Peter Davies was a member of the faculty at Cornell University for 46 ½ years, and a full professor for 33 years, before he retired in 2016 with the titles of Professor of Plant Physiology and International Professor of Plant Biology. Prior to that he was at Yale University for three years. He holds degrees from the University of Reading in England (B.Sc. Honors in Agricultural Botany 1962, Ph.D. in Agricultural Botany with an emphasis on herbicide physiology in 1966), and the University of California at Davis (M.S. Plant Physiology 1964). He has published over 100 papers and several books. At Cornell he taught Plant Physiology for his entire career, reaching thousands of students who are now involved in science and agriculture worldwide, and Plant Growth and Development for many years. More recently he started a popular course entitled Issues in Social Biology covering the societal implications of advances in biology, and even more recently joined The GMO Debate - Science and Society, a course on GMO crops, their regulation and societal implications. He was the Chair of Plant Biology 1992-1996, the Director of Graduate Studies for the Field of Botany 1980-83, Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Plant Sciences major 2004-2009, and Chair, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Faculty Senate 2001-4. He held the position of a Jefferson Science Fellow at the United States Department of State in 2011-14 serving as a science advisor in the area of agricultural biotechnology, and has been involved in Cornell’s mission in international agriculture. In retirement he continues biotech crop advocacy with lectures and articles at home and abroad, and serves as a docent in Cornell Botanic Gardens.
Davies recent research has been on the role of plant hormones in stem growth, whole-plant senescence, tomato ripening and potato tuberization. More recently he has been undertaking metabolomic analyses of grapes and apples in relation to disease resistance and metabolic disorders. However he is now in retirement and no longer accepting research students.
Outreach and Extension Focus
Davies spent one year (2011-2012) as a Jefferson Fellow in residence at the Department of State in Washington DC, serving as a senior science adviser to the office of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Textile Trade Affairs in the Bureau of Economics and Business. He was particularly involved as an adviser on biotech (GMO) crops within the office, including involvement in a Foreign Service Institute course on biotech crops for foreign service personnel. In addition he visited nine countries and delivered 26 lectures or presentations on biotech crops at universities, institutes, academies, farmers groups and schools, as well as to government officials in these countries. During his overseas trips he conducted several interviews with journalists and on TV resulting in extensive reports on biotech crops on local newspapers. In November he was recalled to the Philippines as an expert witness in a court hearing on Bt eggplant trials. On returning to Cornell Davies has become involved in International Agriculture in International Programs. The Fellow position continues with Davies in the role of consultant, most recently in biotech crop outreach in Southern Africa in 2014. In 2014 he spent 3 months on biotech crop outreach in Hawaii, and continues lecturing on biotech crop education whenever possible.
Professor Davies was appointed at Cornell with the expressed purpose of teaching Plant Physiology to students in agriculture and horticulture because of his agronomy background and research experience in basic plant physiology. He taught Plant Function and Growth from 1970 until 2015, keeping it up to date but at an appropriate level for undergraduate students. After three years teaching introductory biology to non majors his emphasis (2009-2015) moved to encouraging students to learn how advances in biology affect their lives with a course Issues in Social Biology, Diet to Disease, DNA to Deforestation, subtitled Biology in the News, where the emphasis is self-discovery via articles in the media rather than rote learning of biological facts. He was also involved in teaching in International Agriculture including Agriculture in Developing Nations and The GMO Debate. Now emeritus he continues involvement in The GMO Debate.
Awards and Honors
- Jefferson Fellow (2011) United States Department of State
- International Professor of Plant Biology (2016)
- OECD (Trade & Agriculture) Research Fellow (2010) Università di Bologna, Italy
- Senior Fellow (2010) Institute of Advanced Studies, Università di Bologna, Italy
- Named Most Influential Faculty Member (2008) Merill Scholar Graham Dow
- Yang, X., Brown, S. K., & Davies, P. J. (2013). The content and in vivo metabolism of gibberellin in apple vegetative tissues. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 138:17278-17283.
- Davies, P. J., & Gan, S. (2012). Towards an integrated view of monocarpic plant senescence. Russian Journal of Plant Physiology. 59:476-478.
- Sklensky, D. E., & Davies, P. J. (2011). Resource partitioning to male and female flowers of Spinacia oleracea L. in relation to whole-plant monocarpic senescence. JXB: Journal of Experimental Botany. 62:4323Ð4336.
- Silva, T. M., & Davies, P. J. (2007). Hormone growth responses of roots of shoot height mutants of pea. Physiologia Plantarum. 129:813-821.
- Silva, T. M., & Davies, P. J. (2007). Elongation rates and endogenous indoleacetic acid levels in roots of pea mutants differing in internode length. Physiologia Plantarum. 129:804-812.
- Tassoni, A., Watkins, C. B., & Davies, P. J. (2006). Inhibition of the ethylene response by 1-MCP in tomato suggests that polyamines are not involved in delaying ripening, but may moderate the rate of ripening or over-ripening. JXB: Journal of Experimental Botany. 57:3313–3325.
- Hannapel, D. J., Chen, H., Rosin, F. M., Banerjee, A. K., & Davies, P. J. (2004). Molecular controls of tuberization. American Journal of Potato Research. 81:5-16.
- Ewing, E. E., Simko, I., Omer, E. A., & Davies, P. J. (2004). Polygene mapping as a tool to study the physiology of potato tuberization and dormancy. American Journal of Potato Research. 81:33-41.
- Rosin, F. M., Hart, J. K., Horner, H. T., Davies, P. J., & Hannapel, D. J. (2003). Overexpression of a knotted like homeobox gene of potato alters vegetative development by decreasing gibberellin accumulation. Plant Physiology. 132:106-117.
- Mapes, C. C., & Davies, P. J. (2001). Cytokinins in the ball gall of Solidago altissima and in the gall forming larvae of Eurosta. New Phytologist. 151:203-212.