Welcome to the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University. With expertise ranging from ecosystems services and disease management, to plant breeding, genomics, and food safety, we provide leadership and deliver programs that are internationally recognized and respected and have impact at local, national, and international levels. To provide this leadership, we work in an interdisciplinary and collaborative manner to effectively address complex problems and emerging threats that challenge food production and security. Above all, we value our missions of teaching, extension/outreach, research, international, service, and stewardship.   We are home to 70 faculty, 100  graduate students, 86 post-docs and staff members, and 200 undergraduate and certificate students.

For more information see our mission statement.

Meet a Staff Member

IT Professional Cal Bricker sitting at desk.

Since 2003, IT Professional Cal Bricker has provided the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University technology support to faculty, staff and graduate students.

Bricker started his career at MSU as a research technician for soil fertility. His career as a researcher lasted for nearly 30 years before Bricker’s interest for computers turned into a career.

As a research technician, Bricker was introduced to the early age of computers.  With little previous experience, Bricker soon purchased his own computer and taught himself.

“I was the one in need of support at that time,” Bricker said.

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Teaching, Research, Extension/Outreach

Featured Students


Adam Retford

Name: Adam Retford

Hometown: Owendale, MI

Adviser: Erin Bosch

What is your Major or Certificate Program?

Agricultural Industries Program

Why did you choose that major or program?

I chose this course of study because I grew up on a small family cash crop farm and have always had a great interest in the industry.

Future plans:

My future plans include continuing to operate our family owned farm where we grow corn, dry beans, wheat and sugar beets. I also plan to obtain employment off farm and would like to become an agronomist.  

What or who inspired your interest in your program?

Our farm has been in our family for over 100 years, so I have been inspired to farm during my whole life. I learned of this program through a close friend and after much research decided this program was well suited for my personal growth and career development for my future plans.

What has been your best experience in discipline listed above?  

I have learned about many types of farm practices and about precision farming. The courses offered at MSU have been very useful and it will be interesting to see how much improvements we will see in the future.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences?

I chose PSM because the program covers so many areas that I will use in the future. I am very happy with my decision and continue to enjoy my time at MSU.



Name: Ashley Wagar

Hometown: Climax, MI

Crop and Soil Sciences Concentration: Agronomic Sciences

Adviser: Dr. Karen Renner

Why did you choose this major and concentration? My interest in crop and soil sciences came from growing up on my family’s cash crop farm.

What are your future plans? My future plans are to work as an agronomist, possibly focusing on the seed corn industry.

What or who inspired your interest in your program? Growing up on a farm and my involvement in 4-H has helped me find a passion within agriculture. This helped me to realize that I wanted to learn more about the agricultural industry.

What has been the best experience in your major so far? My summer internship was a great experience, the actual hands on aspect allowed me to exercise what I had learned in the class room. I also have enjoyed learning and seeing the different farming practices used across the state, while making new friends with similar interests.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences? I chose PSM because it will provide me with everything I need to know to become an agronomist. The professors are great to work with and my advisor is great at keeping me on track and helping me when needed.

What is the best selling point about your major that you would like others to know? If you are interested in agronomic sciences the classes are very helpful and informative.

Graduate Program








Name: Christopher Bauer

Hometown: Reese, Michigan

Major Professor: Dr. Kurt Steinke

What lab do you work in and what are you researching?

I work in the soil fertility lab. I have two projects that I am researching: one on winter wheat and the other on sugarbeets. My main project was a two-year field experiment looking at the effects of planting date, Nitrogen Application Timing, and Nitrogen Application Rate on winter wheat growth and yield. My second study was also a two-year field experiment, and this project was conducted to observe the effects of enhanced efficiency fertilizers in comparison to standard nitrogen programs on sugarbeet yield and quality.

Future career plans:

I will be graduating in May 2016 with my Master’s Degree. I recently accepted a job working as a sourcing specialist with Nestle North America Procurement/Gerber Products Company in Fremont, MI.

What program are you in? Why did you choose that program?

I am in the Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management Program. I chose this program because of my interests in agriculture and desire to assist growers in the future by improving their management programs.

What or who inspired your interest in Plant Science, Soil Sciences, Plant Pathology, Weed Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics or Other?

Growing up on a farm made me realize how enjoyable it is to work in agriculture. Through this I learned that I wanted to continue to pursue a career in agriculture and be able to work with growers to give them assistance in improving their management programs. The people who inspired me to pursue an education in an agricultural degree were my parents, Mark and Collette Bauer, who run our farm at home with the assistance of my younger brother. My parents have shown me where a great work ethic can take you in life and have also made me realize the passion I have in wanting to continue my career in agriculture. When I was an undergraduate student, I had an internship with DuPont Pioneer, and this experience helped me realize that I wanted to continue my educational career and pursue a Master’s Degree.

What has been your best experience in your program listed above?

I have really enjoyed the research which we conduct and being able to talk with growers about their management programs in hopes of helping them make improvements. The meetings that I have spoken at as a graduate student were always a good experience as well because of the interaction I was able to have directly with growers and industry people from around the area.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences?

The reason I chose this department was because of my passion for agriculture. I knew MSU was the right place to pursue my goal of attaining a Master’s Degree with the agricultural history of this college, and the success of many students coming out of this department gave me the confidence that this was the right fit for me.