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SoHo art opening February 22, Big Red Barn

From Hannah Swegarden:

The Society of Horticulture Grad Students (SoHo) is proud to present their horticultural research through an artistic lens at the Big Red Barn.

From the flowers above ground to the mycorrhizae systems deep below ground, the beauty of horticulture is everywhere. This collection of pieces showcases the diversity of horticultural research at Cornell University and seeks to highlight SoHo’s deep appreciation for the intricate connection between people and plants. We hope you’re able to join us for the show’s opening at the Big Red Barn, opening February 22, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM!

Free wine and cheese will be served.


Seminar video: Growing berries in northern Europe

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar Growing berries in northern Europe  with Pauliina Palonen, University of Helsinki, it  is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Rossi receives lifetime achievement award

Reid award for RossiThe Metropolitan Golf Course Superintendents Association (MetGCSA) presented its John Reid Lifetime Achievement Award to Frank Rossi, turf specialist and associate professor in the Horticulture Section, at its January 18 Winter Seminar. The award recognizes individuals or organizations that, through continuing commitment, show exemplary support to the game of golf and golf course superintendents.

The group recognized Rossi’s contributions to the game through his “unending environmental leadership and research, his high regard for and support of our fellow superintendents, and his ability to captivate an audience.”

Read more in Tee to Green.


Student team works with Colombian coffee growers


From Juana Muñoz Ucros and Marie Zwetsloot, Graduate Field of Horticulture, Bauerle Lab

Tucked away in the western arm of the mighty Colombian Andes lies the Cauca coffee-growing region. A stunning mixture of Afrocolombians, indigenous people and Spanish descendants fuses together around the culture of artisanal coffee growing.

Without machinery and with very few inputs — but enormous amounts of creativity — these farmers optimize yield in plots usually less than 2 acres. And even in the face of unpredictable weather, they manage to put children through college, pay off their loans, and experiment with organic farming.

In January, we led a student learning and research trip to Cauca as part of the Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) program of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD). We made use of a previously established relationship with a cooperative of coffee farmers, Federación Campesina de Cauca (FCC), by Miguel Gomez and his graduate students in Applied Economics and Management.

Our group consisted of students from different disciplines and included Shanti Kumar and Jenny Lee from International Agriculture and Rural Development, Sam Bosco from Horticulture, Lizzy Sweitzer Cornell Institute of Public Affairs, and Whit Knickerbocker from Agronomy and Agribusiness Management.

During our visit, the team visited both organic and conventional coffee farms with the aim to better understand the economic, social and environmental challenges and opportunities that households from these different food production systems face. We interviewed the farmers about their management practices and took soil samples to evaluate pH and active carbon content of the soil. As an outcome, we left the FCC with a low-cost alternative to expensive lab soil tests that can inform them of soil health status and better direct their limited resources.

Full of pride and also of knowledge, the coffee producers showed the team around their farms and explained their philosophy and techniques. Even though communicating in Spanish wasn’t always easy, the producers were very patient in explaining their perspectives and sharing their experiences. Coffee farming is a tough living; stories of fluctuating coffee prices, health issues due to pesticide exposure and climate change were part of almost every conversation. The prospect of a peace deal finally put into action brings a smile to the farmer’s faces, but their reality is still one of political turmoil, government neglect, and ever present coffee leaf rust.

Besides the remarkable views of the endless mountains, one of the things that stood out was the hospitality and openness of the farmers. We were not allowed to leave the farm without having had at least one cup of sugary coffee, and a sampler of the tropical fruits grown by the family.

Seeing all of this with your own eyes makes you think hard about the coffee we drink every day.

