Content | Navigation |

Academic Majors


Crop and Weed Sciences

The crop and weed sciences (CWS) major in the Department of Plant Sciences is the study of grain and forage crop production, weed science, genetics, plant breeding, crop physiology and plant biotechnology. North Dakota is consistently the nation's leader for production of hard red spring wheat, durum wheat, barley, flax, dry edible beans, canola, dry peas, lentils and sunflower. North Dakota also ranks in the top 10 states for production of several other agronomic crops, including oat, rye, sugarbeet, and grass hay, and usually ranks third in total acreage of crops harvested. Income from sales of crops accounts for more than half of the North Dakota farmers’ annual cash income. Crops utilized as livestock feed account for much of the cash income credited to livestock sales. Thus, North Dakota State University offers a setting well-suited for the study of crop and weed sciences.

PDF Download

Career Opportunities

Usually, more employment opportunities are available in CWS than there are qualified graduates. Producers require annual inputs such as seed, fertilizers and herbicides, so they seek assistance in sales or service areas such as crop consulting, chemical application and soil testing each year. Therefore, opportunities for CWS graduates usually have been more stable than in employment areas where inputs can be deferred when income is low. Also, salaries for CWS graduates are at or near the top among all graduates in agriculture due to the high demand for agronomists by many companies.

The employment opportunities in CWS can best be summarized by the jobs that our graduates have accepted. Our graduates have been employed as crop production consultants (agronomists); marketing experts for herbicides, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals; managers of farm service centers for cooperatives and elevators; agents in the production and marketing of certified seeds; research technicians for private companies and universities; natural resources conservationists and agents for other governmental agencies; county agricultural extension agents; field representatives for sugarbeet or food processing companies; farm managers; farm insurance agents; research associates with private plant breeding companies; and persons involved in the reclamation of strip-mined land.

Only 15 percent of the CWS graduates at NDSU return to farming or ranching, and another 15 percent continue their studies to receive graduate degrees. The average starting salary for a CWS graduate with a bachelor’s degree was $48,000 in 2014, and some students received as much as $60,000. In addition, many employers provide health and retirement benefits, and some provide a vehicle and cell phone.

Many employers hire undergraduate students as interns for the summer months, and some hire for spring-summer semester or summer-fall semester periods. The department also hires summer interns with an expressed interest in graduate school. The opportunities for summer interns, beginning with students between their freshman and sophomore years, have exceeded the supply of students for several years. The salary for interns often exceeds the income for alternative summer jobs. An internship provides excellent work experience and often results in a graduating senior being hired earlier and with a higher salary than students without comparable experience.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Loans, scholarships, grants and the work-study program are available through the Office of Student Financial Services. Students requiring financial assistance may contact the Office of Student Financial Services or Bison Connection.

The Department of Plant Sciences awards several scholarships for use during the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. Applications for departmental freshman scholarships may be obtained by contacting the department. Also, many undergraduate students are employed part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer months as research or teaching assistants.

Several scholarships are awarded to freshmen and transfer students by the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources prior to enrollment. Scholarships also are available to students continuing a major in the College. Scholarship information and application materials may be obtained by contacting the Office of the Dean, College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources, NDSU. Applications are due February 1 for freshmen and April 1 for transfer students entering in the fall.

Extra-Curricular Opportunities

The department sponsors the Agronomy Club in cooperation with the School of Natural Resource Sciences. The Agronomy Club and associated departments have sponsored undergraduate teams that have competed in regional and national contests. The club annually participates in conventions to learn about several aspects of agriculture in the North Central region.

Sample Curriculum

General Education RequirementsCredits
First Year Experience
  AGRI 189 - Skills for Academic Success1
  COMM 110 - Fundamentals of Public Speaking3
  ENGL 110, 120 - College Composition I, II 3, 3
  English Upper Level Writing Course 3
Quantitative Reasoning
  STAT 330 - Introductory Statistics 3
Science & Technology10
    CHEM 121, 121L - General Chemistry I and Lab4
    CHEM 122 - General Chemistry II3
    PLSC 110 - World Food Crops3
Humanities & Fine Arts6
Social and Behavioral Sciences
  ECON 201 - Principles of Microeconomics3
  Social and Behavioral Sciences Elective3
Cultural Diversity-
Global Perspective
  PLSC 110 - World Food Crops3
Major Requirements* Credits
AGRI 150 - Agriculture Orientation 1
BIOL 150, 150L - General Biology I and Lab 3, 1
BIOL 151, 151L - General Biology II and Lab or
       BOT 372 - Structure and Diversity of Plants and Fungi

3, 1 or 4
CHEM 121L - General Chemistry II Lab 1
ENT 350 - General Entomology 3
PLSC 215 - Weed Identification 1
PLSC 225 - Principles of Crop Production 3
PLSC 312 - Expanding the Boundaries of Learning with Service 3
PLSC 315, 315L - Genetics and Lab 3, 1
PLSC 320 - Principles of Forage Production 3
PLSC 323 - Principles of Weed Science 3
PLSC 444 - Applied Plant Breeding and Research Methods 3
PLSC 455 - Cropping Systems: An Integrated Approach 3 
PLSC 491 - Senior Seminar 1
PPTH 324 - Introductory Plant Pathology 3
SOIL 210 - Introduction to Soil Science 3
Total 43
Option Electives 19-30
General Electives 19-28

*Often includes a two credit internship

Curriculum Options

The department offers four options: agronomy, biotechnology, science and weed science. All students majoring or double majoring in CWS must meet the listed requirements. Students interested in a specific option will replace several of the elective courses listed in the sample curriculum with specific courses appropriate for that option.

Agronomy -- This option is the most popular. It deals with the technical aspects of agricultural production and management. It provides the most elective credits, which allows students to select courses that complement special interests in farming, marketing, business management, county extension work, etc.

Biotechnology -- This option is intended for students who wish to work as a technician or pursue graduate study in the crop biotechnology area.

Science -- This option deals with application of chemistry, botany, mathematics and physics to CWS. It is an excellent curriculum option for students intending to pursue a graduate degree in CWS.

Weed Science -- This option, which emphasizes proper use of herbicides and other agricultural chemicals, meets the demand for qualified personnel in marketing and application of agricultural chemicals. Also, this option provides a good background for crop production consultants (agronomists) and plant protection careers. The greatest emphasis is placed on weed control, but additional courses in entomology, plant pathology and soil science are required.

In addition, faculty in plant sciences advise students interested in the biotechnology and general agriculture majors. The biotechnology major is an interdisciplinary program that stresses basic and applied science courses and lab experience to prepare students for employment in the biotechnology industry or for graduate study. The general agriculture program exposes students to disciplines within agriculture for careers with diverse course needs. This exposure is strengthened through selection of pertinent coursework in a minimum of four discipline areas.

Loftsgard Hall
Room 166

Loftsgard Hall is located near the center of campus on Albrecht Boulevard, just west of Visitors Lot E (Campus Map)

Contact Information

Department of Plant Sciences
Dr. Richard Horsley, Head
North Dakota State University
Loftsgard Hall 166
Dept #7670, PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050

Tel: (701) 231-7971 / Fax: (701) 231-8474

Office of Admission
North Dakota State University
Ceres 114
Dept #5230, PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050

Tel: (701) 231-8643 / Fax: (701) 231-8802



Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

Follow NDSU
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS
  • Google Maps

Office of Admission
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-8643 / Fax: (701) 231-8802
Campus address: Ceres Hall 114
Physical/delivery address: 1301 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5230 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: NDSU Webmaster

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 03, 2016 1:57:41 PM