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New course teaches cutting-edge food production

To better prepare Cornell students to thrive in the growing  hydroponic industry, associate professor Neil Mattson initiated a course last fall, Hydroponic Food Crop Production and Management, to teach the principles and practices of commercial food crop production in controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Read more in the Cornell Chronicle [2017-01-19].

The Grand Pomologist of Hard Cider

Greg Peck — arguably the nation’s preeminent hard cider scientist — is on a mission to turn America’s fledgling hard cider scene into a sophisticated industry, à la the viticulturists of California, according to Modern Farmer. Read more,

Peck talks cider apple production at 2016 cider field day at Cornell Orchards.

Peck talks cider apple production at 2016 cider field day at Cornell Orchards.

New botanical arts display in Plant Science Building

New botanical arts display in case west of the foyer on the first floor of the Plant Science Building.

New botanical arts display in case west of the foyer on the first floor of the Plant Science Building.


What comes to mind when you think of botanical arts?

A new display in the cabinets west of the first-floor foyer in Plant Science Building may challenge your notions.

“Many just think of floral design and botanical illustration,” says Marcia Eames-Sheavly, senior lecturer and senior Extension associate in the Horticulture Section.  “They’re important examples, but there’s so much more!”

For the display, Eames-Sheavly drew largely on works by students in her Art of Horticulture and Intensive Study in Botanical Illustration courses, and sprinkled in a few of her own.

“This display highlights just some of the expressions of the intersections of art and horticulture including works in cloth, concrete, gourds, pressed flowers and wood, as well as more traditional media such as pencil, acrylic, and watercolor,” she notes.

Undergraduates (who are not Plant Sciences majors) interested in pursuing the Horticulture Minor with a Focus in the Botanical Arts should visit the minor’s webpage or contact Eames-Sheavly:

Class travels to Chile to study biodiversity

Alstroemeria in Valle Nevado, Chile

Alstroemeria in Valle Nevado, Chile

Today, students in Special Topics in Horticulture: Plant Biodiversity (PLHRT 4940) arrive in Chile. For the next 10 days, they will follow-up on their classroom experiences last semester learning about how biodiversity is perceived, valued, measured, monitored, and protected with hands-on study and exploration of wild and native plants, commercial breeding programs, and botanical gardens and arboreta.

“The biodiversity of Chile is rich and precious, and its plants are valued highly throughout the world,” notes Mark Bridgen, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who is leading the trip. “Of the 5,100 species of flora and fauna found in Chile, more than 2,500 are endemic – that is, found nowhere else on Earth.”

In fact, Bridgen has developed two ornamental cultivars of the native Chilean Inca Lily (Alstroemeria): ‘Tangerine Tango’ and ‘Mauve Majesty’.

If you’d like to follow the class’s adventures, visit and/or subscribe to the class blog, Biodiversity in Chile. The site is already populated with profiles of fascinating plants — including the alien-looking Yareta (Azorella compacta) from the high desert and the national tree of Chile Araucaria araucanabetter known as the Monkey Puzzle Tree — and posts on other biodiversity topics.

View additional pictures from Chile on Mark Bridgen’s Facebook page.

Online garden design course starts March 13

garden_designx300Introduction to Garden Design
March 13 to April 28, 2017.
Cost: $675.
Enrollment limited to 12 students.

About the course

  • Learn garden site analysis and apply the concepts to your personal space.
  • Gain proficiency in basic garden design principles.
  • Articulate your personal aesthetic — what appeals to you, and what you enjoy.
  • Lay out a rough site plan overview of your garden design.

You’ll do all that and more if you take this 6-week online course (plus the introduction days), which provides an opportunity for you to design your own garden. You will be studying and experimenting with the basic design procedures, learning about proper plant selection, and you will write and reflect on the process as you learn. The instructor will take an active role in this creative endeavor by providing feedback on your assignments and journal entries. You will also have the opportunity to learn from one another through an open forum in which you can share your ideas with others.

