Tropical Agriculture and the Environment Student Handbook

College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
University of Hawai`i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI

Updated 6/24/2020


Why study TAE at UH? | Overview | Five Diverse Tracks | Other options for study | Admission | Degree Requirements | Registration | Rewarding Career Opportunities | Current Openings | Useful Websites | Student Academic Support Services | Course Descriptions




Why Study Tropical Agriculture and the Environment (TAE) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa?

An exceptional learning experience in a place like no other…

In this remarkable setting, students in the Tropical Agriculture and the Environment (TAE) undergraduate program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UH Mānoa) learn how to responsibly manage land, water, crops, and agricultural systems. Our STEM undergraduate and graduate degree programs prepare students to solve complex problems using innovative applied science methods, with the goal of improving plant production, ensuring a sustainable safe and abundant food supply, to protect the environment and meet our community’s needs.

Despite today’s challenging economy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts promising employment prospects for TAE students. The United States currently generates an estimated 54,400 annual job openings in the agricultural, food, and renewable natural resources sectors for individuals holding baccalaureate or advanced degrees, while at the same time fewer plant scientists, soil scientists, and horticulturalists are entering the job market. On average, 29,300 graduates in agriculture and natural resources enter the work force each year, as do about 24,200 degree holders in allied fields. In the next several years, demand for skilled agriculture, forestry, and environmental science graduates is expected to outstrip supply.

Optimizing Our Resources

By 2050, you, your children, and your grandchildren may be sharing the planet’s limited resources with 9.1 billion people. Worldwide food demand is expected to increase by 70%, and an additional 120 million hectares of land may be needed for food production in developing countries. As a soil scientist, you can help farmers use their land more sustainably, efficiently and safely. While nutrient-poor soils can limit crop yields, adding too much fertilizer increases production costs and can damage aquatic environments and sources of drinking water. Soil organic matter increases retention of water and minerals that plants need for growth. With optimized soil nutrient levels and improved soil structure, we can sustainably grow more food per acre.

Developing A Healthy World

Fruits and vegetables are essential for good health. In the developing world, vitamin A deficiency affects about one-third of all children and contributes each year to the death of 670,000 children under the age of five. In the United States, diets that include generous portions of fruits and vegetables may offer protection from stroke, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and some types of cancer. As a plant scientist, you can help increase the availability of wholesome, nutritious food by breeding fruit and vegetable crops that tolerate pests, diseases, or adverse conditions, provide enhanced levels of vital nutrients, or spoil less quickly. By identifying postharvest practices that minimize damage and decay, you can prevent food losses and waste.

Caring For Our Environment

The relative severity of future climate change hinges on how much we curb CO2 emissions during the next 40 years. A widely adopted goal—limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-1900 temperatures—is predicted to require cutting CO2 emissions to one-half of 1990 levels by 2050. Faculty who are part of the TAE academic program are investigating how we can sustainably use plants and soils to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Hardy non-food crops that thrive on marginal land can provide biofuels without displacing food production. Generating biochar (stable charcoal) from agricultural wastes and using it as a soil amendment can sequester carbon in soil while improving soil fertility. Rooftop gardens or plant beds, known as green roofs, can help insulate buildings and provide energy savings.

Helping Hawai‘i Achieve Greater Self Sufficiency

Agricultural advances can help Hawai‘i achieve greater self-sufficiency that is sustainable and resilient. Our reliance on imports, which represent 85 to 90 percent of our food and more than 90 percent of our energy needs, makes us more vulnerable to natural disasters, invasive species, human misdeeds, and rising fuel prices. Keeping agricultural land in crop production conserves green, open space and allows rainwater to recharge our aquifers. The work you do as a TAE student and graduate can help shape a more sustainable and affordable Hawai‘i for future generations.



How can we feed, clothe, and provide energy for 9.7 billion people by 2050 and sustainably use and protect natural resources and biodiversity? The new Tropical Agriculture and the Environment (TAE) major offers numerous career paths for students interested in becoming part of the scientific solution to some of the most pressing issues we face in the 21st century. TAE offers a Bachelor of Science degree with hands-on knowledge of sciences and technologies related to plant, soil, and pest management in agricultural. urban, and natural environments with a focus on the tropics. The TAE major is provided in conjunction by the Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences department and the Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences department. 


