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Soil Contamination Workshop Aug. 27 at Dilmun Hill Student Farm

dilmun hill logoInterested in low-­‐cost management of contaminated soils?

Join students and faculty at Cornell’s Dilmun Hill Student Farm to share knowledge and experiences relevant to farming on compromised sites. Hands-­‐on workshops will empower gardeners and farmers to assess their soils for contaminants and to explore best management options for contaminated soil.

Sessions include:

Tour of management practices at Dilmun Hill
Workshops on raised-­‐bed building and maintenance, and building healthy soils
Roundtable discussion with researchers and growers

Saturday, August 27
10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dilmun Hill Student Farm at Cornell University (map)
RSVP by August 12
Contact: Betsy Leonard (607) 423-­8366 or
Bring a dish to share for a potluck lunch!
Come early for refreshments @ 9:45 a.m.

President Skorton tours CUAES facilities

On July 22, Cornell University President David Skorton and his wife Robin Davisson, Professor, Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Cell and Developmental Biology, Weill Cornell Medical College, learned more about research and other activities going on at facilities near campus managed by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES).

Tour stops included the East Ithaca Research Farm, where Department of Horticulture faculty conduct research on using high tunnels to extend the growing season for berries and cut flowers, and Dilmun Hill Student Farm, where student managers explained their cropping systems and organic pest management practices.

CUAES is dedicated to sustainable “science for life” in its two core functions — the operation of world-class research facilities throughout New York and the generation and application of research-based knowledge through the administration of federal formula grants.

Update [8/11/2011]: More pictures at CALS flickr.

Marvin Pritts, Department of Horticulture chair, explains his high tunnel research at East Ithaca Research Farm to President David Skorton and Robin Davisson.

Marvin Pritts, Department of Horticulture chair, explains his high tunnel research at East Ithaca Research Farm to President David Skorton and Robin Davisson.

President Skorton heads to the field with student managers at Dilmun Hill Student Farm

President Skorton heads to the field with student managers at Dilmun Hill Student Farm

President Skorton and his wife Robin Davisson exchange ideas with students at Dilmun Hill.

President Skorton and his wife Robin Davisson exchange ideas with students at Dilmun Hill.

Golf turf field day at Bethpage August 18

Bethpage Golf Course Field Day
August 18, 4:00-7:00pm
Bethpage State Park

Reduced Chemical Golf Course Management

Drs. Frank Rossi and Jennifer Grant, along with Golf Course Superintendents Andy Wilson and Kathie Wegman, will lead a tour and discuss their eleven years of applied research on reduced pesticide and fertilizer use.

Tour the Green Course at Bethpage State Park where conventional, IPM, and reduced-risk tactics for putting greens management are subject to an average 50,000 rounds of play per year.

Also discuss and see reduced-chemical tee, fairway and rough management; what happens without pre-emergent crabgrass applications or broadleaf herbicides; and the use of reduced risk and alternative pest management practices and products.

  • Registration is $25. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required to guarantee a place.
  • Free registration may be available for non-profit organizations, contact Jennifer Grant, 315-787-2209
  • 2.5 DEC pesticide applicator recertification credits will be available in categories 3a, 3b, 10, & 25
  • Copies of the manual Reducing Chemical Use on Golf Course Turf: Redefining IPM can also be ordered for $25 each.

More information, registration and directions.

Frank Rossi 'vlogs' from Bethpage

Frank Rossi 'vlogs' from Bethpage

Master Gardener Volunteers connect with campus

Student managers at Dilumn Hill explain the farm's crop rotation to visiting Master Gardeners.

Student managers at Dilumn Hill explain the farm's crop rotation to visiting Master Gardeners.

More than 130 Master Gardener volunteers and Extension educators gathered on campus June 20 to 22 to soak up new ideas and information that will help them be more effective in their outreach and education back in their home counties.

Workshop topics included edible landscaping, rain gardens, native plants, companion planting, composting, coping with wildlife problems, permaculture, invasive plants, soil health and more. (View all workshop programs.) Jane Mt Pleasant, Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture, delivered the keynote talk on Plants and Well-Being.

Attendees braved record-breaking heat to tour Cornell Plantations, Dilmun Hill Student Farm, lawn and flower demonstrations at Bluegrass Lane, local community and school gardens, and more.

More about the Master Gardener Volunteer Program.

Cover crops at Dilmun Hill.

Cover crops at Dilmun Hill.

