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Mentorship matters – Business is blooming

Cornell professor Bill Miller with tulips Photo/Robyn Wishna

Photo/Robyn Wishna

Reposted from CALS Notes:

The Dutch surname Klaver means ‘clover’ in English, so it’s only fitting that Tim Klaver was raised surrounded by horticulture in North Holland, where his family operates a tulip farm.

Klaver is currently an intern on this side of the pond in the Section of Horticulture’s Flower Bulb Research Program with professor Bill Miller in the School of Integrative Plant Science. Every year Cornell hosts one such Dutch student intern, and Klaver was enthusiastic about signing up, given his … roots. While he has plenty of practical work experience with tulips, the native of Spanbroek came to Cornell to expand his knowledge of other flowers, such as daffodils and hyacinths, making ornamental floriculture expert Miller the perfect mentor. Miller, like Klaver, has horticulture in his blood, having been raised by a professor who earned an M.S. and Ph.D. from Cornell’s floriculture and ornamental horticulture department in the 1950s, and who experimented in the very same greenhouses he and Klaver work in now.

With a childhood spent among commercial greenhouses in California, Miller’s main academic interests are floriculture, greenhouse cropping systems and the physiology of ornamental plants. He conducts research that provides New York and North American growers with the means to produce a more environmentally friendly product efficiently, research that Klaver is keen to take note of, as his interest in tulips isn’t only academic. Having previously studied business at Clusius College Hoorn in Holland, he hopes to take what he has learned at Cornell back to his home country to launch his own tulip company.

Horticulture Outreach Day April 22

Poppy cyanotype

Poppy cyanotype

From Jeffrey Beem-Miller, Society of Horticulture for Graduate Students (SoHo):

Celebrate Horticulture this Earth Day! Come learn about plant propagation, make beautiful artwork with plant materials (cyanotypes, right), and compete with the bees for prizes in a game of pollination at the annual Horticultural Outreach Day.

April 22 (Earth Day), 12 to 2 p.m.
On the Ag Quad south (by Plant Science)

SIPS seminar video: Engineering the symbiotic signalling pathway of cereals

If you missed yesterday’s School of Integrative Plant Science seminar, Engineering the symbiotic signalling pathway of cereals, with Giles Oldroyd, Project Leader, Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, John Innes Centre, it’s available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Dreer seminar: Seedbombs and Teatime – The Imperfect Parks of Christchurch, N.Z.

Ian Peach in New Zealand

Ian Peach in New Zealand

Ian Peach, 2014 Frederick Dreer Award recipient will be presenting a seminar on his travels to Christchurch, New Zealand and the landscape architectural response to the earthquake.

His talk is entitled:

Seedbombs and Teatime: The Imperfect Parks of Christchurch, New Zealand.

Wednesday April 22, 12:15 p.m.
461 Kennedy Hall

The Frederick Dreer Award, administered by the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, offers wonderful opportunity for one or more students to spend 4 months to up to a year abroad pursuing his or her interests related to horticulture. The application deadline for the current cycle has passed. But you can view the application and instructions to start planning ahead for the 2016 award.

Detrick to speak on alpine plants April 18

Emily Detrick

Emily Detrick

Emily Detrick, graduate student in the Public Garden Leadership program, will speak on Cultivating Alpine Plants in the Northeast at the April 18 meeting of the Adirondack Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society.

Before coming to Cornell, Detrick was the alpine horticulturist at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, N.Y., where she worked with a diverse collection of alpine plants from around the world developed by the late Frank Cabot and long-time director Caroline Burgess. Detrick will share what she learned about which alpine plants and growing practices are best suited to the inhospitable conditions they face in Ithaca and the Northeast.

The program is free and open to the public and starts at 1 p.m in Plant Science 404. Bring a brown bag lunch and socialize starting noon.

Online botanical illustration courses start May 4

Hellebore watercolor by Marcia Eames-Sheavly

Learn botanical illustration online.  Three courses taught by Marcia Eames-Sheavly start May 4, 2015:

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. The course webpages also have links to previous students who have posted their works online.

Free iBooks will make your lawn ‘green’

iBook covers

With the grass finally starting to green up in the Northeast, two new iBooks from Cornell University will help you turn your lawn into an environmental asset — as well as a beautiful place to relax and play.

Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to An Attractive Environmental Asset  – This iBook features seven short how-to videos, photo galleries, interactive images and concise, easy-to-understand steps to cultivate a healthy lawn, including how to mow your lawn less and enjoy it more. It also details more advanced techniques, including best feeding strategies and how to cope with weeds, pests, diseases and soil compaction.

Turfgrass Species and Variety Guidelines for NYS  – Thinking about starting a new lawn or renovating an old one? This iBook will help you choose the grass species and varieties best adapted to your growing conditions, lawn care plan and expectations.

The Cornell Turfgrass Program, the Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program, and the New York State IPM Program all contributed to these iBooks.

Professional turf managers will also benefit from these recently launched Cornell websites:

Turfgrass and Landscape Weed ID – The first step when managing weeds is to know what weeds you have. This mobile-friendly site makes it simple to identify common New York weeds based on easily observed traits and provides simple solutions for control.

Managing Safe Sports Fields – Everything sports turf managers, coaches, administrators and players need to create safe playing fields, from managing soils and choosing grasses to mowing and fertilizing strategies and pest management. Interactive management schedules provide timely advice.

Best Management Practices for New York State Golf Courses – Research-based, voluntary BMP guidelines are designed to protect and preserve our water resources that enhance open space using current advances in golf turf management.

