hort building
Horticulture Building

The Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the four original departments of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and was founded in 1889. The Department provides programs that are focused on fundamental studies of plant biology, crop production, and utilization of horticultural crops. It also seeks to provide educational opportunities for the pursuit of careers in horticulture, strengthen the competitive position of Wisconsin’s horticulture industry, and increase the use of plants for environmental improvement and as a source of personal enrichment. The work of department faculty, staff, and students has made substantial impact in the state and nation for over 120 years and continues to do so. In 2007, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s faculty productivity index rated our department first in the nation in horticulture.

Irwin and Goffs plant tree
Irwin and Goff Family Great Grandchildren plant a new larch tree in Allen Centennial Gardens

The Department of Horticulture celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2014. See this link for more information on the celebration of our anniversary, including a description of the bench created by local artist Aaron Laux commemorating our 125th anniversary:

A history of the department was prepared for our 125th anniversary. Copies of this history book are available from the Department of Horticulture.

Department faculty and staff have initiated more than 100 disclosures to WARF, generating revenue that has been returned to goff benchthe university to support graduate research and other programs. Department faculty, staff, and students continue to publish in a very wide range of scientific journals, many of which have high impact, and numerous papers from faculty programs have won research awards. Faculty have also won top awards in their professional societies. The impact of faculty research and outreach programs in our department has been tremendous, and ranges from new cultivars to adoption of improved production practices to major shifts in fundamental ways we understand plant biology.

Rock Garden in Allen Centennial Gardens (Photo P. Gepts)

The Department of Horticulture is home to a number of successful outreach programs that serve the citizens, public sector, and businesses of the State of Wisconsin. These include the Nutrient and Pest Management Program, the Integrated Pest and Crop Management Program, the Crop Diagnostic Training program, the IR-4 program, the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, the Master Gardener Program, and the Allen Centennial Gardens. In addition to these activities, faculty and staff are very active in field days, Extension programs, courses, seminars, and webinars, and author newsletters and other media that are distributed statewide.


Wisconsin is agriculturally, geographically, and ecologically diverse. This diversity is part of the reason the state has maintained a vibrant economy even during uncertain economic times, and agriculture has played a very important role in the state’s economic health. Agriculture generates more revenue than any other economic sector in Wisconsin with the exception of manufacturing. Wisconsin’s farms and agricultural businesses generate $59.16 billion in economic activity and provide 353,991 jobs[1]. This means that agriculture employs approximately 10% of the workforce in Wisconsin. While more than $20 billion of the total agricultural revenue for Wisconsin is from dairy, a substantial portion comes from horticultural crops, businesses, and related service activities. Horticulture, exclusive of the Green Industry sector, contributes approximately 16,700 jobs to the state. When the Green Industry sector is added and businesses such as floriculture, turfgrass, nursery and woody ornamental plants, golf courses, and the materials and supplies used by these industries are included, horticulture contributes more than 43,000 jobs to the state. A 2002 survey indicated that the Green Industry brings over $2.7 billion in revenue to Wisconsin[2].

Wisconsin leads the nation in the production of a number of horticultural crops. Wisconsin is ranked 2nd overall in processing of major vegetables crops producing approximately 20% of vegetables for processing in the U.S. (USDA, 2010). We are first in the U.S. in snap beans for processing, cranberry production and ginseng. Wisconsin is second in the production of carrots for processing, third in peas for processing, potatoes, and sweet corn, and fifth in tart cherries and cucumbers for pickles[3]. A number of the largest food processors have facilities in Wisconsin that add significant value to these crops. Wisconsin is also a leader in biotechnology and home to a number of seed and life sciences businesses that develop products and services in horticulture as well as advance fundamental scientific discovery. Finally, Wisconsin is home to a growing organic and sustainable food production sector. Some 200,000 acres of land in the state are used for organic food production, and a thriving Community Supported Agriculture movement serves many metropolitan areas of Wisconsin and interacts substantially with many sub-disciplines of horticulture.

[1] Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation data, 2011, see

[2] Wisconsin Green Industry Federation Survey, 2002, see

[3] Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service, see