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Apple baking tips

Yummy applesWith the holidays upon us, are you curious to know the most appealing apple varieties to bake with or eager for a new recipe to try. Here are some tips on baking with apples from Susan Brown, Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences and one of the world’s leading apple breeders in CAL Notes.

Here’s a taste:

When baking with apples, it is important to use more than just one variety if possible. It adds to the flavor and to the texture. If one variety bakes down too much or releases too much juice, the other often doesn’t and your dessert is better.

Read the whole article.

Holiday party pix

If you missed the Plant Science Community Holiday Party last week — or just want to recapture the spirit of the day — Carol Grove has kindly posted pictures from the event.

Holiday ensemble

This ensemble was among the entertainers at the Plant Science Community Holiday Party.

Signs of Sustainability

Signs of SustainabilityEach December, Sustainable Tompkins celebrates Signs of Sustainability in and around Tompkins County. Among the 2013 signs of horticultural interest:

  • The Growth Chamber Phase One Energy Conservation Project saves Cornell University $19,000 and 580 tons of carbon annually. The chambers now provide energy efficient, properly controlled growing environments for plant research.
  • The produce industry and the federal government have started to demand GAP certification – Good Agricultural Practices. In response, Cornell National GAPs Program and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County hosted a multi-day workshop to teach farmers about GAPs, how it works, and how to create a food safety plan for farms.
  • Thomas Bjorkman led a Cornell team that developed a new broccoli plant ideal for the East Coast’s hot, steamy summers. The Eastern Broccoli Project, based at Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, promises to bring sweet, crisp, local broccoli to Eastern farmers and consumers. More locally grown broccoli will also save diesel fuel, generating fewer greenhouse gases.
  • The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County organized Mushroom Field Day, featuring a morning workshop and afternoon walk. The workshop, led by Dr. Ken Mudge from Cornell University focused on shiitake mushroom cultivation, and the Wild Mushroom and Forest Health Walk was led by Dr. George Hudler from Cornell. The Day was sponsored by the NY Forest Owners Association – Southern Finger Lakes Chapter.
  • Cornell University offered its first Permaculture Design Certification course in the Department of Horticulture.
  • The Ithaca Children’s Garden created the Ithaca Bulb Labyrinth Memorial Garden, honoring babies who have passed away to promote healing for families
  • Cornell University students created the Hydroponic Bottle Wall at Stella’s restaurant in Collegetown. They mounted 24 wine bottles on a double-sided wall and fitted it with an exposed hydroponic growing system. According to one of the students, the wall is a “microcosm of the growing trend of urban agriculture.”
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension presented a two-day conference, “Organic and Sustainable Gardening in a Warmer Planet,” in which leading Cornell researchers offered informative sessions on practical tools for successful gardening in the face of extreme weather events and a warmer climate.
  • Cornell Garden-Based Learning, Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca Children’s Garden, and Home Green Home co-hosted a talk by Jonathan Bates, contributing author of “Paradise Lot: Two plant geeks, one-tenth of an acre, and the making of an edible garden oasis.”
  • Cornell Plantations started the Plantations Environmental Education Program forSustainability (PEEPS) geared toward students ages 14-18 who want to work in a “sustainable backyard” and take part in community outreach activities.
  • The Cornell University Horticulture Departmentis partcipating in the Food Dignityproject, which is studying the local foods movement and how communities are contributing to food security. Part of the project has measured how much produce was grown in Ithaca and Dryden communitygarden plots.
  • The Ithaca Children’s Gardenoffered a hands-on workshop on how to create stickworks led by renowned sculptor Patrick Dougherty. Dougherty’s visit to Ithaca was made possible by the Cornell Messenger Lecture Series.
  • Cornell University professor, Tom Whitlow, hosted a talk on the challenge of maintaining biodiversity in areas heavily impacted by human activity.

New publication: Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices

Bioswale at Cornell Plantations filters water from nearby parking lot. (Photo: Ethan Dropkin)

Bioswale at Cornell Plantations filters water from nearby parking lot. (Photo: Ethan Dropkin)

Rain gardens, filter strips and bioswales are a great way to help reduce runoff, flooding and pollution while increasing groundwater infiltration and aquifer recharge – especially in urban areas.

These stormwater prevention practices are often planted with herbaceous plants such as swamp milkweed, soft rush and Joe-Pye weed that tolerate periodic flooding while also surviving dry periods between storms. But these plant need to be cut back annually after their leaves and stems die back to the ground.

