Research team tackles top pests that scourge organic crops [Cornell Chronicle 10/23/2012] – A $2 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative will fund a four-year project that will allow an interdisciplinary team of eight Cornell breeders, plant pathologists, entomologists, economists and extension specialists to to breed robust, high-quality cucumber, melon and squash open-pollinated cultivars with tolerance to cucurbit downy mildew, reduced attractiveness to striped cucumber beetles and resistance to aphid-vectored viruses. “Since 2003, the acreage devoted to pickling cucumbers has declined by 20 percent as a direct result of the cost and risk associated with downy mildew,” said Michael Mazourek (above), principal investigator for the project. Mazourek has joint appointments in Plant Breeding and Genetics and Horticulture.
Scientists aim to sustainably outsmart ‘super weeds’ [Cornell Chronicle 10/23/2012] – Diverse integrated weed management (IWM) strategies prevent the evolution and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds. “Prevention involves killing weeds with multiple modes of action, and preventing movement of any potentially resistant weeds from field to field, or from field margins into fields,” says associate professor Thomas Bjorkman (right). Integrated weed management includes tactics such as cover cropping, mechanical cultivation, mowing, mulching, crop rotation and targeted herbicide application. Ryan’s research shows that using multiple IWM strategies is most effective for managing weeds. Bjorkman’s cover crop research has fueled development of two online decision tools that help farmers narrow down to a small number myriad choices for cover-cropping by situation. Bjorkman designed one tool for New York vegetable farmers; the other, developed in conjunction with the Midwest Cover Crops Council, covers several states with an emphasis on field crops.
Program has $9 million to develop better grapes [Cornell Chronicle 10/24/2012] – VitisGen, a multidisciplinary research project co-led by Cornell grape breeder Bruce Reisch (right), will soon provide breeders tools they can use to develop more and better varieties. The project is a collaboration among 25 scientists from 12 institutions, including all of the nation’s public grape breeding programs. Their primary goal is to map unique snippets of DNA in the grape genome — called markers — to certain traits, such as cold-hardiness, fruit weight and disease resistance. Once these marker-trait linkages are found across 18 different grape-breeding populations, breeders can use them to streamline hybrid selection and ultimately the release of new grape varieties.
High apple prices upset the cider cart [USA Today 10/22/2012] – “‘Cider is selling for $12 a gallon in Minnesota,’ said Ian Merwin (right), professor of horticulture at Cornell University. ‘Most (producers) will be lucky if they can cover their operating costs.’ Cornell operates Cornell Orchards, which is running out of cider much faster than normal. Part of that is because of the apple shortage, but part is continued strong demand despite higher prices, said Cornell Orchards farm manager Eric Shatt. ‘We are charging $4.95 for a half-gallon and $7.95 for a gallon, which is close to a dollar higher than last year,’ Shatt said. ‘We usually go through about 30,000 gallons a year, and this year, our crop is down substantially. We’ll make maybe 10,000 gallons this year. Most people … know cider is hard to get and the price is up, and they are willing to pay,’ he said.”