And if that’s not enough, turf specialist Frank Rossi, associate professor in the Horticulture Section, is restarting his weekly Cornell Turfgrass ShortCUTT podcast. In each podcast, Rossi takes a look at how the weather is affecting grass growth and management, and provides weekly news and advice for professionals in the lawn, golf and sports turf industry in New York State and surrounding areas.

Soil Health Testing Lab open for 2015 season


Measure to know!

How healthy is your soil? There’s only one way to find out:  Test it!

For farmers, gardeners, landscape managers and researchers who want to go beyond merely testing the nutrient levels of their soils, the Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health from Cornell University is just what you need.

Soil health management practices can regenerate soil structure, reduce weather-related risks and increase productive capacity in the long term. “There’s a growing recognition of the importance of improving soil health,” says Aaron Ristow, Cornell Soil Health Program Coordinator. “The Soil Health Assessment can help you determine specific soil constraints and point you to the practices that will help you overcome them”.

This year, the lab is offering expanded choices of the Soil Health Assessment that range from the Basic package to the Comprehensive Analysis of Soil Health – the gold standard of soil health testing.

Packages provide standardized, field-specific information on agronomically important constraints in biological and physical processes in addition to the typical nutrient analysis. The Standard and Comprehensive packages include tests of soil respiration, available water capacity, active carbon levels and soil aggregate stability, among others.

“Add-on” testing such as heavy metals, soluble salts and others are also available.

The assessment comes with a detailed report explaining the results and recommending both short- and long-term management strategies specific to the field’s constraints.  The assessment’s indicators and management strategies for improving soil health are also detailed in the Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual, available free online.

For more information and to submit your soil for an assessment visit the Cornell Soil Health website or email the lab at



Bassuk Receives Arbor Day Award

nina-bassukx960Nina Bassuk, founder of Cornell University’s Urban Horticulture Institute, is the recipient of a 2015 Arbor Day Award in honor of her outstanding contribution to tree planting, conservation and stewardship, the Arbor Day Foundation announced today. She is a professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS).

Now in her 34th year at Cornell, Bassuk will receive the Foundation’s Frederick Law Olmsted Award, which recognizes an outstanding individual who has had a positive impact on the environment due to lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation at a state or regional level.

Bassuk’s accomplishments include the development of bare root transplanting technology and CU-Structural Soil™ — a patented mix for urban environments engineered to provide rooting area for street trees while supporting pavement, decreasing tree mortality. Owing to her efforts, thousands of trees have been planted around the world in conditions that would not have otherwise supported trees.

Bassuk is also widely known for her innovative teaching, and recently received a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowship for her efforts. Her two-course series Creating the Urban Eden not only incorporates plant walks around campus but also a cutting-edge Woody Plants Database website. Students in the course also design and install landscapes around campus. “She helps and challenges students to develop their own methods of learning,” one of them wrote.

Student Weekend Arborist Teams organized by Bassuk have inventoried street trees in more than 36 communities around New York to help municipalities better manage their urban forests.

On Arbor Day this year, Bassuk’s students will be hanging tags on trees around campus estimating their worth in terms of energy savings, increased property value, carbon sequestration, and other ecosystem services.

Bassuk is one of 13 individuals, organizations and companies being recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation during the annual Arbor Day Awards. This year’s ceremony will be held at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

Study: Soil microbiome influences plant flowering time

Kevin Panke-Buisse

Kevin Panke-Buisse

Cornell University researchers have discovered that it is possible to alter plant flowering time and other traits by manipulating soil microbial communities, a finding that they ultimately hope will help reduce crop inputs on everything from greenhouse plants to agronomic crops.

“For example, if we can give grass a competitive edge over weeds by enriching the soil with microorganisms that provide benefits only to the grass while suppressing the growth of other plants, it will give us another tool to grow high-quality turf without resorting to chemical weed control,” says weed specialist Jenny Kao-Kniffin, assistant professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, one of the study’s authors.

Developing such tools is particularly important with the 2010 passage in New York of the Child Safe Playing Fields Act – and similar laws in other states – that prohibit pesticide applications to playgrounds and athletic fields at schools and daycare facilities, she adds.

The study, Selection on soil microbiomes reveals reproducible impacts on plant function, was published October 28, 2014, in The ISME Journal, and has been in the top ten of articles downloaded at the journal’s website for weeks.

The study’s lead author, Kevin Panke-Buisse, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Field of Horticulture, used a single genotype of Arabidopsis thaliana to develop two different soil microbial communities. He grew the plants for 10 generations, harvesting soil each time from early- and late-flowering plants to inoculate the soil for the next generation.

“By using seeds from the same Arabidopsis genotype – keeping the plant genetics the same from generation to generation within an inbred line – we were able to verify that the differences in flowering time were due to differences in the microbial inoculants alone,” he observes.

When Panke-Buisse then used the resulting inoculants to grow additional Arabidopsis genotypes and a related mustard-family plant (Brassica rapa) — an important agronomic crop — he found that the soil inoculation continued to either delay or accelerate flowering with these different plants.

Analyses showed that the early-flowering soils were dominated by bacteria from families associated with decomposition and nutrient mineralization. The late-flowering soils were dominated by different bacteria families known for promoting plant growth.

“But the greatest differences we saw were in the presence or absence of relatively rare bacteria, suggesting that they could play a big role in controlling flowering time despite being in low abundance,” Panke-Buisse notes.

Later flowering plants also saw a 50 to 100 percent increase in biomass. “If we can harness soil microbes so that we can enhance grass density and shade out competing weeds, it should go a long way to help us reduce herbicide use,” he adds.

Panke-Buisse and Kao-Kniffin plan to further investigate how soil microbes affect other plant traits and apply what they learn to other horticultural systems.


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