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Cornell Hemp Research Team

Lawrence Smart

Larry Smart

Professor, SIPS – Horticulture section

L. Smart is the Hemp Research Team project lead. He leads cultivar trials located on Cornell farm properties in both Ithaca and Geneva, oversees the hemp germplasm repository collection and genomic analyses and directing hemp breeding efforts. 

Lab Members:

Deanna Gentner – Technician II

Craig Carlson – Postdoctoral Researcher

Jacob Toth – Ph.D. student. Jacob is a student in Plant Breeding at Cornell working on hemp. His background is in biochemistry with experience in cereal breeding. He is particularly interested in molecular marker development for breeding purposes, structure-function relationships in enzymes related to cannabinoid biosynthesis, and the genetic basis of variation in hemp seed protein.

George Stack – Ph. D. student in plant breeding and genetics. He is interested in breeding hemp to optimize traits that influence biotic interactions. This includes resistance to pathogens and insects, and understanding what plant traits shape the hemp microbiome.


Don Viands

Don Viands

Professor, SIPS – Plant Breeding and Genetics section

Viands is a plant breeder who is works closely with Larry Smart contributing to hemp breeding trials. He is primarily responsible for overseeing trials on Ithaca area farms.

Lab Members:

Jamie Crawford – Research Support Specialist

Julie Hansen – Senior Research Associate


Chris Smart

Christine Smart

Professor and director, SIPS – Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology section

C. Smart focuses on disease surveys for CBD hemp varieties, primarily related to powdery mildew and white mold. She also supervises the development of tissue culture and transformation methods and analysis of cannabinoid chemistry. Chris works closely with Denis Willet on the CBD/THC chemistry front and is also a lead on the development of the USDA hemp germplasm repository (seed bank) collection at Cornell AgriTech.

Lab Member:

Ali Cala – Ph.D. student


Alan Taylor

Alan Taylor

Professor, SIPS – Horticulture section

Taylor focuses on post-harvest aspects of certified hemp seeds, including seed quality investigations with seed testing for germination and purity. He leads an IR4 Integrated Solutions project on developing biological and chemical seed treatments for control of soil-borne pathogens that cause damping-off—the rotting of stem and root tissues at and below the soil surface. This IR4 effort is in cooperation with Gary Bergstrom’s plant pathology program and field studies conducted at Virginia Tech and North Dakota State University.  


Gary Bergstrom

Gary Bergstrom

Professor, SIPS – Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section

Bergstrom is a plant pathologist whose research focuses on the epidemiology and integrated management of diseases that affect New York state crops. To help optimize industrial hemp production, his lab works to identify and manage diseases that affect hemp plants. Currently, their top priority is understanding how to limit the damaging effects of fungal diseases and mycotoxins on hemp grain, food oil, and cannabidiol extract products.

Lab Members:

Kevin Myers – Technician. Kevin is a plant pathologist and technician in the Cornell Field Crop Pathology Laboratory.  Kevin has considerable lab and field experience with plant pathogens, and especially with molecular diagnostics.  Kevin will work with Jaime Cummings and others to assess and diagnose diseases of hemp and to archive a culture collection of hemp pathogens for future use by hemp breeders and others.

Jen Starr – Research Support Specialist. Jen is a research support specialist in the Cornell Field Crop Pathology Laboratory which she manages under the guidance of Gary Bergstrom.  Jen has extensive experience in microbiology with a focus on mycological diseases and laboratory diagnostics.  Jen will work closely with other team members in the survey of hemp fields in New York and will be primarily responsible for identifying causal agents of hemp diseases and for archiving a live-culture collection of hemp pathogens at Cornell.


Elson Shields

Elson Shields

Professor, Department of Entomology

Shields uses his experience as a field crop entomologist to identify pests found on hemp plants, many of which are also found on other New York State field crops. As insect management tools become available for the hemp industry, he will also work on pest management.


(Jocelyn) Joss Rose

Professor, SIPS – Plant Biology Section

Rose is a plant biologist in the School of Integrative Plant Science, who conducts hemp cannabinoid biochemical analysis. The lab is interested in measuring the levels of the various forms of cannabinoids in different hemp genotypes/cultivars in order to identify lines to promote in the hemp breeding program. One of their other goals is to identify new cannabinoid compounds that potentially have unique and valuable properties.

Current Lab Member:

Glenn Philippe – Postdoctoral Researcher


Neil Mattson

Associate professor, SIPS – Horticulture Section

Mattson’s goal is to understand how environmental and cultural factors affect the growth and characteristics of greenhouse crops, including hemp. His research in plant nutrition, lighting and cultivation systems (controlled environmental agriculture, or CEA) will inform work about optimizing hemp production in the state of New York.

Lab Members:

Renyuan Mi – M.S. Student


Bill Miller

Professor, SIPS – Horticulture Section

Miller specializes in greenhouse production methods for horticultural crops. His work focuses on varying growing conditions and developing greenhouse and crop management technologies that can be used to optimize hemp production for greenhouse growers.