To visit the project’s blog, follow this link:

Björkman in American Vegetable Grower

Thomas Björkman

Thomas Björkman

American Vegetable Grower magazine turned to Thomas Bjorkman, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Intergrative Plant Science,  to answer questions about Cornell Soil Health Laboratory’s Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health and the importance of knowing more than just your soil’s nutrient levels to produce healthy crops in two recent articles:

Seminar video: New vegetables for organic systems

If you missed Thursday’s Soil and Crop Sciences Section seminar New vegetables for organic systems  with Michael Mazourek, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Greenhouse/High Tunnel Vegetable IPM webinars start February 9

high tunnel tomatoes

From Betsy Lamb, NYS Integrated Pest Management Program:

We will be holding a series of short webinars on Greenhouse/High Tunnel Vegetable IPM on Thursdays from 12-1 in February and March.  The intent is for each topic to be briefly covered and then followed by discussion:

  • Feb 9 and Feb 16: Basics of light, water fertility, media as they relate to pest management
  • Feb 23: Vegetable crop production in greenhouses and high tunnels
  • Mar 2: Disease management in greenhouses and high tunnels
  • Mar 9: Insect management in greenhouses and high tunnels
  • Mar 16: Weed management in greenhouses and high tunnels, especially in winter production
  • Mar 23: How to write/use an IPM plan

All webinars will be delivered via Zoom and recorded in case you can’t attend in person. During the week of April 24 we will hold a training session in Geneva to follow up on these webinars.

For more information, contact me:


Seminar video: Ethnobotany of the southern plains

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar Ethnobotany of the southern plains  with Wayne Elisens, Oklahoma Biological Survey, it  is available online.

Zoom version (sharper slides) also available.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Water sensor moves from basic research to promising business

A sensor installed in the trunk of a grapevine. After the installation of the sensor, the researchers cover and insulate the trunk.

A sensor installed in the trunk of a grapevine. After the installation of the sensor, the researchers cover and insulate the trunk. (Photo: Alan Lakso)

Cornell Chronicle [2017-02-06]:

A water sensor technology that began as basic research at Cornell is blooming into a business that fills a vital need for grape, nut, apple and other growers.

While current water sensing tools are expensive, inaccurate or labor intensive, the new sensor tells growers when their plants need irrigation with accurate, real-time readings at reasonable cost.

Much like a blood pressure gauge for humans, the sensor reads the water pressure inside the plant. When plants are thirsty, their water pressure is low, sometimes even negative. The sensor reads this pressure inside the plant to help growers ensure plant health and optimize water use in drought-stricken agricultural areas. Applying water at the right time can also greatly improve the quality of fruits, nuts and especially grapes for red wines.

In mid-2016, Cornell engineers and horticulturalists who developed the sensor launched FloraPulse, a startup aimed at commercializing the sensor and using it to provide agricultural services. The first target markets are grape and nut growers in California’s Central and Napa valleys.

Read the whole article.

Historic Cornell trip explores new frontiers in Myanmar

A farmer on Inle Lake in Myanmar explains hydroponic tomato farming methods to Cornell and Burmese students. (Photo: Emma Quilligan)

A farmer on Inle Lake in Myanmar explains hydroponic tomato farming methods to Cornell and Burmese students. (Photo: Emma Quilligan)

Cornell Chronicle [2017-01-30]:

For the first time, 29 students in the International Agriculture in Developing Nations course had the opportunity to undertake a field study tour of Myanmar Jan. 1-16. It was the 49th class trip, through which students have visited Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and India.

“We decided to go to Myanmar this year because of the enormous changes underway in the country,” said Ronnie Coffman, international professor of plant breeding at Cornell and director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Agriculture plays an important part in this emerging economy, and this trip enabled students to see, firsthand, the challenges and opportunities faced by farmers.”

The group surveyed a range of agroecologies and production environments, traveling throughout the central dry zone, Inle Lake and Ayerwaddy Delta. Meetings with farmers gave students insight into various cultivation systems, from hydroponic tomato farming to small-scale melon production, while visits to agribusinesses highlighted the increasing trade and knowledge exchanges between Myanmar and its neighbors. The group also learned about alternative livelihoods, such as lotus weaving and lacquerware manufacturing, and engaged in Myanmar culture with visits to pagodas, temples and traditional puppet shows.

Read the whole article.

Marvin Pritts, Horticulture Section Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Plant Sciences Major was among the Cornell faculty leading the trip.

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