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Cornell team helps rescue National Mall elms

Bassuk uses a penetrometer to measure soil compaction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Yoshiki Harada)

Bassuk uses a penetrometer to measure soil compaction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Yoshiki Harada)

A team of Cornell experts is helping the National Park Service aid ailing elms ringing the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“There are hundreds of trees in this iconic landscape that really need help,” says Nina Bassuk, director of Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI), who is leading the team.

“When it’s hot, people gather in the shade under these trees, making soil compaction from all the foot traffic a huge problem,” adds Bassuk, who is also a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. Dutch elm disease and other maladies also plague many of the trees.

The Park Service asked Bassuk to put her expertise helping trees cope with tough urban environments to work helping them develop a master plan for managing the trees. She traveled to Washington in mid-June to begin gathering more information along with horticulture graduate student Yoshiki Harada, UHI visiting fellow Bryan Denig, and Barb Neal, a community educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tioga County who has extensive professional landscaping experience in the Washington metro area.

Neal, Denig and Bassuk assess the health of one of the iconic elms ringing the National Mall.  (Photo: Yoshiki Harada)

Neal, Denig and Bassuk assess the health of one of the iconic elms ringing the National Mall. (Photo: Yoshiki Harada)

Harada and Bassuk collected more than 100 soil samples, half sent to the Cornell Soil Health Lab for analysis and half used to measure the soil’s bulk density, an indicator of compaction.

Meantime, Neal and Denig – both certified arborists – conducted a tree inventory and risk assessment to determine the health status of the individual trees and to let the Park Service know which should be removed and which will require frequent monitoring so as not to pose a hazard.

Once the soil analyses are completed and Bassuk has digested the data, she’ll report her findings back to the Park Service. “We’ll focus on what steps can be taken going forward to help these trees thrive,” she says.

Dunn Honored by APGA

Christopher Dunn

Christopher Dunn

CALS News [2017-06-26]:

Christopher Dunn, executive director of Cornell Botanic Gardens, received the Award of Merit from the American Public Gardens Association June 20 in recognition of his distinguished performance in the field of public horticulture at one or more institutions.

Dunn has served as the Elizabeth Newman Wilds executive director of Cornell Botanic Gardens since 2014. He guided it through an extensive rebranding effort that resulted in the renaming of the organization from Cornell Plantations to Cornell Botanic Gardens. The name change positions the organization to better advance its mission and vision.

Cornell Botanic Gardens is a unit of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is integral to the physical presence, student experience and research activities of the university. It is in the vanguard of advancing the understanding of the role of plants and the cultures they sustain.

“With his background in plant ecology and conservation, Christopher has a broad view of issues that relate the plant world to the role of botanic gardens in local and global plant conservation efforts,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Under his direction, Cornell Botanic Gardens is playing a leading role in biocultural conservation, through programs and outreach.”

Dunn is a leading voice for biocultural diversity worldwide. He serves on the board of directors of the International Union for Conservation of Nature-U.S. (IUCN). In 2016, he coordinated the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the largest conservation conference ever held in the U.S. He also serves on the board of directors of the Center for Plant Conservation, based in California.

Prior to joining Cornell Botanic Gardens, Dunn held leadership positions at Lyon Arboretum (director, 2007-14), Chicago Botanic Garden (executive director for research, 2004-07) and the Morton Arboretum (1994-2004). He holds academic appointments at Cornell as adjunct professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and a faculty fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

His accomplishments in the public garden field include programs that provided trees to local and regional communities, and the development of new research institutes, university partnerships and programs across disciplines. These include partnerships with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and Google’s endangered languages project with linguistics faculty at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Cornell Botanic Gardens oversees 3,500 acres of cultivated gardens, the arboretum and natural areas that comprise one-third of the Ithaca campus, as well as off-campus natural areas.

Author Shannon Dortch is associate director of communications and marketing for Cornell Botanic Gardens. This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Promotions for Björkman, Kao-Kniffin

Björkman, Kao-Kniffin

Björkman, Kao-Kniffin

From Steve Reiners, Horticulture Section chair:

It is my pleasure to officially announce that Horticulture’s Jenny Kao-Kniffin and Thomas Björkman have both been promoted, effective July 1.  Jenny will become Associate Professor and Thomas, Full Professor.

Please join me in offering congratulations to our colleagues.

Berry for Your Thoughts: Contest Seeks Name for Grape

The new breed of grape is remarkable for the large size of its berries. Photo by Bruce Reisch/CALS.

The new breed of grape is remarkable for the large size of its berries. Photo by Bruce Reisch/CALS.

Reposted from CALS news [2017-06-19]

Big on flavor, aroma and size, Cornell’s newest grape lacks one defining feature: a name. Grape breeder Bruce Reisch ’76 spent years developing the grape, and now he’s offering the public the chance to name it.