Floriculture Field Day draws 140+

Matt Zema, Zema Nurseries, won the 16-inch pot division in the 8th Kathy Pufahl Container Contest

Matt Zema, Zema Nurseries, won the 16-inch pot division in the 8th Kathy Pufahl Container Contest

This year’s Floriculture Field Day drew more than 140 attendees.

Morning presentations on campus focused on marketing, then the program shifted to the Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Center where participants toured annual and perennial flower trials and flagged their favorites. They also participated in ‘walkabouts’ focusing on disease and pest management, deer resistant plants, and more.

The day culminated with presentation of awards for the 8th Kathy Pufahl Container Design contest and ice cream social.

View pictures of the contest entries.

Floriculture Field Day participants view coleus bed.

Floriculture Field Day participants view coleus bed.

Kao-Kniffin Lab website

Visit the Kao-Kniffin Lab website at:

Visit the Kao-Kniffin Lab website at:

Jenny Kao-Kniffin’s lab has a new website.

The lab’s research focuses on the ecology and management of invasive weed populations in urbanized landscapes.

Invasive weeds are prevalent in disturbed sites, such as urban grasslands, forests, and wetlands. The lab is examining the underlying plant-microbial mechanisms of how invasive weeds enhance their competitive abilities over co-existing plants.

The lab’s main areas of research are:

  • Selection of rhizosphere microbiomes that enhance plant competitive abilities.
  • Linking root exudate metabolomics with rhizosphere metagenomics.
  • Identifying novel biosynthetic compounds from rhizosphere microorganisms contributing to plant growth or suppression.

Visit the Kao-Kniffin Lab website to read more.

Flower open house July 16-17 at Bluegrass Lane

annual flowers at Bluegrass LaneFrom Melissa Kitchen:

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Come to the Flower Open House at Bluegrass Lane, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.!

We have 1000+ annuals and perennials, so be sure to bring your camera. The gardens are not typically open to the public, so take this opportunity to see this hidden treasure. Feel free to share this freely with friends. Everyone is welcome.

To preview the gardens, find us online at and also on Facebook.

View google map.

Shade-loving perennials in shade house at Bluegrass Lane.

Shade-loving perennials in shade house at Bluegrass Lane.

Online course: Teaching and learning in school gardens

Teaching and Learning in the School Garden: Theory into Practice is an online course that focuses on the foundations and teaching strategies of garden-based learning (GBL), and provides the tools and resources that classroom teachers and extension educators need to develop school gardening programs that integrate into the school curriculum.

The class runs from September 26 to November 30, 2011, and will be taught by Donna Alese Cooke, Community Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension-Rockland County.

Visit the Horticulture distance learning course website to learn more about this and other courses including botanical illustration, organic gardening, plant propagation and garden design. The Cornell Beginning Farmers project also offers several online courses that will resume this fall.

USDA-SARE grants fuel N.Y. horticulture

SARE logoSince 1988, the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program has funded projects across the country aimed at advancing agricultural innovation that promotes profitability, stewardship of the land, air and water, and quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their communities.

This year’s crop of funded projects targeted at horticulture crops in New York include:

Professional development grant

Soil management in berry crops as a model for management education – Will provide in-depth berry crop and soil management training to educators throughout the Northeast and develop a web-based resource emphasizing a whole-farm approach to nutrient management for berries. (Marvin Pritts, Department of Horticulture.)

Partnership grants

Managing garlic bloat nematode using biofumigant cover crops – Will test the effectiveness of sorghum-sudangress and mustard in eliminating this pest from the soil and determine how long the nematode survives in the soil without a host plant. (Crystal Stewart, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Johnstown, N.Y.)

Determining the potential for organic material use in Northeast commercial pear production – Will test the effectiveness of two new organic controls (a kaolin product and refined horticultural oil) for pear psylla and leaf spot — two pests that defoliation, reduced fruit quality and yield, and premature decline or death of trees. (Peter Jentsch, NYSAES Hudson Valley Lab, Highland N.Y.)

Preventing erosion of muck soils by reducing tillage in onion production – Will evaluate improvements needed for commercial onion production using minimum tillage combined with cover crops, nutrient availability and the potential to reduce fertilizer needs, and the use of in-furrow fungicides to minimize losses from damping off. (Christine Hoepting, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Albion, N.Y.)

Control of spider mite in eggplants and thrips in sweet peppers using guardian plants and predators – Will test marigolds to control thrips on field-grown peppers, a practice that has already proven effective in greenhouses. Will also test beans as a guardian plant against spider mites in eggplant. (Carol Glenister, IPM Laboratories Inc., Locke, N.Y.)

