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Maria Gannett awarded three-year FFAR fellowship

Maria Gannett

ReposteMaria Gannett

Reposted from the SIPS blog, Discovery that Connects:

Maria Gannett, PhD student in the Field of Horticulture advised by Jenny Kao-Kniffin and Toni DiTommaso, has been awarded a graduate fellowship from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR). The fellowship grants $150,000 over three years, with roughly half of the funding provided by an industry partner. Gannett’s thesis research is focused on manipulation of soil microbes to enhance growth of crop plants relative to weed competitors. Her industry partner, American Vanguard Company (AMVAC), develops precision application technologies and is interested in incorporating research findings on soil biological functioning.

FFAR was established as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. The Fellows Program was created to provide professional development and career guidance to the next generation of food and agriculture scientists and is led by the Academic Programs Office at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. In addition to a $2.7 million commitment from FFAR, funding for the program is matched by a consortium of industry leaders. By providing early career support to graduate students, the fellowship cultivates supportive relationships between graduate students and industry peers to equip students with the skills needed to facilitate their transition to the workforce and prepare future leaders for food and agriculture. Fellows are co-mentored over the course of the 3-year program by university and industry representatives, and engage with their peers in professional development programming both virtually and at the annual one-week residential sessions.

As described in her FFAR profile, Gannett’s interest in weed control grew during her time in the Peace Corps where she observed the challenges of weed management in rural Senegal. In other parts of the world, heavy reliance on chemical herbicides such as glyphosate is leading to an increase in herbicide-resistant weeds. However, greater understanding of the interactions of soil chemistry, the soil microbiome, and the relative nutritional needs of plants, has the potential to reveal new strategies for weed suppression through targeted manipulation of these variables.

Gannett values this opportunity as the industry collaboration enables her to pursue fundamental research with real applications in farming systems and the program encourages innovation by gathering diverse stakeholders together. “This fellowship is especially unique in that it emphasizes professional skill development with our cohort. I’m really honored to be part of the program and hope I can share some of the skills I learn with the SIPS community.”

Read more about FFAR

Read more about Maria Gannett and her research

Seminar video: Nature Prescription Programs

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Nature Prescription Programs,  with Robert Zarr, Park Rx America, and Don Rakow, associate professor in the Horticulture Section, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Michael Rosato: Creating a more sustainable and affordable future for New York growers

Mike Rosato and others harvesting snap peas in research plots at Cornell AgriTech

Michael Rosato, a graduate student studying under the guidance of Steve Reiners, professor and chair of the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, is evaluating the soil sulfur levels on vegetable farms across New York State and conducting sulfur fertilizer trails that have economically important crops for growers. Above, Rosato, center, harvests snap peas at Cornell AgriTech with summer field workers, Christine Driscoll, Kim Day and Luke Czadzeck. Photo by Justin James Muir

CALS News [2019-08-23]:

Michael Rosato is a graduate student studying under the guidance of Steve Reiners, professor and chair of the horticulture section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

What drew you to the program with Steve Reiners?

I first worked in Steve Reiner’s program at the beginning of my undergraduate years as a summer technician. Steve always took the time to answer questions and helped me explore the world of horticulture. Beyond being a true mentor, seeing how his worked helped growers—both with sustainability and success—was a big reason why I wanted to work with him.

What’s the focus of your research?

Historically, sulfur has been abundant in soils mainly due to widespread pollution and the use of manure. In the 1970s, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act led to a gradual but drastic reduction in atmospheric sulfur, and thus, less sulfur was deposited in U.S. soils.

My project has two key elements. First, we are evaluating soil sulfur levels on vegetable farms across New York State, and second, we are also conducting sulfur fertilizer trials that have economically important crops for growers. We are measuring both yield and quality factors across all crops.

In our tomato trial, we are conducting sensory evaluations, as well as testing soluble solids and titratable acids to see if sulfur may be impacting flavor.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered while doing research at Cornell AgriTech?

In our first sensory evaluation, a panel of 100 participants generally rated sulfur-treated tomatoes as more acidic. Their observations were mirrored in our measurements of citric acid in the fruit.

Sulfur is a macro-nutrient that may impact the flavor of vegetables like tomato and onions, but it is often overlooked. If growers can add flavor intensity to their tomatoes by using a sulfur source like gypsum, which is cheap, easily applied and has the option of being organic, it’s a win for the farmer and the consumer.

In what ways do you hope your research will help growers in New York?

By measuring soil sulfur levels state-wide, we hope to get a better idea of how common sulfur deficiencies are. Further, we want to create accurate fertilizer recommendations for growers, so they can produce the highest quality products possible in both an affordable and sustainable way.

How do you think graduate students benefit from doing translational research?

Working on real life issues and seeing your efforts positively impact others’ lives is an important experience for all of us, and it’s truly fulfilling. I think translational research is a place where people can find purpose in helping others in any variety of ways.