Choose From Five Diverse Tracks:

  • Plant Sciences

Specializing in plant physiology, genetics and breeding allows students to cross the traditional boundaries that have separated the disciplines of plant genetics, plant physiology and plant molecular biology, both as fundamental fields of research and in their application to crop production. By linking laboratory approaches and plant production systems through the use of plant biotechnology, students learn to solve multi-disciplinary problems. Students can select courses that allow concentration on genetic engineering or whole-plant physiology and plant breeding to address real-world problems.  

  • Plant Production and Management

Students are prepared to produce, manage and market plants grown as crops or in landscapes, with emphasis on productivity, appropriate pest and disease management, and environmental protection. Students learn to solve horticultural problems using evidence-based methods

  • Environmental Soil Sciences

Students learn to effectively manage soils for agricultural production and to conserve this important natural resource for human benefit and environmental conservation. Students understand the complex chemical and biological processes that govern soil formation and nutrient cycling, which are critical for plant growth and the protection of the environment.

  • Environmental Urban Horticulture

The landscape design and management specialization prepares students to design, install, and maintain landscapes that enhance the environment with trees, shrubs, flowers, houseplants and turfgrass. Through theoretical study and hands-on practice, students in the program learn how to create and implement environmentally and economically sustainable landscapes.

  • Pests, Pathogens and Invasive Species

Students who specialize in insect, disease and invasive species management learn to design and implement pest-management programs and conduct basic and applied research using multi-disciplinary approaches. Students receive interdisciplinary education in entomology, plant pathology, weed science and invasive species management.


Other options for study

  • Agribusiness Certificate

Earn a certificate in the business and management of agricultural operations. Gain the skills needed in agribusiness management and entrepreneurship. Contact Dr. Ken Leonhardt ( for more information.

  • Plant Production and Management Minor

Complete a minimum of 15 credits of non-introductory, upper-division-level courses to add a minor in Plant Production and Management to your degree. Contact Dr. Ken Leonhardt ( for more information.



New students who apply to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) as first-year students or transfer students may apply directly to the program by specifying Tropical Agriculture and the Environment (TAE), formerly Tropical Plant & Soil Sciences (TPSS) as their major on their application form. Please visit the Office of Admissions website for details about applying.

Students who have taken courses at another university or community college outside of the University of Hawaiʻi system must arrange to have their official transcripts sent to the UH-Mānoa Admissions Office for evaluation of transfer credits. Courses not meeting the university core requirements, but are acceptable academically, will be transferred and counted as elective credits.

Transfer students can check the “Transfer Credit Database” created by the UH Admissions Office to see how your courses transfer to UHM.

Upon entering the program, students will be required to meet with academic advisors to identify their career objectives and select an appropriate option for study.

Students wishing to transfer from another UHM program must submit the CTAHR College and Curriculum Transfer Request form. The request form is available from advisors. Status as a TAE major is not official until all necessary paperwork has been completed and processed. Students are encouraged to apply to the program within the first month of any given semester to allow adequate time to process their transfers prior to registration for classes.


Degree Requirements

The TAE program sheets and four year plans can be at the Bachelor Degree Program Sheets and Sample Four Year Academic Plans website. Please scroll down the page to the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Accepted students who have set up their UH username and password may also find their requirements on their STAR GPS Registration page. Log onto your STAR Account by visiting the website.



Students register for courses online through STAR GPS Registration. STAR GPS Registration is an easy-to-navigate registration system that shows courses students need to graduate in a timely manner and allows students to personalize their academic plan to fit their unique college experience. STAR GPS Registration allows students to do the following:

  • Register for classes that count directly into their degree/credential so they don’t go off track
  • A visual calendar of the classes students are choosing and how they fit together
  • Direct integration of students’ class schedule into their Google calendar
  • Easily switch classes using the add/drop options
  • Search for classes at any UH campus
  • View transcript

For help about STAR, students can meet with an academic advisor or visit the HELP website. Registration dates and times are published on the Registration Timetable.