Integrating ground cover crops and new herbicide strategies (conventional and organic) for tree growth and soil health – Will adapt existing research on semi-dwarf trees to intensive high-density systems and measure effects of ground covers and herbicides on tree growth, health, and production. (Deborah Breth, Lake Ontario Fruit Program, Albion, N.Y.)

Customer identification and communication education for scale-specific commodities – New and small-scale farmers growing for niche and local food markets need enterprise-specific information on how to reach customers and the key components of a marketing plan. Will work with seven farms to assess current effectiveness, customer perceptions, and the overall communications and marketing plan for each enterprise. (Laura Biasillo, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Binghamton, N.Y.)

Farmer grants

Organic Brussels sprouts in the Northeast: Variety, pest control, and storage trials – Will evaluate six Brussels sprouts varieties for disease and heat resistance and storage characteristics, and another variety will be tested for response to Neem and Safer against an untreated control. (Robin Ostfeld, Blue Heron Farm, Lodi, N.Y.)

Investigating effects of beneficial microbial inoculants on potatoes – Will test a mix of beneficial inoculants on the emergence, growth, leaf sap, texture, flavor, and tuber Brix of Red Norland potatoes, and evaluate whether improved yield and quality will improve income. (Marina Machahelles, Shoving Leopard Farm, Red Hook. N.Y.)

Growing scab-free apples without fungicides – Will test whether intensive mowing, vacuuming, and pruning can reduce or eliminate scab in an orchard with mixed resistance planted on a wider grid for improved air circulation. Test is in combination of a farmer design for improved vacuuming and an compost to speed decomposition of remaining orchard debris. (Louis Lego, Elderberry Pond Farm, Auburn N.Y.)

A multipurpose tool for small farmers – Will refine design of multifunctional planter that can increase garlic planting fivefold (compared to planting by hand) for maximum simplicity, affordability, and ease of use. Will build and test a general base unit and garlic-specific and potato-specific platforms, and work with engineer to develop plans, costs, and material lists. (Fred Forsburg, Honeyhill Farm, Livonia, N.Y.)

Visit the Northeast SARE website for more information about these projects and grant opportunities. All 2011 NESARE awards are profiled in the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture.

Plant more tulips with less effort

'Ad Rem' tulips (foreground) planted on top of tilled soil and covered with mulch. Both varieties used in the study continued to bloom well in the third spring after planting. (Click for larger image.)

'Ad Rem' tulips (foreground) planted on top of tilled soil and covered with mulch. Both varieties used in the study continued to bloom well in the third spring after planting. (Click for larger image.)

A three-year study by Cornell University’s Flower Bulb Research Program (FBRP) shows that “top-planting” is an excellent way to save labor while planting tulips — as well as to help them come back and bloom well for several years.

“Gardening is good, healthy exercise, and avid gardeners enjoy being outside planting bulbs in the fall,” says Bill Miller, professor in the Department of Horticulture and FBRP research director. “But ‘top-planting’ can make bulb planting easier, allowing you to plant more bulbs with less effort.”

The planting technique, also known as “drop and cover,” isn’t new, notes Miller. It’s just underused. He suggests gardeners and landscapers:

  • Till the planting area 3 to 4 inches deep with a rotary tiller.
  • Spread bulb fertilizer and if possible till again.
  • Place bulbs on top of the tilled area. (Resist the urge to press them in as this could damage the bulb base.)
  • Cover with 2 to 4 inches of aged mulch or well rotted compost.

Avoid over-mulching, cautions Miller. Plots that received 6 inches of mulch had the least blooms by the third year of the study.

Miller used two tulip cultivars ‘Ad Rem’ and ‘Negrita’ known for their ability to perennialize (regrow and rebloom for several years after planting). While many people grow tulips for just a single season before ripping them out, in 2011 both cultivars still produced an average of at least one flower per bulb planted three years earlier.

“By the third year, all plots had at least two groups of plants,” notes Miller. “Some of the plants were extremely large growing from large bulbs underground, and others were shorter, producing an ‘understory’ of color.”

“Our work has shown that gardeners can enjoy masses of tulips without the work of digging a hole for each bulb,” he adds. “We used ‘double ground bark mulch,’ but any good garden mulch should work equally well. We have had excellent return of tulips for at least three years with this method. And no digging!”

Read research report.

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