Archive for May, 2009

An extensive article at the Rodale Institute website on Integrated Fruit Production (IFP) features some familiar faces here in the Department of Horticulture:

“Greg Peck, a post-doctoral associate at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, points out that in Europe, IFP is effectively assimilating the entire market due to overwhelming retailer demand. That is, any growers who did not use IFP would be an anomaly and have difficulty marketing their fruit. In the U.S., however, only a few marketing firms currently sell under the IFP system. However, Peck believes that, ‘over the long term, governmental regulation of broad-spectrum pesticides will likely push more growers toward being de facto IFP.’ …

“Peck has done research with Ian Merwin, a professor in Cornell’s department of horticulture specializing in sustainable fruit production in the U.S. and abroad. They wrote in a report that both IFP and organic ‘apple production systems offer an alternative to the conventional apple production systems that have the potential to adversely affect agroecosystems and the environment at large, agricultural workers and their families, and the health of consumers.’”

The article goes on to summarize the results of Greg and Ian’s IFP work. Read the whole article.

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Once again, Department of Horticulture volunteers led by Marcia Eames-Sheavly set up flowers at venues all around campus graduation weekend. Special mention goes to the Saturday tear-down crew who got drenched in a sudden storm just before completing their work. For information about purchasing red and white graduation geraniums, contact: BZ Marranca: mmm10@cornell.edu

Update 5/28/2009: From Jenny Rothenberg, Greenhouse Grower, Ken Post Lab Greenhouses… We will be selling geraniums Thursday 5/28 from 10-4 at the KPL Greenhouse on Tower Road. They are big showy plants with lots of flowers- red and white. $7.00 a pot. The greenhouse is located on Tower Road, diagonal from the dairy bar towards the vet school. (second driveway on the left).

Graduation volunteers from the Department of Horticulture pose with their work at Schoellkopf Field stage.

Graduation volunteers from the Department of Horticulture pose with their work at Schoellkopf Field stage.

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Watch out Big Apple and northern New Jersey. It looks like the viburnum leaf beetles (VLBs) are headed your way, if they’re not already in your neighborhood. Here’s what you can expect when larvae hatch in spring:

John Jordan, Natural Resources Supervisor at Prospect Park Alliance has found evidence of the beetle there, and says that there was a confirmed report on North Brother Island (between Manhattan and Queens) last year. VLBs are suspected to be in some of the larger parks in the Bronx, northern Manhattan and northern Queens. Native plant enthusiast William Wyman has recorded damage in Delaware Township Hunterdon County, N.J., 70 miles west, and they’ve also been spotted in Putnam County, N.Y., 60 miles north.

viburnum leaf beetle at different stage of its lifecycleThe viburnum leaf beetle, Pyrrhalta viburni (Paykull), is an invasive, non-native beetle that first appeared in New York along Lake Ontario in 1996, and has steadily spread across the state and down the Hudson Valley. It is a voracious eater that can defoliate viburnum shrubs entirely. Plants may die after two or three years of heavy infestation, particularly when larvae strip plants after hatching out in spring followed by heavy adult feeding later in summer.

For more information on identifying VLBs at all life stages, steps you can take to manage them and choosing resistant viburnums, visit the Cornell’s Viburnum Leaf Beetle website.

Metro area and New Jersey readers: If you spot VLBs in your area, please tell us where in the comments.

View more videos:

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Tom Whitlow testing particulate sampling equipment.Tom Whitlow‘s work studying the effects of trees on airborne particulate pollution is one of the projects profiled in CALS Fights for Urban Well-Being in the Spring 2009 issue of CALS News. (Page down to subhead Finding Out if Trees Filter Air Pollution.)

Whitlow and collaborators combined wind tunnel studies with real-world monitoring in New York City:

“One of the spikes [in particulates] we saw correlated directly with an entry in the data book that said ‘Strong smell of barbecue!’” he says. “And I think it would be even more difficult to regulate barbecue than auto emissions. It is a very complex picture. Our studies show some unexpected results that are difficult to interpret.”

One thing is clear: we can’t plant enough trees in cities to cleanse the air, even if the greens did provide the ecosystem service of filtering pollutants. But monitoring particulates where human activity occurs can certainly help us decide how to regulate for cleaner air.

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If you’ve visited the Cornell University homepage this week, chances are you saw a familiar face smiling at you from the banner: Raymond Jacobs, graduating senior, plant science major and president of Hortus Forum, the undergraduate student horticulture club. Jacobs was one of the seniors featured by the Cornell Chronicle in their annual series of stellar soon-to-be grads.

Raymond Jacobs on the Cornell University homepage

Raymond Jacobs on the Cornell University homepage

Asked about his main Cornell extracurricular activity Jacobs responds:

Being active in Hortus Forum, the undergraduate horticulture club. It grows and sells plants on campus, raising money for educational trips to explore the many areas of plant science. Besides meeting many of my closest friends through the club, Hortus Forum has provided a hands-on approach to learning that perfectly complemented my education in plant sciences. I was elected president of the club for my senior year and have learned a great deal through the challenges of this position.