Currently dubbed NY98.0228.02, the grape is a seedless, flavorful berry with the attractive blue coloring of a Concord at nearly double the size. Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics in the Horticulture Section of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said the new variety is well adapted to the Northeast, with good cold-tolerance for most of the Eastern states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.

“This grape is the first truly seedless Concord-type and has naturally large, attractive berries,” said Reisch. The Concord has long been an American favorite, known best for its use in grape juice, jellies and jams.

“Our new grapes weigh 5 or 6 grams per berry, almost twice the weight of a traditional Concord,” said Reisch. “It’s pretty rare to find a grape that size, especially with such full flavor.”

Read the whole article.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Video: 2017 Liberty Hyde Bailey Lecture

If you missed last Friday’s Liberty Hyde Bailey Lecture, From Farm to Fork: How CALS Is Leading the Food Revolution, it’s available online.

This year’s line-up included:

  • Kathryn J. Boor, Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
  • Christine Smart, Professor, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology and Interim Director, School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Michael Mazourek, Assistant Professor, Plant Breeding and Genetics and Horticulture Sections, School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Thomas Björkman, Associate Professor, Horticulture Section, School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Courtney Weber, Associate Professor, Horticulture Section, School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Carmen Moraru, Associate Professor, Food Science

Climate Change Garden offers a lens into the future

The entrance of the Climate Change Demonstration Garden, located at Pounder Garden at the Cornell Botanic Garden.

The entrance of the Climate Change Demonstration Garden, located at Pounder Garden at the Cornell Botanic Garden.

Cornell Chronicle [2017-06-08]:

In the shadow of Barbara McClintock’s historic campus shed, plots of foliage thicken in the university’s Climate Change Demonstration Garden. Located at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, these raised beds provide a living illustration of how future temperature conditions may affect plants.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing,” said Sonja Skelly, director of education at Cornell Botanic Gardens. “For the general public, climate change is something they hear about, but it can be out of sight, out of mind. It is some sort of future phenomenon. It is not going to happen in our lifetime. It’s going to happen to somebody else in another part of the world, other than ourselves.”

But it is here, and it is happening now. Skelly untangles the disconnect between climate change knowledge and societal unwillingness to engage. “We wanted something demonstrative, experiential, interactive and compelling,” she said. “We want to give people a sense of what climate change will do locally.”

Read the whole article.

Symposium showcases NYSAES science June 23

2016 symposium

Reposted from CALS News:

Fascinating science is being done at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), and student researchers are eager to share their work.

Organized by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, the second annual Research Symposium will provide an overview of research being conducted across departments, sections and groups on the Geneva campus.

The symposium – June 23 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Jordan Hall – aims to launch student-driven interdisciplinary collaboration among NYSAES scientists, according to Larissa Osterbaan and Adrienne Gorny, student coordinators for the event organized by the Student Association of the Geneva Experiment Station.

The free event aims to spark conversations that lead to further interdisciplinary projects, said Osterbaan, a doctoral candidate in the field of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology.

“The entire Cornell community as well as local and regional growers and other NYSAES stakeholders are encouraged to attend,” she said. “We’re especially eager to have some of our Ithaca colleagues join us in Geneva for the day to hear about our latest research.”

This year’s symposium will feature keynote speaker Sam Crowell, Ph.D. ’15, agricultural science adviser at the U.S. Department of State. Crowell will speak about his journey from Cornell to the State Department and on the role of agricultural sciences within the U.S. executive branch.

The symposium is funded through the NYSAES Director’s fund, the Sections of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology and Horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Science, and the Department of Entomology.

A light lunch and refreshments will be provided. Transportation will be arranged for attendees coming from Ithaca.

The deadline to register is June 12.

NYSAES awards

From Thomas Björkman:

June 2 was awards day at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. Among those recognized:

Research Associate, and Tree Fruit Horticulture interim leader, Poliana Francescatto presents technician (and grad student) Peter Herzeele with the Perrine scholarship

Research Associate and Tree Fruit Horticulture interim leader Poliana Francescatto presents technician (and grad student) Peter Herzeele with the Perrine scholarship.

Justine Vanden Heuvel welcomes Shaulis Scholar Quinlan Corbett, an viticulture student from Finger Lakes Community College who will be working on molecular virology with Mark Fuchs. Quinlan is starting into viticulture from a background in acting.

Justine Vanden Heuvel welcomes Shaulis Scholar Quinlan Corbett (left), a viticulture student from Finger Lakes Community College who will be working on molecular virology with Mark Fuchs. Quinlan comes to viticulture from a background in acting.

John Keeton in the clonal repository has worked in many roles of caring for horticultural crops in his 25 years of service.

