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Saamaka rice ‘… for our children and our grandchildren.’

From Plant Sciences Major Rosemary Glos ‘20:

rice poster

Poster text: Our mothers and our ancestors planted many beautiful varieties of rice. These are a few, but there are many more. Let’s continue to plant them, take pleasure in them, and keep them for our children and grandchildren.

This poster depicts 20 of the unique rice varieties grown by the Saamaka people of Suriname.

Rice is a staple crop among the Saamaka, a culturally, politically, and economically independent maroon people from the upper Suriname River. Rice cultivation and consumption are intimately linked to Saamaka cultural identity and oral history dating back to their escape from slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Traditional rice cultivation may be under threat from a variety of environmental and cultural factors, including land degradation, rising population, and loss of rice-growing knowledge. Saamaka farmers, all of them women, grow an impressive array of rice varieties on small slash and burn plots.

In July of 2018, Dr. Erika Styger and I traveled to Suriname, where we documented over 50 distinct cultivars, interviewed farmers, and collected seeds for export. Back in Ithaca, we are obtaining genetic data in collaboration with professors Susan McCouch and Chelsea Specht and postdoc Jacob Landis.

We hope to work with Saamaka farmers to improve yields, preserve genetic diversity in situ, and encourage farming systems that replenish the soil and minimize deforestation.

Seminar video: Reusable black tarps suppress weeds and make organic reduced tillage more viable

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Reusable black tarps suppress weeds and make organic reduced tillage more viable with Haley Rylander, Graduate Field of Horticulture, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Small Farms seminar video: Farming While Black

If you missed Thursday’s Cornell Small Farms Program seminar, Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice  with Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Hortus Forum scores big at the Philly Flower Show

Plant Sciences majors Samuel Sterinbach and Alexander Liu and International Agriculture & Rural Development Major Veronika Vogel brought home a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi and earned 37 other ribbons.

Plant Sciences Majors Samuel Sterinbach and Alexander Liu and International Agriculture & Rural Development Major Veronika Vogel brought home a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi and earned 37 other ribbons.

The prize-winning Haworthia cooperi.

The prize-winning Haworthia cooperi.

Some might call it beginner’s luck. But it really has more to do with the top-notch growing skills of the talented horticulturists in Hortus Forum, Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club.

The club entered 44 plants in various categories at the Philadelphia Flower Show. And they brought home 38 ribbons, including a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi.

“That’s almost unheard of first time out.  I’m very proud of them,” says Mark Bridgen, director of the Long Island Horticulture Research and Extension Center, who helped organize the club’s trip to the show as well as a tour of nearby Longwood Gardens.

“Most people don’t understand how much work it is to grow and enter that many plants,” he adds.  Their entries garnered a lot of good will for Cornell.”

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Flower Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event. Attendance at the week-long extravaganza tops 250,000 people.

“We’re still ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy and gratitude,” says Veronika Vogel ‘21 who along with fellow club members Alexander Liu ’20 and Samuel Sterinbach ’20 organized the  effort. “We were told that it often takes people many years of entering before they win a blue ribbon, and we did it in the first year we participated!”

Club members carefully packed their 43 entries into a minivan to transport them from Ithaca to Philadelphia.

Club members carefully packed their 43 entries into a minivan to transport them from Ithaca to Philadelphia.

Vogel also emphasizes the team effort, crediting Hortus Forum members past and present who contributed to the health and beauty of the plants they exhibited. “Many of the plants we entered (including the prize-winning Haworthia) are years old and have had generations of club members contribute to their care,” she says.

Vogel also adds that their effort also put them on the map with other horticulturists at the show. “Many people were super excited to have us exhibit and we got lots of very positive feedback,” says Vogel, who along with Liu and Sterinbach pulled off several late night shifts to select, enter, groom, pack and transport the plants.

“The students really are to be commended,” says Bridgen.  “I can’t wait to see how they do next year.”

Seminar video: The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium with Neil Mattson, Associate Professor, Horticulture Section, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Roadmap points way to better soil health in N.Y.

Soil at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, New York.

Soil at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, New York.

Cornell Chronicle [2019-02-28]:

There is a revolution of sorts going on in farming today, triggered by discoveries in plant and soil ecology, and a recognition that we will need to restore the health of our soils to feed an expanding population.

New York has been a leader in this soil health revolution, but where do we go from here? This is the focus of the recently released New York Soil Health Roadmap, a collaborative effort of the New York Soil Health (NYSH) initiative coordinated by Cornell.

The roadmap identifies key policy, research and education efforts to overcome barriers to adoption of soil health practices by farmers. It also identifies strategies for integrating soil health goals with state priorities focused on environmental issues such as climate change and water quality.

Roadmap contributors developed four goals for advancing soil health. The goals include overcoming barriers to wider adoption of soil health practices, and the integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation in all aspects of soil health programming.