Carefully chosen woody shrubs, on the other hand, can do the same job with less maintenance. Plus they can provide aesthetic benefits, year-round interest, shade and wildlife habitat all while removing and sequestering carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere.

To help choose the right shrub for these uses, the Department of Horticulture’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) has just released a 56-page guide, Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions).  The guide details site assessment and design considerations for those practices and profiles more than 35 woody shrub species that can tolerate both dry and periodically saturated soil conditions typical of retention areas.

The guide is based in part on a study conducted in Ithaca, N.Y., by Master of Professional Studies student Ethan M. Dropkin guided by co-author and UHI director Nina Bassuk. The study tested the flood and drought tolerances of six of the shrub species included in the guide.

Free electronic versions of the guide are available through the outreach section of the UHI website: http://www.hort.cornell.edu/uhi/outreach/

Two plant sciences majors honored

Madeline Olberg ’14 (top) has pursued plant science research, both at Cornell and through an internship with Ball Horticultural Company. Nicholas Biebel ’14 received his award from John Uvege, Co-Chairman of the Seed Committee of the New York State Agri-business Association, and Margaret Smith, Associate Director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.Reposted from CALS Notes:

Every year the Seed Committee of the New York State Agri-business Association, together with the American Seed Trade Association, honors Cornell undergraduates in the plant sciences who have demonstrated academic excellence. Congratulations to this year’s awardees, Nicholas Biebel ’14 and Madeline Olberg ’14! Cited for their outstanding GPAs, research acumen, and enthusiasm for plant sciences, Biebel and Olberg were recognized during the 75th Annual Cornell Seed Conference held at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva on Dec. 5.

Madeline Olberg ’14 (top) has pursued plant science research, both at Cornell and through an internship with Ball Horticultural Company. Nicholas Biebel ’14 received his award from John Uvege, Co-Chairman of the Seed Committee of the New York State Agri-business Association, and Margaret Smith, Associate Director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.

Grape thinning saves growers up to $15 million

Research associate James Taylor talks about the grape yield monitor at the 2013 Lake Erie Grape Summer Grower Conference.

Research associate James Taylor talks about the grape yield monitor at the 2013 Lake Erie Grape Summer Grower Conference. Photo: Terry Bates

Concord grape growers in western New York this season expanded the use of mechanical crop thinning techniques pioneered by three generations of Cornell viticulturists to maximize the value of an abundant harvest in what started as an uncertain year. By removing up to one-third of their crops in late July and early August using mechanical grape harvesters, growers met maturity standards and avoided millions of dollars of crop losses.

Farm business management specialist Kevin Martin of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP) estimates that growers in the region will see an overall economic benefit of $9.6 million to $15 million in the estimated 50 percent of vineyards that were mechanically thinned this year.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-12-05]

Art of Horticulture final projects

Floral appliqé and wire bonsai sculpture

Floral appliqué and wire bonsai sculpture

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of students’ final projects in Marcia Eames-Sheavly’s Art of Horticulture class, you can sneak a peak online.

You can also see previous class’s work (as well as other class projects and videos) by visiting the Art of Horticulture’s gallery page.

Dilmun Hill season overview Dec. 7

Via Katharine Constas, Dilmun Steering Committee Member:

On behalf of Dilmun Hill Student Organic Farm, I would like to invite you to join us this Saturday for our season overview December 7, 11:30 a.m. in Mann Room 102.

Come share the experiences of the 2013 season, collaborate on plans for the future, watch project presentations, and enjoy snacks with the Dilmun Hill Community!

Online botanical illustration courses start January 27

Hellebore watercolor by Marcia Eames-Sheavly

Learn botanical illustration online.  Three courses taught by Marcia Eames-Sheavly start January 27, 2014:

You can view works by students in previous classes on display in the cases in the west wing of the first floor of Plant Science Building.

Deer fencing installed at Freeville farm

Staff install deer fence at Thompson Research Farm. Photo: Anja Timm.

Staff install deer fence at Thompson Research Farm. Photo: Anja Timm.

Staff at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, N.Y., recently installed one mile of eight-foot-tall woven wire fence to protect 30 acres of organic research projects — including tomato-, pepper- and cucurbit-breeding, trials on soil health and crop rotation and more — from deer damage.

And they did it  for 80% less than the cost of hiring an outside contractor.

Heavy deer pressure threatens the accuracy of most small-plot agricultural research. Staff from many research programs install temporary electric fencing to protect research plots, a significant ongoing investment in time and materials.

The Freevile farm is one of seven managed by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. CUAES staff plan to replicate this fencing model at other farms.

Read full post by Anja Timm at CALS Notes.

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