Plant Sciences – Organic Production Concentration Major Guide for 2013-2014

What is Plant Sciences – Organic Production Concentration

Organic production, a concentration of study in the Plant Sciences Department, integrates plant science with soil science, agricultural economics, entomology, ecology and plant pathology to give students the knowledge and skills needed for production and management of organic cropping systems.  This program is offered to those interested in owning or managing organic farms, working with agricultural extension or governmental and nongovernmental organizations, joining the Peace Corps, consulting, pursuing a graduate education in agronomy or horticulture, working in the growing organic foods and agricultural products industry, sustainable nursery crop production or international agricultural development efforts.  Students have the opportunity to develop a personalized program in organic production by selecting from technical electives offered in a wide variety of areas, including environmental sciences, food science, marketing, foreign language, sociology, and other areas related to agricultural sustainability.

Career Opportunities in Plant Sciences – Organic Production Concentration

Graduates in organic production enter a variety of careers.  Organic horticulturists and agronomists are managers of organic farms or vineyards, consultants, orchardists, teachers, extension agents, sales representatives, Peace Corps volunteers, researchers, and entrepreneurs.  Growth in markets for organically-produced vegetables, fruits, grains, nursery stock and other agricultural products creates a constant need for well-trained professionals to join this rapidly growing and evolving industry.

Salary Trends in Plant Sciences – Organic Production Concentration

Salaries for horticulturists and agronomists depend on the nature of the job as well as the region of the country and its cost of living. Graduates with minimal professional experience should expect starting salaries in the $34,500 to $48,000. If you can demonstrate your value to your employer and are willing to shoulder responsibility, often your salary may increase dramatically within the first two years. Salaries for entrepreneurs in organic production are likely to vary widely.

High School Preparation

A student’s high school preparation can have a great impact on pace and success in completing a BS degree in Plant Sciences. Obtain a strong foundation in biology, chemistry and mathematics. Enroll in horticulture, plant agriculture and ecology courses, if your high school offers them. Select classes that are ranked as college preparatory or advanced placement (AP). Basic courses in computing (word processing, spreadsheet management, and database management), communications, analytical thinking, and introductory statistics are desirable.

How to Major in Plant Sciences – Organic Production Concentration

The Organic Production concentration is in the Plant Sciences Department. Our faculty and students enjoy talking with prospective students. A faculty member (or a student, if you prefer) will be happy to guide you through our greenhouses, nursery, organic crops farm, and labs as well as answer your questions about the department. It is important to declare the Organic Production concentration early (preferably at or before enrollment), to avoid having to make up specific required courses. There are provisions for elective courses to be taken in specific subject areas at various stages of your degree program. Students consult with their faculty advisor each semester about their interests and the appropriate classes to meet their needs.

Requirements for Plant Sciences – Organic Production Concentration

The Organic Production curriculum builds upon the university-wide general education requirements, along with critical courses in botany, ecology, soils, entomology, plant pathology, and agricultural economics, and adds a set of departmental courses specific to the skills needed for students to be successful professionals.  Students customize their program by selecting electives, which allows students to focus on the aspects of organic production and agricultural sustainability most relevant to their chosen career paths.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

An internship or supervised undergraduate research participation is required of all students. Full-time summer internships are available at selected local, regional, and national companies, farms, or institutions. Part-time summer or semester internships and research experiences are available at UT’s Organic Crops Unit, from the Department of Plant Sciences, other university departments and laboratories, and local commercial firms. Future employers do not look just at grades achieved in college. Many emphasize the importance of early experience in the green industry.

Highlights of Plant Sciences – Organic Production Concentration

This academic concentration focuses on practical aspects of production and management of organic cropping systems.  The plants studied by students in this area can range from horticultural crops such as vegetables, fruits, herbs, ornamentals and cut flowers to traditional agronomic field crops and forages. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of agricultural sustainability and are encouraged to enhance their coursework with electives or a minor in fields relating to the economic, social, and/or environmental aspects of sustainability.

The concentration offer students opportunities to obtain both classroom and hands-on learning experiences with faculty members who are dedicated teachers and accomplished scientists. The faculty of the Department of Plant Sciences are nationally and internationally recognized scholars whose expertise span a wide range of disciplines in horticulture, agronomy, plant breeding, nursery and greenhouse management, plant-microbe interactions, and plant and human nutrition. The University of Tennessee is one of a select few universities in the nation which offers students the opportunity to major in organic production.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. Beginning with first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students entering in the Fall 2013 semester, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, go to [insert link to catalog page here].

For More Information

Department of Plant Sciences
2431 Joe Johnson Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4561
Phone: (865) 974-7324



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.