Rewarding Career Opportunities

Tropical Agriculture and the Environment graduates pursue careers as scientists and practitioners in plant breeding, pest management, soil conservation, plant physiology, biotechnology, science education, agricultural production, landscape design, and more.

TAE graduates find employment opportunities in businesses, governmental agencies, international organizations, and academic institutions.

Careers are open to graduates as scientists, educators, managers, marketers, merchandising and sales representatives, social services specialists, and agriculturalists trained in all aspects of plant production, management, breeding, and genetics. Entrepreneurship opportunities exist in food and ornamental plant production as well as the landscape industries.

Our graduates become researchers, consultants, teachers and professional officers. They accept jobs in private firms, universities and government agencies, or they run their own businesses. The diversity of agricultural careers places many of these jobs in cities rather than farms. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows increasing demand for graduates with a Bachelor’s degree related to food and agricultural sciences.

Our graduates are employed as

  • Agricultural production managers
  • Biotechnologists
  • Commercial researchers
  • Conservationists
  • Consultants and managers
  • Ecologists
  • Educators
  • Environmental managers
  • Horticulturists
  • Landscape designers, installers and managers
  • Molecular biologists
  • Pest control specialists
  • Physiologists
  • Plant breeders
  • Plant pathologists


Current Openings



Useful WEB Sites for Students Entering into the University of Hawai'i

All information for students covering how to apply, academic calendar, financial aid, catalog, transfer credit search, new database, on-campus activities, housing (dorms), parking, etc..

MyUH Services is a mobile-optimized, one stop shop for UH business tasks, form, apps and more. It includes one-click access to services customized for students, faculty and staff across our 10-campus system.

STAR for students is the online degree tracking system for UH. You can view your degree requirements, register for classes, search for scholarships, and view your transcripts through STAR.

Select “Academic and Student Affairs” will open all the programs up for students interested in all that CTAHR has to offer for Undergrad and Graduate Programs, financial aid/scholarship information, course requirements and information on who we are, Department, Faculty and Staff as well as publications and research projects.

Use this website to make an appointment with our academic advisors. Advisors can assist you with developing a degree plan and making sure you’re taking the appropriate classes for graduation. Meeting with an academic advisor is mandatory every semester.

This web site provides information on the TAE program.

UH Core requirements and class listings.

This web site shows information on residency requirements and how your credits transfer into UH Mānoa.


Student Academic Support Services

Access to student academic support services is important to ensure your success while a student at the University of Hawaiʻi. Below is a listing of some of these services that can also be found in the UH Manoa Catalog along with appropriate contact information:

  • Office of Civic and Community Engagement offers UH Manoa students and community agencies the opportunity to participate in a partnership of volunteer service.
  • First Year Programs familiarize students with the array of resources, programs and faculty available at UH providing opportunities to develop personal relationships and enhancing active involvement in the educational process.
  • International Student Services provides assistance to international students who come from more than countries to study at UH. Students are advised and helped to adjust to the local and U.S. cultures.
  • Kokua Program (Disability Access Services) provides disability access services to students with documented physical and/or mental disabilities. Services include alternative media production, counseling, early registration, note-taking, sign language interpreting, technology access, testing accommodations and campus transportation.
  • Learning Assistance Center provides academic counseling and assists students in developing learning skills to increase academic success. Assessment, counseling and support services are also available for students with learning disabilities.
  • Mānoa Advising Center serves as a first point of contact for advising and appropriate referrals for incoming students.
  • Student Success Center at Sinclair Library offers students a place to study and provides information and skills and a place for students to work with librarians, mentors, tutors and counselors to meet individual needs.
  • Student Support Services provides academic advising and planning, tutoring and mentoring to increase college retention, academic success and graduation rates.
  • Mānoa Writing Center provide free services to equip students with appropriate writing skills so they can become better and more confident writers.

Do not hesitate to discuss your needs with your academic degree advisor who can help refer you to the appropriate resource. 


TPSS & PEPS Course Descriptions

Viewable online at the UH Manoa Catalog.

Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences

Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences