment that can evolve interdisciplinary credentials, programs, and projects tailored to suit the needs of current and future graduate students in the plant and soil science disciplines, and develop options responsive to developing scientific trends in agricultural science.   

With over 80 participants in three departments, the graduate faculty in IPSS program routinely produces over 130 books, journal articles, and other types of publications on an annual basis. This research and teaching activity is fueled by extramural grants that have averaged more than $5 million over the past 5 years. 

Our diversity lets us span the range of agricultural research from cellular molecular biology and nanoparticles to landscape scale watershed hydrology to ecosystem modeling on a regional and global scale. Our scientists grow the grapes and the grain and study the products in the bottles and the barrels. Whether cells, crops, forests, rangeland, or soils, our faculty and graduate students are involved in a vast array of laboratory and field-based research projects that address such topics as: Biofuels, Biotechnology, Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling, Cell Wall Synthesis, Crop Management, Crop Physiology, Developmental Biology, Ecosystems Modeling, Enzymology, Genetics and  Genetic Regulatory Mechanisms, Forest, Range, and Wildland Soils, Grassland Ecology, Hemp Production, Plant Breeding and Genetics, Plant Natural Products, Plant Physiology, Plant Production and Quality, Rhizosphere Science, Seed and Fruit Biology, Soil Biogeochemistry, Soil and Environmental Chemistry, Soil and Water Environmental Quality, Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition, Soil Genesis and Classification, Soil Management and Conservation, Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry, Soil Mineralogy, Soil Physics, Spatial Analysis and Precision Resource Management, Sustainable/Organic Production Practices, Tobacco Science, Turfgrass Science, Weed Science, Wheat Science.

Our latest research in the news includes:

  • Nanoparticles in the environment
  • Novel flavonoids
  • Agriculture and global climate change
  • New technologies in nutrient analysis
  • Agronomic practices that destroy soil fragipans and improve soil water holding capacity
  • Developing and releasing a new non-toxic tall fescue variety - Lacefield MaxQII

Our faculty excels in Teaching (two Great Teacher Awards from the UK Alumni Association in the past four years – John Grove and Mark Coyne), Extension (Service to American/World Agriculture from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents – Lloyd Murdock), and Research:

  • D.B. Pal Distinguished Chair Award - Bruce Downie
  • Thomas Poe Cooper Award - Seth DeBolt
  • Tobacco Research Lifetime Achievement Award - George Wagner
  • University of Kentucky Research Professorship - Art Hunt

With over 60 M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students, we have great diversity domestically and internationally. Domestic students come from Virginia to California; international students from China to Venezuela. Students come straight out of a Bachelor’s program, after years in the work force, or as part of continuing education programs at the University of Kentucky. Each graduate student identifies a specific research mentor to work on a thesis or dissertation project and each student works with a graduate committee to prepare an individualized program of academic study that will best prepare them to succeed in their project and in their career aspirations.


Master's (MS) or Doctoral (PhD) Degree - Application Requirements

  • CV
    • The CV should contain: name; address, including email address; schools attended and majors with graduation dates; work experience; research experience; teaching experience; publications and presentations; relevant special training. Limit to 2-pages and omit heading for which there are no entries.
  • Personal Statement
    • The personal statement should briefly explain your background, why you want to pursue a doctoral degree, what your research interests are, and what you propose to do in your career in the short (<5 years) and long term.
  • All applicants are automatically considered for competitive departmental assistantships.
  • Three letters of recommendation
    • ​Three letters of recommendation are required from faculty members or job supervisors familiar with the applicant’s teaching, learning, and research abilities. In place of the items on the common form, recommenders can attach a letter and rate the scholarly ability of the applicant in comparison with students in the same field who have approximately the same amount of experience and education: Outstanding (upper 5%), Very Good (upper 10%), Good (upper 25%), Average (upper 50%), or Below Average.  Further, please provide your recommendation for admissions to our program: Strongly recommend, Recommend, Recommend with reservations, or No recommendation.  Finally, please provide your estimate of the applicant’s promise as a graduate student. Give views on such matters as previous accomplishments and training, intellectual independence, capacity for analytical thinking, ability to organize and express ideas clearly, drive and motivation, ability to work with others, and any other information you feel may assist us in evaluating the applicant’s potential for graduate work.
    • The program prefers upload of the letter. If you prefer, send hardcopy form to:   Director of Graduate Studies – IPSS, College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, 105 Plant Science Building University of Kentucky, Lexington KY  40546-0312.

The GRE is not required for admission to this program.

Applicants must meet the Graduate School admission requirements.

Application Deadlines
  • Spring: December 9 (domestic students), February 1 (international students)
  • Summer: April 15 (domestic students only)
  • Fall: June 17 (domestic students), April 15 (international students)

Our Students' Work...

To better understand the interests and areas of study available within the Integrated Plant and Soil Sciences Department, browse these recent dissertations and theses from our graduates:   

Optical Seed Sorter-Based Selection Lowers Deoxynivalenol Accumulation in Soft Red Winter Wheat
William Jesse Carmack. 2021

Incorporation of Summer Annual Mixtures in Grazing Systems in Kentucky 
Kelly Marie Mercier. 2021

The Balancing Act of Cytokinin in Enviornmental Stress Tolerance
Sumudu Sandeepani Karunadasa. 2020

Assistantship and Funding

  • Each student enrolled in the IPSS program through either departmental or grant‐funded research assistantships will receive a uniform base stipend depending on the degree program (M.S. or Ph.D.), tuition scholarship, and health insurance. Other university fees will be the responsibility of the student. The base stipend for grant‐funded assistantships may be supplemented for exceptional candidates and performance at the discretion of the department chairs.  
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF’s mission. The GRFP provides up to three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research. The GRFP supports over 100 subfields. For the 2020 competition, NSF received over 13,000 applications and made approximately 2,000 fellowships offers. 

Clubs and Organizations

  • The Integrated Plant and Soil Science Graduate Student Association: The University of Kentucky IPSS GSA is to welcome new graduate students into the program as well as sponsor professional and social events for all graduate students in the IPSS program. All graduate students in the IPSS graduate program are automatic members in this organization. The IPSS GSA meets once a month during the school year.     


Highlighted Courses

  • IPS 610 Communication in IPSS: A one-credit companion course to IPS 625 specific for graduate students in the Integrated Plant and Soil Sciences program. This course eposes IPSS students to critical skills in publication, grantsmanship, and public presentation. It requires IPSS students to systematically evaluate research presentations from multiple disciplines, present a synthesis of the research topic addressed in IPS 625 and interact with other members of the college and the university on topics related to plant and soil science issues. The course may be repeated twice. 
  • IPS 625 Research in IPSS: A two-credit course specific to students in the Integrated Plant and Soil Sciences Program. This course is designed to explore the foundation, principles, and philosophies of scientific research in a truly integrative manner with strong emphasis on the value of multidisciplinary approaches to a significant issue in plant and soil sciences. The course may be repeated twice. 
  • IPS 790 Research and/ Independent Study in IPSS: PhD level research and independent study in Integrated Plant and Soil Sciences. May be repeated to a total of 18 credit hours. Work may be conducted in any of the disciplinary areas in IPSS subject to the approval of the PhD committee chair and Program Graduate Committee.