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Allergy sufferers beware, sneezing season has just begun

Marvin Pritts

Marvin Pritts

Via Cornell Media Relations office tipsheet [2014-06-11]:

Marvin Pritts, a horticulture professor at Cornell University, explains why allergies are exceptionally bad this season and warns that while the rain provides temporary relief, it also promotes weed seed germination which will contribute to higher levels of pollen later this summer.

Pritts says:

“In a year with a long, cold winter, flowering – and the shedding of pollen – is compressed. This year, there is overlap between the shedding of tree pollen and the beginning of grasses flowering. Individuals sensitive to both kinds are getting a double-whammy of sorts. Fortunately, the recent rainy weather will wash out pollen from the air, and provide some temporary relief. Also, the shedding of tree pollen is mostly over.

“While the rain is providing temporary relief, it promotes weed seed germination so it may contribute to higher levels of pollen later in the season.

“People often associate seasonal allergies with a specific flower that they see in bloom during that time. In most cases, individuals are not exposed to the pollen from showy flowers. Such flowers are attractive to insects so their pollen is sticky and is not carried by the wind. So, when allergies begin to rise when the goldenrod flowers, it is not the goldenrod pollen causing the allergic reaction but rather the ragweed with its inconspicuous flowers shedding wind-borne pollen at the same time.

“Typically trees are the first plants to shed pollen in spring. They don’t have to grow to become reproductive, so most take care of reproduction first thing when the weather warms. This is followed by the flowering of perennial grasses that have to grow somewhat to become reproductive, but they already have a well-established root system from which to support their flowers. Lastly come the annual plants, like ragweed, that have to germinate and grow to a mature size before becoming reproductive and shedding pollen.”

For interviews contact:
Melissa Osgood
office: 607-255-2059
cell: 716-860-0587

Tasty tomatoes

tasty tomatoesReposted from CALS Notes:

Peak tomato season is nearly upon us, and our tastebuds are tingling in anticipation of the sweet summer fruits. But do we really need to wait? NPR’s Salt blog wondered whether tomatoes grown in greenhouses are just as tasty as those outdoors. And they turned to CALS horticulturist Neil Mattson for answers.

The co-director of Cornell’s Controlled Environment Agriculture program explained that good tomato flavor is a complex combination of sugars, acids and gasses we experience as smell, and it depends on a variety of factors, including breeding and temperature. More tomatoes are being bred to thrive indoors, and the environmental conditions that make for a perfect outdoor tomato can now be replicated in greenhouses. Greenhouse growers don’t have to worry about a heavy rain or a cold spell ruining their fruit.

This is becoming increasingly important now that global warming is making outdoor farming less predictable. But sustainability implications must still be considered, Mattson said. “The greenhouse is this expensive structure that we’re paying a lot to heat and cool and light.”

But the burning question: which is best?

“In the end I still love growing my own tomatoes in my backyard in the summer,” Mattson said. “It’s psychological, but I think they taste best.”

New school positions plant and soil science for the future

Dean Boor and Alan Collmer

Dean Kathryn Boor and Alan Collmer, the Andrew J. and Grace B. Nichols Professor of Plant Pathology and director of the School of Integrative Plant Science, speak on the Ag Quad June 6. (Jason Koski/University Photography)

Plant and soil scientists at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) have been sowing the seeds of sustainability, food security and improved human health for more than a century.

A new initiative will help position the college for the future and create a new face for the plant and soil sciences at Cornell by integrating five departments – Plant Biology, Horticulture, Plant Breeding and Genetics, Crop and Soil Sciences, and Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology – in one administrative unit.

The School of Integrative Plant Science was launched at a June 6 ceremony on the Ag Quad, attended by representatives of several departments and many alumni who were on campus for Reunion Weekend.

University President David Skorton commended the college for creating a school that will help advance Cornell’s mission of service to the state, nation and world.

“This is a step toward increasing the impact – that is already enormous – of the very high level of expertise that CALS has in this area,” Skorton said. “Through the new school, CALS aims to strengthen its teaching and research and extension work in plant science and to attract more students to the field – students who will be future leaders in these vital areas.”

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2014-06-06]

See also: CALS launches the School of Integrative Plant Science [CALS Notes 2014-06-06]

Dilmun Hill work parties, email list

dilmun logoFrom Anja Timm, Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station:

Dilmun Hill, Cornell’s student-run farm, now has regularly scheduled work parties for the summer: Wednesdays and Sundays from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Even though there is no Farmer’s Market at the moment, local food enthusiasts can still get Dilmun produce. Join Dilmun’s “Hill Harvest” email list, to discover which farm-fresh produce we can offer you every week. Customers are able to place orders directly through email and have their orders prepared for pick-up at a convenient time at the farm or later in the summer at our weekly farm stand on the Ag Quad. To join, send a message to

More information about work parties and email list.

Geneva awards

From Thomas Björkman:

On May 30, faculty, staff and students gathered at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva for the annual awards celebration:

Meredith Persico and Alan Lakso

Meredith Persico (left) is a junior Viticulture major at Cornell who will be doing a viticulture research project at the Station this summer thanks to a Shaulis scholarship. This scholarship was established in memory of Geneva viticulture professor renowned for developing the principles and practices of vine balance. Professor Alan Lakso introduced her on his last official day of work after more than 40 years on the faculty.







Benjamin Gutierrez

Ben Gutierrez (right) was awarded the Perrine scholarship to support his graduate studies. Ben in a PhD student with Susan Brown and Ganyuan Zhong, studying the genetics of antioxidants in apples. The Perrine Endowment was created to support students’ research in pomology.









Bill Srmack

Bill Srmack was recognized for 40 years of service at the Station. He has been with the clonal repository since just before it was officially founded! He now is responsible for maintaining the thousands of accessions in the orchard of the national germplasm collection. Here he receives congratulations from PGRU Research Leader Ganyuan Zhong and curator Thomas Chao.

Recent presentations

Nina Bassuk explains the websiteNina Bassuk presented a poster about her revamped Woody Plants Database at the SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology held here on the Cornell campus May 27-30. (View poster.) The new site features mobile-friendly responsive design and is incorporating Google maps to locate plants on course walks. For nearly 15 years, different versions of the database have helped students in the course Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920).

Marvin Pritts gave a talk to the Central Carolina Alumni Association May 19th entitled, “Food, Fuel, Farms and Flowers: How Horticulture Contributes to Human Well-being around the World.”

Alan Taylor gave an invited talk at the Royal Golden Jubilee Scholarship conference in Pattaya, Thailand and also lectured at Khon Kaen University.

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