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Plant breeders take cues from consumers to improve kale

Hannah Swegarden, right, and technician Matt Wavrick transplant a kale cultivar from a research field at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, New York. (Photo: Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

Hannah Swegarden, right, and technician Matt Wavrick transplant a kale cultivar from a research field at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, New York. (Photo: Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

Cornell Chronicle [2-16-11-17]:

A Cornell program is reimagining kale – its color, shape and even flavor – in a bid to breed the naturally biodiverse vegetable for consumer satisfaction.

Traits of importance for plant production, such as resistance to disease, pests and drought are often a major focus for plant breeders. Consumers, however, are usually more interested in the culinary and aesthetic qualities of vegetables that directly impact their preparation in the kitchen.

Cornell vegetable breeder Phillip Griffiths, a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and doctoral student Hannah Swegarden have embarked on a program to identify the different leaf shapes, colors, flavors and textures favored by consumers, and breed for those traits.

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