Knowing berry pests’ varied diets may help control them

Spotted-wing drosophila on a blueberry

Spotted-wing drosophila cause billions of dollars in damage to fruit crops across Asia, North and South America, and Europe.

Cornell Chronicle [2019-08-06]

With New York state’s $20 million berry industry entering peak season, an invasive fruit fly is thriving.

Female spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii Matsumura) have a special ovipositor (a tube through which a female insect deposits eggs) with a saw-like end that allows them to cut into soft fruits and insert their eggs. The larvae and adults feed on the fruits, causing billions of dollars in damage across Asia, North and South America, and Europe.

But little has been known about how the pests survive before and after the growing season.

A Cornell study, published in May in Ecological Entomology, investigates for the first time what spotted-wing drosophila adults and larvae eat, and where they lay their eggs, when these short-lived fruits are not in season.

“They will lay eggs and successfully develop on less preferred resources and not the typical fruit that we think they prefer,” said Greg Loeb, professor of entomology at Cornell AgriTech and a co-author of the paper. Dara Stockton, a postdoctoral associate in Loeb’s lab, is the paper’s first author.

Read the whole article.

Schumer announces funding for hemp seed bank at Cornell

Larry Smart, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences, examines industrial hemp in a greenhouse.

Larry Smart, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences, examines industrial hemp in a greenhouse.

Cornell Chronicle [2019-08-05]:

The 2018 Farm Bill changed federal policy regarding industrial hemp, including the removal of hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and the consideration of hemp as an agricultural product.

The change created an agricultural opportunity potentially worth billions of dollars, and thanks to a big push from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Cornell will play a major research role as that industry grows.

On Aug. 2, Schumer announced $500,000 in federal funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) to create the nation’s only industrial hemp germplasm repository – a seed bank – co-located at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. This funding, part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Omnibus Spending Package, builds on Schumer’s contributions to the 2018 Farm Bill.

“I fought tooth and nail to secure this federal funding,” said Schumer, the senate minority leader, “while also working to strip back the burdensome federal restrictions that held our farmers and growers back from growing industrial hemp as an agriculture commodity, because I knew the potential this crop had to transform the upstate New York economy.”

Industrial hemp is used to make a wide range of products, including fibers, textiles, paper, construction materials, cosmetics and food.

“The hemp seed bank and the research potential it gives our Cornell and USDA-ARS scientists will be vital resources for New York state farmers,” said Kathryn J. Boor ’80 , the Ronald P. Lynch Dean at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We are grateful to Sen. Schumer for his hard work to secure this federal funding.”

Larry Smart, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences (SIPS), said the hemp repository is a desperately needed resource. The seed bank will enable researchers to identify pest-resistant and disease-resistant genes, giving them the tools to breed new varieties. Getting to the root of crop health, Smart said, is essential for providing better resources to New York hemp growers.

Read the whole article.

Cornell horticulturists travel to Las Vegas for annual conference

Yi Qiu, Masoume Amirkhani, and Alan Taylor

Yi Qiu, Masoume Amirkhani, and Alan Taylor

By Magdalen Lindeberg from the SIPS blog, Discovery that Connects {2019-08-01]:

The 2019 General Conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) was held July 21 – 25 in Las Vegas Nevada with many SIPS faculty, research staff, and students participating. As it does every year, the SIPS Horticulture Section hosted a reception for alumni and meeting participants with more than 30 people attending.

Thomas Bjorkman confers with a conference attendee

Thomas Bjorkman confers with a conference attendee

Highlights of the meeting included the naming of SIPS/AgriTech faculty member Susan Brown as an ASHS Fellow. Cornell faculty leadership is evident in diverse ASHS initiatives with Chris Watkins serving as Chair of the Extension Advisory Council, Marvin Pritts chairing the American Pomological Society, and Thomas Björkman chairing the National Issues Committee. Björkman additionally coordinated a session on “Advocating for Horticultural Research and Extension When You Are Far from Washington”.

Chris Watkins with Yosef Al Shoffe and Watkin’s lab alum Jinwook Lee

Chris Watkins with Yosef Al Shoffe and Watkin’s lab alum Jinwook Lee

Horticulture graduate student Haley Rylander received an Outstanding Educational Materials Award for her leaflet on use of tarps to suppress weeds and reduce tillage.

Research highlights included a keynote talk by Larry Smart on the topic “From Grey Area to Gold Rush: Establishing a Comprehensive Hemp Research Program”. Hemp was also addressed by Alan Taylor in is talk on biological seed treatments for hemp with members of his program presenting on other seed related research.

Apples were a major topic at the conference and Cornell was represented by Greg PeckChris WatkinsTerrance Robinson, and members of their research programs. Watkins and lab members presented on postharvest treatment of Honeycrisp and other apples. Peck and his research group addressed weed management in organic orchards and the state of cider apple germplasm, and Robinson presented on ethylene production by apple flowers.