As a resource for policymakers, researchers, farmers and those concerned about healthy food and a healthy environment, the roadmap comprises input from many individuals, organizations and government agencies in New York and nationally. It is intended to help expand soil health policy, research and outreach efforts to reach New York’s underserved.

“This roadmap highlights the linkages between soil, water and air quality,” said David Wolfe, Cornell professor of plant and soil ecology and leader of the project. “It was impressive to see how such a diverse group of stakeholders was able to find consensus on a few key goals that address some of our most urgent environmental challenges while supporting the long term success of our farms.”

Read the whole article.

Farming While Black seminar March 7

Farming While Black posterFarming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice
Thursday, March 7, 2019
4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
135 Emerson

Farmer, educator, food justice activist, and now writer, Leah Penniman will lead a seminar describing her work, as well as her newly published book, “Farming While Black.” Following Leah’s lecture, there will be a half-hour panel discussion addressing questions about racial inequality in the food system, as well as more general food justice topics. The panel is composed of Cornell Small Farms Program director Anu Rangarajan, Developmental Sociology Professor Scott Peters, and local farmer and advocate Raphael Aponte. Coffee and snacks will be provided.

More information.

Schumer announces $68.9 million for USDA grape lab at Cornell AgriTech

CALS news [2019-02-26]

After years of advocating for funding to improve the infrastructure for grape research, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Feb. 26 $68.9 million to build a new federal grape genetics research lab at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York.

The funds will come from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Building and Facilities budget.

“The grape industry plays a fundamental role in the upstate economy, and I’ll always fight for the investment needed to keep it from going sour,” Schumer said.

“I want to thank Sen. Schumer for his persistence over many years to see this lab built,” said Cornell President Martha E. Pollack. “He championed this project from the start, always looked for ways around obstacles, and never missed an opportunity to advocate strongly for its completion.”

Lance Cadle-Davidson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), center, elaborates last summer on Cornell grape research with, left to right, President Martha E. Pollack, geneticist Benjamin Gutierrez of USDA-ARS and Bruce Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics. Photo by Cornell Brand Communications

Lance Cadle-Davidson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), center, elaborates last summer on Cornell grape research with, left to right, President Martha E. Pollack, geneticist Benjamin Gutierrez of USDA-ARS and Bruce Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics. Photo by Cornell Brand Communications


 
Indeed, the New York grape industry produces $4.8 billion in annual economic benefits for the state, through 1,600 family vineyards that cover close to 40,000 acres, according to the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. The grapes grown on these farms feed the juice, wine, raisin and table grape industries.

Read more.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Leonard Topoleski, vegetable crop expert, dies at 83

Leonard Topoleski

Leonard Topoleski

CALS News [2019-02-21]:

Leonard D. Topoleski, professor emeritus of vegetable crops and horticulture, died Feb. 8 in Sayre, Pennsylvania. He was 83.

Topoleski conducted research on vegetable crops, served as an extension agent and left a legacy as a popular teacher and student adviser.

“He was an enthusiastic teacher of our undergraduate beginning horticulture course and, over his career, inspired many students with his love of plants,” said Chris Wien, M.S. ’67, Ph.D. ’71, professor emeritus of horticulture.

Born in 1935 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Topoleski earned a bachelor’s (1957) and a master’s degree (1959) in horticulture from Penn State University and a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics (1962) from Purdue University. That same year, he joined Cornell’s faculty in the then-Department of Vegetable Crops where he worked until his retirement in 2001.

Topoleski’s research involved understanding incompatibility issues that arise when breeding different tomato species. He received training in the use of electron microscopy and became the department expert on using the technique for plant science research.

He also researched greenhouse vegetable production, evaluating new growing systems and fertility management, assessing new varieties and providing basic greenhouse tomato production information to new growers.

But his biggest impact may have been as a teacher.

“Professor Topoleski was revered by his students for his hands-on and engaging approach,” said Frank Rossi, professor and extension turf grass specialist in the School of Integrative Plant Science. “Students would be responsible for growing and studying the growth of plants from seed to harvest each semester, a tradition I know my colleagues and I have attempted to maintain in our coursework today.”

Topoleski’s general horticulture course (Hort 102) exposed hundreds of Cornell undergraduates to the world of fruits, vegetables and landscape plants for the first time. He also was an undergraduate adviser for more than 30 students per year.

As a 4-H vegetable crops extension specialist, he trained agents, wrote highly regarded extension publications and guides, and developed new programs.

“He was well-known and appreciated by 4-H and home gardeners all over the state,” said Elmer Ewing, professor emeritus of horticulture, adding that Topoleski was also a strong supporter of Cornell sports.

“A big man, with a booming voice and extrovert personality, he was a memorable figure in our department,” Wien said.

Topoleski is survived by his wife of 61 years, Janice, along with three children, five grandchildren and a sister.

A memorial event will be announced at a later date.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Seminar video: Cider Science – It’s about the apples

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Cider Science: It’s about the apples with Greg Peck, Assistant Professor, Horticulture Section, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

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