John Keeton in the clonal repository has worked in many roles of caring for horticultural crops in his 25 years of service.

Rob Martens receives recognition for 10 years of service from Bill Srmack, head of farm operations for the germplasm collection.

Rob Martens receives recognition for 10 years of service from Bill Srmack, head of farm operations for the germplasm collection.

Horticulture administrative assistant LouAnn Rago is recognized by section chair Steve Reiners for 15 years of service at the Station.

Horticulture administrative assistant Lou Ann Rago is recognized by section chair Steve Reiners for 15 years of service at the Station.

New Consortium to Reduce Greenhouse Energy Use

Reposted from CALS News [2017-06-05]

GLASE team members include Neil Mattson, associate professor, SIPS; David de Villiers, research associate, SIPS; Kale Harbick, research associate, SIPS; Lou Albright, professor emeritus, Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Marketing.

GLASE team members include Neil Mattson, associate professor, SIPS; David de Villiers, research associate, SIPS; Kale Harbick, research associate, SIPS; Lou Albright, professor emeritus, Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Marketing.

New York greenhouses are increasingly tasked to do two things seemingly at odds with one another: match consumer appetite for increased local vegetable production while dramatically reducing overall energy consumption.

A public-private consortium led by researchers at Cornell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is poised to accomplish both. The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium announced June 5 will transform the way greenhouses operate to reduce electricity use for lighting by up to 70 percent.

NYS Agriculture and Markets commissioner Richard Ball, Mattson, and RPI collaborator Tessa Pocock at the GLASE consortium announcement June 5.

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner Richard Ball, Mattson, and RPI photobiologist Tessa Pocock at the GLASE consortium announcement June 5.

Led by Neil Mattson, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and his collaborators at RPI, GLASE demonstrates a holistic greenhouse energy management system that integrates control of LED lighting, carbon dioxide supplementation, ventilation and humidity.

The seven-year, $5 million project funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will advance Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s energy policy – Reforming the Energy Vision – that aims to reduce greenhouses gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels.

At RPI’s center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA), engineers will develop energy efficient, cutting-edge light-emitting diode (LED) plant-lighting systems. Unlike the high-pressure sodium bulbs traditionally used to illuminate greenhouses, LED light can be dimmed and the spectrum adjusted to match optimal wavelengths. Cornell horticulture experts in collaboration with LESA photobiologist Tessa Pocock will test dynamic lighting and control systems that adjust to provide light more effectively to plants.

Mattson, who directs the Controlled Environment Agriculture group in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said reactive lighting made possible with LED technologies allows growers to provide optimal lighting as conditions change throughout the day. His research at the Kenneth Post and Guterman greenhouse facilities on the Ithaca campus will determine precise LED lighting and control strategies needed by lettuce, tomatoes and strawberries as model plants.

“An ability to adjust in real time the light spectrum and light quantity means plants get consistent, uniform, reproducible light at all times. That means we’re not wasting light and the electricity needed to create it when plants don’t need it for growth,” Mattson said.

Trends in New York are pointing toward more vegetables being grown indoors. The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census data shows the cultivation of lettuce and tomatoes in the state increased by 10.6 percent per year from 2007 to 2012.

“This is an industry that continues to expand in the vegetable-growing sector,” Mattson said. “This investment in energy-efficient greenhouse production will help ensure New York’s continued leadership in local food production in the Northeast.”

Along with light and water, plants require carbon dioxide to drive photosynthesis. Previous research by Lou Albright, professor emeritus in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, has shown that lettuce needs substantially less supplemental light if the environment is enriched with carbon dioxide. Mattson and his team will study how tomato and strawberry growth responds to carbon dioxide supplementation.

Data collected from his studies will be used by Cornell biological and environmental engineering colleagues Kale Harbick and Tim Shelford to develop algorithms that growers can use to make dynamic decisions regarding optimal lighting and carbon dioxide conditions. Over the life of the project, Mattson’s team will work with industry partners to test strategies in commercial facilities and monitor the carbon footprint of their operations.

The consortium will work with lighting manufacturers, growers, trade groups, produce buyers, agriculture lighting engineers, researchers, government agencies, Cornell Cooperative Extension specialists and others.

“New York’s greenhouse industry is experiencing rapid growth, making quick and meaningful action key to ensuring new and existing greenhouses are energy-efficient and highly productive,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA. “The consortium’s work will advance Governor Cuomo’s energy goals and New York’s vital agriculture sector.”

Mattson said GLASE is being organized to persist as a self-sustaining group. When the seven-year funding commitment ends, the consortium plans to continue to work with companies and partners to develop an organization that responds to industry needs.

More information: Visit the GLASE website.

Written by Matt Hayes, CALS Marketing and Communications. This article originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle {2017-06-05].

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