Horticulture alum Tamara Wynne with Marvin Pritts

Horticulture alum Tamara Wynne with Marvin Pritts

Other Cornell faculty attending included Courtney Weber who presented research on black raspberry production in high tunnels, and day-neutral strawberries in low tunnels. Thomas Björkman’s group addressed various aspects of broccoli production in the northeast. Researchers in the Mattson and Miller programs were also in attendance, presenting on controlled environment production of strawberry and spinach, and maximizing postharvest quality of cut lilies, respectively.

Marvin Pritts commented that the diversity of attendees and presenters at ASHS continues to grow and that he looks forward to more Cornell undergraduates attending in future years.  Cornell attendees were thankful to return home before the arrival of grasshopper swarms in Las Vegas shortly after the conference.

Martinson receives Outstanding Achievement Award from ASEV-Eastern Section

Tim Martinson

Tim Martinson

winebusiness.com [2019-07-23]:

Dr. Chris Gerling, chair of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, Eastern Section, presented the Section’s Outstanding Achievement Award to Dr. Timothy Martinson, senior extension associate at Cornell University at the opening session of the ASEV-Eastern Section conference in Geneva, NY on July 16. In presenting the award, Gerling noted that Martinson had been the senior extension agent and statewide viticultural extension person since 2007. “Tim is a really giving and generous colleague,” Gerling commented. “He’s one who ‘shares the credit and takes the blame.’”

Martinson began his career at Cornell in 1991 after working for the Peace Corps in Central America for three years. He had completed both his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in entomology at Cornell and initially was research associate with the grape entomology program at the university’s NY State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. He became the grape extension specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Finger Lakes Grape Program in 1997, at a time when the Finger Lakes region had a vineyard base of 10,000 acres, 230 growers and 90 wineries.

For ten years, Martinson’s focus was on the development of the VineBalance sustainable viticulture program and the production of The New York Guide to Sustainable Viticulture Practices Grower Self-assessment Workbook. He was appointed senior extension associate in 2007 with the goal of creating a statewide viticulture extension program. As part of that program, he edits the Veraison to Harvest weekly newsletter that is delivered across the state from late August through early November and Appellation Cornell, a quarterly online publication that features articles and news about viticulture and enology research, extension and teaching programs at Cornell.

From 2011 until 2017, Martinson provided the leadership for the Northern Grapes Project (NGP), a coordinated agriculture program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture that involved 12 institutions, 34 researchers and 23 industry associations. The NGP focused on the integration of viticulture, winemaking and marketing of the new cold-hardy cultivars in 12 Midwestern and Northeastern states.

Read the whole article.

Susan Brown named American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) fellow

CALS News [2019-07-25]:

Susan Brown with apples

On July 22, Susan Brown, head of Cornell’s apple breeding program and the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science, was named a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) for her outstanding contributions to horticulture through her research, teaching, extension work and leadership in the horticulture industry. Above, Brown holds an apple variety she developed.

In New York, apples are big business: the state’s 600 commercial growers produce an average of 30 million bushels annually, making it the second-largest apple producer in the U.S. But growing apples isn’t easy, and much has changed since Cornell began its breeding program roughly 115 years ago. Cornell’s program, one of the largest in the world, has released 66 apples, including the well-known Cortland, Jonagold, and Empire varieties.

But just over the past decade, public and private breeders have sped up the pace of release of new varieties—patenting hundreds of consumer-friendly apples, many trademarked, that are beginning to take a bite out of older varieties’ sales.

Enter Susan Brown, head of Cornell’s apple breeding program and the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science. Brown has dedicated her professional career to using molecular marker-assisted breeding to develop important apple varieties that provide the best appearance, flavor, growing characteristics, and highest prices for New York growers and those in other temperate North American and international regions.

On July 22, she was named a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) for her outstanding contributions to horticulture through her research, teaching, extension work and leadership in the horticulture industry.

Brown excels at meeting consumer and grower needs through plant breeding. Her research on the genetic control of tree form led to the development of trees that combine high yield with less labor, as well as those uniquely suited as ornamentals. And she has laid the groundwork for future advances with her research on the underlying biological mechanisms of phenolic synthesis, disease resistance genes, fruit texture and flavor, as well as the apple’s nutritional properties, plant architecture, and cross-pollination peculiarities.

Brown has published 64 research articles, 60 outreach publications, nine book chapters, and holds nine U.S. plant patents: four sweet cherries, one tart cherry, and four apple varieties. Her two most recent releases, in 2011, introduced growers to SnapDragon™ and RubyFrost™—apples that combine superior eating quality with high disease resistance and packout, which means that more market-ready fruit can be picked from each tree at one time. After more than a decade in development, consumers got their first taste in 2013 and Brown said demand has been exceptional for both.

