Crop, Plant and Food Development and Production

The need to feed a growing population while preserving the environment is a key concern of the field of agriculture today. In Minnesota, crop and landscape plant industries contribute to the rural and state economy. The University of Minnesota focuses on improving productivity, profitability, and environmental stewardship. 

Research and Extension are committed to:

  1. Addressing pest and weed resistance for production, profitability, and sustainability
  2. Helping farmers preserve soil health and use fewer inputs
  3. Identifying emerging trends and supporting agriculture niche markets
  4. Harnessing the power of computational analytics to improve production, profitability and sustainability (i.e. G.E.M.S. Platform)
  5. Utilizing new techniques for breeding and genetic improvements

Research Highlights

The Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) at the University of Minnesota has awarded approximately $2.31 million from the Rapid Agricultural response Fund (RARF) to 10 research projects that will help protect Minnesota’s agricultural sector from current and emerging threats.


The Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) have published the 2021 Minnesota Field Crop Trials. Visit varietytrials.umn.edu/2021 to see variety trials for 10 different Minnesota crops.


In an effort to get yield results from the fields to growers in a more timely fashion, the Minnesota Field Crop Trials now have a dedicated website to house all variety trial information. This new website is under development to allow researchers to share yield and other key field results with producers before the full publication is released. Visit varietytrials.umn.edu


Growing North Minneapolis is a community-driven program which aims to build food, environmental, social and cognitive justice through sustainable urban growing and greening. Learning and career development are experiential and contextualized in real-world experiences related to the FEW nexus. Urban youth, predominantly of color and low socioeconomic status, are hired through a local workforce development program, and work together with UMN undergraduates and North Minneapolis community mentors to form intergenerational communities of practice. 


The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted food supply chains across the U.S. It is essential for our food system to provide adequate nourishment to the people and support the livelihood of people who supply food. In response, a multidisciplinary team of researchers and Extension specialists from five universities have partnered to generate science-based knowledge and resources to enhance preparedness of the U.S. food supply chains for future disruptions.


Since 2016, the Minnesota Invasive Plants and Pests Center has helped fund a team of research and Extension soybean specialists to explore two ways to help Minnesota soybean farmers deal with soybean pests--especially soybean aphids. The first is focused on developing aphid-resistance soybeans and the second is exploring the use of drone technology to help with pest scouting.


With the ultimate goal of developing more sustainable food production systems, UMN researchers explored plant-soil-microbe relationships driving soil fertility in organic systems. To do this, they developed a farmer-driven project to investigate the role summer cover crops can play in enhancement of soil nutrients and overall health when grown for short periods of time. Significantly, they partnered with a variety of immigrant farmer grower groups for on-farm studies and shared their soil health information directly with producers.


Currently, pea protein is mass produced in a way that can alter its native structure, thus reducing its functionality in food applications. In order to make pea protein competitive with soy protein, researchers at the Plant Protein Innovation Center focused on finding ways to optimize both the conditions used for pea protein extractions and for functionalization, to produce pea protein isolates (PPI) with high protein purity, preserved structural, and enhanced functional properties.


Members of the University’s Center for Genome Engineering have long led the charge in developing new, powerful genome modification technologies. The center’s work involves gene therapy, gene discovery and precision gene editing using UMN-developed TALEN® (transcription activator-like effector nucleases) and techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9. More recently a second research center, Center for Precision Plant Genomics, was added, which focuses on developing tools and technologies to aid in developing GE crops.


Researchers at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, Minn., wanted to understand the individual and cumulative impacts of multiple, integrated best practices on water quantity and water quality in order to meet nutrient load reduction goals. In particular, researchers were interested in evaluating the response of in-field, edge-of-field and beyond-the-field/in-stream management practices on water quantity and water quality for a small watershed and upscale these results to watershed scale.


The Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) have officially published the 2020 Field Crop Trials


The University of Minnesota has released a new hard red spring wheat variety called ‘MN-Torgy.’ MN-Torgy features a good combination of yield, protein, straw strength and disease resistance.


In response to the 2013 and 2014 wheat stem rust epidemics in Ethiopia, a collaborative research and education team formed to study the biology and control of new, dangerous forms of the wheat stem rust pathogen from East Africa and other parts of the world and to provide Ethiopian scientists and farmers with the tools and knowledge needed to combat wheat stem rust.


Palmer amaranth was first detected in Minnesota in 2016, but even before it hit the state, University of Minnesota researchers and Extension specialists mobilized to help state agencies and landowners develop a plan to eradicate infestations before spread to new areas. 


Research shows with intermediate wheatgrass (IWG), farmers get access to a more sustainable cash crop that requires fewer inputs and is proving to be an increasingly desirable grain option for the food and beverage industry. New varieties of IWG, developed with MN conditions in mind, would further assist farmers to take advantage of all of the benefits of this new crop. 


The University of Minnesota (UMN), in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan, has released a new white hull oat variety called ‘MN-Pearl.’ MN-Pearl is a high-yielding variety with good straw strength and high groat percentage. It also has good overall disease resistance including moderate crown rust resistance and excellent smut resistance.


The University of Minnesota has released a new hard red spring wheat variety called ‘MN-Washburn.’ MN-Washburn features excellent straw strength and good overall disease resistance. In particular, it contains the bdv2 gene for resistance to Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus making in an excellent choice in years when BYDV is prevalent. 


Since its arrival in 2012, the spotted wing drosophila (SWD) has been one of the most damaging invasive species in Minnesota agriculture. Bill Hutchison and his team are exploring several management practices to help Minnesota small fruit growers deal with this devastating threat. 


The University of Minnesota has released a new hard red spring wheat variety called ‘Lang-MN.’ It is a well-balanced, high yielding spring wheat variety well suited for much of the spring wheat-growing region. Lang-MN is named after Ben Lang, past president of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIA).


Spring wheat is grown on more than 1.5 million acres in Minnesota, making it our third most popular crop. But wheat varieties in the region have become vulnerable to Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), leaf rust, stem rust, and bacterial leaf streak, destructive diseases of wheat and barley that put crops, and thus our food supply, at risk. #MNImpacts


'Shelly’ is the newest wheat variety developed by the University of Minnesota and dates for touring demonstration plots have just been announced.


‘Bolles’ is a promising hard red spring wheat released by the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Experiment Station in January 2015. The variety’s outstanding characteristic is its very high grain protein content in combination with above average yield potential, a difficult combination to achieve. 


Growing North Minneapolis is a community-driven program which aims to build food, environmental, social and cognitive justice through sustainable urban growing and greening. Learning and career development are experiential and contextualized in real-world experiences related to the FEW nexus. Urban youth, predominantly of color and low socioeconomic status, are hired through a local workforce development program, and work together with UMN undergraduates and North Minneapolis community mentors to form intergenerational communities of practice.