Jaime Cummings

Field Crops and Livestock IPM Coordinator at New York State Integrated Pest Management

Cummings is a plant pathologist who currently has statewide research and extension responsibilities for disease, insect pest and weed management for all field and forage crops produced in New York. She has helped pioneer much of the hemp disease identification in NY since 2015, and continues to work closely with the Cornell hemp team of researchers and extension specialists. Her focus will be on identification and integrated management of diseases and pests of hemp. 


Matthew Willmann

Director of the CALS Plant Transformation Facility

His lab focuses on developing methods for three areas to improve certain hemp traits, including:

  • Micropropagation of hemp– a way of taking small amounts of plant material and multiplying it into many, in a sterile culture, which propagates in a faster way, allowing for faster, more efficient testing methods
  • Making transgenic protocols for hemp– taking a piece of DNA from one organism and putting it into the genome of a hemp organism that can’t normally produce it, to make it hardier and more fruitful (traditional GMO)
  • Making protocols for using CRISPR for hemp – developing faster gene editing techniques  

These methods are used to improve certain hemp plant traits, such as altering cannabinoid (raising CBD and eliminating THC) production, such as allowing for multiple flowerings per growth cycle and maximize the field space devoted to all-female plants, which have the highest concentration of all cannabinoids, specifically non-pollinated female plants (hence keeping the male ones out of range).  


Heather Grab

Postdoctoral associate, Department of EntomologyPoveda Lab

Grab’s research examines both pest and pollinator management for New York specialty crops, including hemp. Her recent work looks at the role of hemp in supporting diverse, native and managed pollinator communities. She also examines the potential for expanding hemp to promote the pollination of other specialty crops, such as apples, squash, strawberries, and tomatoes.


Mike Rutzke

Director, Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory; senior research associate, SIPS – Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Rutzke works to develop new technologies that can provide more precise chemical analysis of biological materials. He also provides analytical services to both researchers and growers to analyze plant, soil and liquid samples for their nutrient content. The lab also screens samples for heavy metals. This service includes testing related to the growing of hemp.


Karen Snover-Clift

Senior extension associate, SIPS – Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology section, Director Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic

Snover-Clifts works to diagnose diseases for both NYS growers and Cornell researchers, including Chris Smart and Gary Bergstrom.  The Plant Disease Clinic accepts samples for disease diagnosis on a fee per sample basis—a service that can be elevated online and in messaging. The lab will focus on the “unknown” hemp diseases, of which there are a lot, playing a critical role in solving these mysteries for growers and researchers alike.


Denis Willett

Assistant professor, Department of Entomology

Willett is working closely with the hemp team on the chemical aspects of cannabinoids and terpenes in hemp. He is an expert on the chemical ecology of plants as they relate to nematodes/insects, and is using his chemical expertise and state-of-the-art chemical evaluation robotic equipment to help researchers better understand natural product synthesis in hemp, so that growers can properly manage their crops for maximum yield of essential oils.


Carlyn Buckler

Associate professor of practice, SIPS

Specializing in science communication and outreach, international food security and digital technologies, Buckler is leading the development and instruction for the PLSCI 4190 course “Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry” and the Master of Professional Studies concentration in Hemp Science, to be launched in the fall of 2020.


Anthony Hay

Though very new to the initiative, Hay has expertise in composting and is looking to bring that knowledge to Cornell CALS hemp team as they help growers find beneficial uses for waste products from the hemp production process.


Cornell AgriTech Fruit and Vegetable Processing Pilot

Bruno Xavier
Process authority
Kyle Kriner
Geneva Pilot Plant Manager
Olga Padilla-Zakour
Professor, Food Science

The pilot plant’s expertise in food processing allows for the creation of new types of food products made with hemp materials. New technologies such as high-pressure processing and homogenization, non-thermal concentration, pulsed electric field treatments, and new drying techniques enable this facility’s team to create food products with more nutritional value, fewer additives and stabilizers, and exciting new textures with consistently stable physical and chemical properties.

Current projects related to food processing include creating new innovative products like hemp milk and butter, hemp ice cream and a host of conventional products with newly formulated hemp-based ingredients. Existing food products can receive a boost from incorporating uniquely processed hemp materials in their base formulations by creating new flavors for existing products. The pilot plant team is also working to start new projects within the food packaging industry by creating sustainable packaging materials resulting from electro-spun hemp fibers.


Ali Abbaspourrad

Assistant professor, Food Science

Abbaspourrad’s work intersects with hemp on several fronts: optimizing cost-effective essential oil extraction methods to yield the purest, non-toxic, food-grade quality natural products and improving the sensory properties of hemp plant proteins, to ensure no off-flavors and that they’re easily dispersed (homogenized) when mixed.

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