This course is designed to encourage your discovery of basic garden design techniques. It is a garden design course for the beginner. We teach an approach to gardening that is based on the principle of right plant, right place. In other words, we will consider the needs of the plant in addition to the needs of the gardener.

Course schedule:

  • Introduction Days: Welcome & Introductions
  • Week 1: Site Assessment Part 1
  • Week 2: Site Assessment Part 2 / Basic Design Principles: Personal Style, Garden Unity, and Maintenance
  • Week 3: Basic Design Principles: Scale & Proportion, Balance & Symmetry, Repetition, Movement
  • Week 4: Basic Design Principles: Color, Form & Texture
  • Week 5: Designing Your Garden: Choosing & Buying Plants
  • Week 6: Designing Your Garden: Final Project and Buying Plants

More information/registration.

Full syllabus.

Swegarden takes top honors at rutabaga curling competition


Photo courtesy Edna Brown Photography

It’s only fitting that kale aficionado Hannah Swegarden, PhD student in the Graduate Field of Horticulture, took top honors in the Almost 20th Anniversary Ithaca Farmers Market  Rutabaga (a related Brassica) Curl December 17.

Swegarden faced stiff competition from runner-up ‘God’ (left, aka Michael Glos, technician in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section representing Kingbird Farm).

More curling event images at Edna Brown Photography.

January graduates celebrated at recognition ceremony

Justin France waves to family and friends after receiving recognition for earning his master's degree in horticulture. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Justin France waves to family and friends after receiving recognition for earning his master’s degree in horticulture. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-12-19]:

Dressed in their academic regalia, Alice Beban France and her husband, Justin France, appeared relaxed at the reception following Cornell’s 14th January graduation recognition ceremony at Bartels Hall Dec. 17.

That relaxation was well-deserved for a couple juggling education with parenthood – they have two daughters, ages 4 and 6. Fortuitously, Justin earned his master’s in horticulture at the same time Alice completed her doctorate in development sociology.

“We prioritized family over school,” squeezing in coursework late at night and early in the morning, Justin said. It helped to live in graduate student housing at Hasbrouck Apartments, where there was a good support network and child care for families juggling school and children, Alice said.

The family plans to move to New Zealand, Alice’s home country, where she will work as a lecturer and he will manage a vineyard.

Read the whole article.

NYSAES Gifts Brighten Holiday for Geneva Children

NYSAES staff, faculty, students, and NYSIPM Program and USDA-ARS employees sponsored 23 children from 12 families in the Geneva City School District as part of the Cornell University Elves Program.

NYSAES staff, faculty, students, and NYSIPM Program and USDA-ARS employees sponsored 23 children from 12 families in the Geneva City School District as part of the Cornell University Elves Program.

From Matt Hayes, CALS communications:

This holiday season will be even merrier — and warmer — for nearly two dozen Geneva school children thanks to Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES).

Members of the Station community sponsored 23 children from 12 families in the Geneva City School District as part of the Cornell University Elves Program. The Elves Program was founded in 1989 to benefit elementary school students who are in greatest need.

This is the 5th year members of NYSAES have taken part in the program by providing local children with a new outfit of clothes, pajamas, a winter hat, gloves, and a toy.

The support comes from across the Geneva campus: staff, faculty, students, including those in the Student Association of the Geneva Experiment Station (SAGES), as well as members of the New York State Integrated Pest Management and those in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service based in Geneva all took part.

This year the community also purchased new boots and winter coats for almost all of the children, said Beth Demmings, a postdoctoral associate and VitisGen project manager.

“Each year I am blown away by the overwhelming generosity of this small campus to support families in the greater community of Geneva,” said Demmings, who co-coordinated this year’s event with Jessica Townley.

Station members wrapped the gifts on Dec. 14 during a lunch hosted by the office of Susan Brown, the Goichman Family Director of the NYSAES and the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

All of the gifts will be delivered to West Street School this week.