Read the whole profile.

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NY Sustainable Ag QuarterlyFrom Violet Stone, NY SARE Outreach Coordinator comes the Spring, 2009 Issue of the NY Sustainable Ag Quarterly. “You will read about the many creative approaches farms and organizations in NY are taking toward sustainable farming. Learn about the latest funding opportunities. Discover how farmers use grant money to explore research projects that advance the economic and environmental viability of their farms.”

In additioni to profiling Tom Whitlow’s Beach Plum work, the newsletter details NESARE funding opportunities and summarizes research and education projects funded in 2009.

To receive the quarterly via email, contact Violet: vws7@cornell.edu

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Students from Creating the Urban Eden course refurbish plantings on the Mann Library TerraceFrom the Chronicle Online, May 13:

“In a ceremony April 23, alumni and friends of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) dedicated the newly installed rooftop garden on the southern end of Mann Library as the Susan A. Henry Garden Terrace in honor of her significant contributions to Cornell. …

“John Dyson ’65, past chair of the CALS Advisory Council, and Janet McCue, former director of Mann Library, oversaw the beautification of the space, once an unsightly concrete expanse. They worked with students in Peter Trowbridge’s landscape architecture class to design the garden, which will be maintained by Nina Bassuk, professor of horticulture, and her students.

“‘Susan is a great gardener and a strong advocate for libraries,’ said Janet McCue, associate university librarian. ‘What better place to dedicate in her honor than the terrace adjacent to Mann Library, an environment that fosters intellectual exploration and nurtures community.’”

Read the full article.

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Justine Vanden Heuvel (center) teaches students how to assess grape canopy coverage at Cornell Orchards.

Justine Vanden Heuvel (center) teaches students how to assess grape canopy coverage at Cornell Orchards.

The Northeast Region of USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) has awarded $178,311 to a team of researchers, extension staff, and wine-grape growers to assess the economic and environmental benefits of canopy management in aromatic white wine grapes such as Riesling.

Canopy management is a suite of practices that can help New York growers reduce fungicide use and improve grape flavor. “The difference in the wines can be like night and day,” says Justine Vanden Heuvel an assistant professor in both the Department of Horticulture in Ithaca and the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva.

Vanden Heuvel, the project’s principal investigator, adds that a big part of the project will be to determine how much more consumers are willing to pay for the wines to offset the extra expense of the canopy management.

Unlike in the arid west, where vine growth is limited by scant moisture, grape vines in the Northeast run rampant, fueled by our better soils and more-than-adequate rainfall. But the rank growth holds moisture – encouraging disease – and shades the clusters – which need sun to develop the nuanced flavors that command higher prices when made into wine.

By thinning shoots in May and removing leaves in the fruiting zone to expose clusters to sun after the fruit has set, most growers should be able to reduce fungicide use and improve the flavor and aroma profiles of their wine, hopefully increasing the price their wine can be sold for. ”In 2008, we saw much less botrytis in vineyards where growers used canopy management,” notes Vanden Heuvel.

Vanden Heuvel’s team will be working with six growers, harvesting grapes from test plots with and without canopy management and making them in to wine at Cornell’s Vinification and Brewing Technology Laboratory in Geneva. The wines will be used in consumer preference studies, and a full economic analysis will determine the profitability of canopy management practices.

“We can tell growers that they’ll have less disease and that their grapes will have better flavors and aromas with canopy management. But if they can’t sell the wine for more, there is little incentive to adopt these practices,” observes Vanden Heuvel.

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Rye and vetch cover crop.Thomas Bjorkman, vegetable- and cover-crop expert in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, is heading up a project to help Northeast vegetable growers use cover crops to improve soil health. Björkman will train extension staff in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Vermont to interpret Cornell Soil Health Test reports and to fill prescriptions from that test with the right cover crop.

Extension staff will work with 43 growers to choose cover crops to solve their specific soil health problems and to test the effectiveness of the new practice. By identifying the cover crops best suited to specific management goals, growers will get more value from them and be able to improve both their environmental impact and their financial bottom line.

This project builds on the success of the Cornell Soil Health Team to deploy the tools they developed, and to expand the management recommendations that result from the report. The management recommendations are available at the Cornell Cover Crop website. The $98,158-project is funded by the Northeast region of the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE). For more information, contact Björkman: tnb1@cornell.edu.

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Vinay PagayOn May 14, graduate student Vinay Pagay (right) presented his Dreer Award seminar, chronicling his nearly year-long travels in China, India and Australia.

If you missed his presentation, you can still view his PowerPoint presentation [.pdf file]

More information on the Dreer Award.

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