Brown picks apples in a Cornell AgriTech orchard.

Brown picks apples in a Cornell AgriTech orchard.

“Susan has been breeding for the apples you wish you could have. She’s meeting the needs of everyone involved to get consumers better apples,” said Thomas Björkman, professor of vegetable crop physiology in the School of Integrative Plant Sciences, and also an ASHS fellow. “They have great texture and flavor plus disease resistance, which is critical for growers and valuable environmentally. Efficient tree form makes the economics work. Storage ability means a more marketable apple that people can enjoy for more of the year. Nobody else puts all the pieces together like that.”

Joy Crist of Crist Brothers Orchards in Walden, New York, said Brown’s work is crucial for her farm and all New York growers’ sustainability. Crist Brothers is a member of Crunch Time Apple Growers, a cooperative owned by growers that was formed in 2010 solely to manage and market the SnapDragon™ and RubyFrost™ varieties. The cooperative now has 147 growers representing 60 percent of New York’s apple production.

“We’re vying for shelf space in grocery stores with other club varieties. You have to have an apple that looks good and holds up to harsh handling,” Crist said. “The value of Susan’s work is keeping agriculture viable in New York state by growing something that’s appealing to customers, so they choose apples instead of other fruit. Without these new varieties, I don’t see how we’d be able to compete.”

Brown also has helped ensure that Cornell remains a leader in agricultural research and extension, and that its students can compete. She was former director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (now Cornell AgriTech) and has advised dozens of graduate students, mentored undergraduates in Cornell’s Summer Scholars program, and speaks regularly to anyone who loves apples as much as she does—including garden clubs, nurserymen and researchers.

“The society considers fellows to be the ‘best of the best’ that bring honor and prestige to the organization,” said Michael Neff, ASHS executive director. “I’m pleased to see Dr. Brown recognized as a fellow of ASHS this year. She and her colleagues in this 55th class of ASHS fellows exemplify professionalism in horticulture and are richly deserving of this signal honor of the society.”

New software helps plant breeders bring out their best

CALS News, Cornell Chronicle [2019-07-19]:

Thomas Björkman, professor in the Horticulture Section, studies broccoli in a field at Cornell AgriTech.

Thomas Björkman, professor in the Horticulture Section, studies broccoli in a field at Cornell AgriTech.

Broccoli is in the eye of the beholder.

A head of broccoli that might appeal to one person – perhaps because of its deep green color – may leave another cold, due to an asymmetrical shape or too-large buds.

Cornell researchers participating in the Eastern Broccoli Project, which aims to produce broccoli varieties suited to grow on the East Coast, have devised a statistical method to standardize evaluations of broccoli, in order to make plant breeding decisions more consistent and efficient.

Now a Cornell group – doctoral student Zachary Stansell; Thomas Björkman, professor of horticulture at Cornell AgriTech; and Deniz Akdemir of the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit – has released RateRvaR, a new software based on this method. RateRvaR is freely available, open source, easy to use and applicable to breeders of any vegetable, tree or flower with subjective features.

Using the software, breeders can select traits and ask multiple people to perform the same evaluation. The program will then analyze that data to determine which traits are more or less important in predicting overall quality, partly by prioritizing traits that are easier to judge objectively, such as size or color.

“The challenge for breeders, when they’re looking for wider adaptations, is that for certain crops, you plant all over the place and fly to various locations around the world to do the evaluations yourself,” Björkman said.

“But what if you had to check the plant twice a week for a month because it’s maturing at different rates? You can’t be jetting around the world; it just becomes impractical,” he said. “Breeders want to know not only how another person would score a plant, but how they would score it themselves, or how some idealized consumer would score it. This should open up the opportunity for breeders to do evaluations in multiple locations.”

Read the whole article.

Schwartz Sax is new director of Connecticut College Arboretum

Miles Schwartz Sax

Miles Schwartz Sax

Connecticut College News [2019-07-09]:

Connecticut College has named Miles Schwartz Sax as the new Charles and Sarah P. Becker ’27 Arboretum Director, effective Aug. 1, 2019.

Sax received a master’s degree in public garden leadership in 2014 and a Ph.D. in horticultural biology in 2019 from Cornell University. His academic research focuses on issues relating to urban horticulture, tree selection and evaluation, stress physiology and rare plant conservation in the context of an increasingly urbanizing and warming planet.

The Connecticut College Arboretum, one of the most cherished resources on campus, consists of a very diverse 750 acres that include the landscaped grounds of the College as well as the surrounding plant collections, natural areas and managed landscapes.

“The Arboretum has a long history of doing exceptional work in land conservation and ecological landscape management, and I look forward to using this rich history as a foundation to continue to grow and expand the capacity of the institution,” Sax said.

Read the whole article.

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