Bruce Reisch on new wine grape varieties

Bruce Reisch

Bruce Reisch

Growers and the market are all conditioned to accept certain popular varieties—Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet. [My grapes] may have qualities that could be similar to elite varieties, but these would be entirely new varieties.

— Grape breeder Bruce Reisch, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, in Can Science Save Our Favorite Wines? in Wine Enthusiast [2016-12-08].

Read the whole article.

Edwin Burnell Oyer: An Inspiration to Everyone

Ed Oyer, chair of the Department of Vegetable Crops from 1966 to 1971

Ed Oyer, chair of the Department of Vegetable Crops from 1966 to 1971

By Linda McCandless, reposted from CALS International Programs News:

A man who leads a life well-lived and well-liked is often recognized in his passing by those whom he has touched. We were able to gather a few words and images of Edwin Burnell Oyer, international professor emeritus in vegetable crops, who died on November 15, 2016, at the age of 89. Many people in horticulture and International Programs at Cornell and in institutions globally will always remember the kindness, expertise, and wise counsel they received from Ed during his professional life.

Edwin Oyer joined the Department of Vegetable Crops at Cornell in 1955 after receiving his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue University. He was awarded a NATO Fellowship in Science in 1961 to conduct vegetable research at Le Phytotron in Gif-sur-Yvette, France. From there, he served on the faculty of the Department of Horticulture at Purdue from 1963 to 1966 before returning to Cornell to chair the Department of Vegetable Crops from 1966 to 1971.

In 1972, Ed helped found the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center in Taiwan where he served as deputy director for research until 1974, when he returned to Cornell to direct the International Agriculture Program in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.

In 1977, he joined the newly established International Agricultural Development Service where he served as the project leader for a World Bank financed project to establish the Agency for Agricultural Research and Development in the Republic of Indonesia. In 1982, he returned to Cornell once again to resume his position as director of the International Agricultural Program, where he served until his retirement in 1992.

Chris Wien, professor emeritus of horticulture, remembers Ed as, “A most kind, generous and outgoing man, who had sincere interest in fostering international agricultural development.”

“Ed was much appreciated for his energy, cheerful disposition, optimistic outlook, skillful human relations, and wise counsel,” said Elmer Ewing, professor emeritus of horticulture and veg crops.

Ronnie Coffman, the current director of International Programs, remembers Ed at many junctures in his career, starting from his first recollection dating back to 1971 when he arrived in Los Baños, Philippines to take up his new post as a rice breeder at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). “Ed was serving as the last Director of the University of the Philippines Cornell (UPCO) project,” said Ronnie. “The project had operated for 20 years and it had been agreed by all concerned that it was time for Cornell to move on and leave the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) to its business. Winding things down was a delicate matter, so Cornell had sent Ed, one of its most diplomatic administrators, to do the job. He was more than up to the task. He and his wife Mary Ann immediately hosted a dinner to welcome my wife Charlotte and me to the community. It was clear that Ed was tremendously respected by his colleagues at UPLB and IRRI.”

Ronnie went on to say that Ed’s successful work at UPCO attracted the attention of Dr. Robert Chandler, the founding Director of IRRI, who, in early 1972, was just moving to the challenge of founding the Asia Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) in Taiwan. “Ed, who had been chair of the Vegetable Crops Department (later incorporated into Horticulture) at Cornell, agreed to help Chandler as his deputy director for research,” said Coffman. “It was another successful endeavor for both Ed and Dr. Chandler.”

By the time Ronnie returned to Cornell some 10 years later in 1981, he found Ed waiting for him as director of the Office of International Programs in CALS (IP-CALS). “I was hired as an International Professor of Plant Breeding, and always figured that Ed had some influence on the decision,” said Ronnie, who is the current director of IP-CALS. “It has been wonderful to have Ed’s help as a senior advisor over the past 15 years or so. Ed was eternally optimistic and, as such, will live on as an inspiration to everyone in IP-CALS as we face the future.”

Oyer in the field.

Oyer (standing, center) in the field.

More information:
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