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Schwartz Sax is new director of Connecticut College Arboretum

Miles Schwartz Sax

Miles Schwartz Sax

Connecticut College News [2019-07-09]:

Connecticut College has named Miles Schwartz Sax as the new Charles and Sarah P. Becker ’27 Arboretum Director, effective Aug. 1, 2019.

Sax received a master’s degree in public garden leadership in 2014 and a Ph.D. in horticultural biology in 2019 from Cornell University. His academic research focuses on issues relating to urban horticulture, tree selection and evaluation, stress physiology and rare plant conservation in the context of an increasingly urbanizing and warming planet.

The Connecticut College Arboretum, one of the most cherished resources on campus, consists of a very diverse 750 acres that include the landscaped grounds of the College as well as the surrounding plant collections, natural areas and managed landscapes.

“The Arboretum has a long history of doing exceptional work in land conservation and ecological landscape management, and I look forward to using this rich history as a foundation to continue to grow and expand the capacity of the institution,” Sax said.

Read the whole article.

Kao-Kniffin receives White House early career award

Kao-Kniffin with former graduate student Kevin Panke-Buisse PhD '16.

Kao-Kniffin with former graduate student Kevin Panke-Buisse PhD ’16.

From Cornell Chronicle article [2019-07-05]:

Jenny Kao-Kniffin, associate professor in the Horticulture Section, is one four Cornell faculty members recognized by the White House with prestigious 2019 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The awards were announced July 2.

The award is the highest honor bestowed by the federal government to scientific and engineering professionals who are in first stages of their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership.

Established 23 years ago during President Bill Clinton’s administration, the awards acknowledge the advancement of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; and community service, as demonstrated by scientific leadership, public education and outreach. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy coordinates the PECASE with participating federal departments and agencies.

Kao-Kniffin’s award was through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for her work in soil microbial ecology. Her research focuses on the bacteria and fungi found in the root zone of soils, known as the rhizosphere, and how they impact ecosystem nutrient cycling and the growth of plants. Many of these underground interactions can be isolated to better understand their potential for agriculture and land management, she said.

Read the whole article.

Plant breeding project gives East African farmers better leafy green options

CALS News [2019-06-27]:

 Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture, and graduate student Hannah Swegarden pose with East African women harvesting collard greens.

Griffiths and graduate student Hannah Swegarden pose with East African women harvesting collard greens.

Phillip Griffiths, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science based at Cornell AgriTech, has a special connection in East Africa that’s improving the humble collard green to help smallholder farmers—and their communities—live and eat better. Griffiths’ East African connection was made when Charles Wasonga, recipient of the first Cornell Assistantship for Horticulture in Africa (CAHA), began his Ph.D. studies with Griffiths. The design of CAHA, which requires advisors to work alongside students on research in their home country, brought Griffiths to Kenya to oversee Wasonga’s work on green beans. While there, the two also saw a number of collard fields and realized the significant challenges farmers had in getting fresh, desirable products to rapidly urbanizing markets.

“The issue with fresh-market crops versus agronomic crops, like maize, is always getting them to end users. Farmers need to focus on marketable yield,” said Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture, plant breeding and genetics.

In Kenyan diets, collard greens—a member of the Brassica family—are a nutritious dietary staple for millions of people. Like all dark leafy greens, they’re high in vitamin A and a good source of calcium, iron and vitamin C. But collards are highly susceptible to black rot, which can reduce marketability by 50% to 80%. This susceptibility makes the crop a risky venture for small farmers looking to expand their income options with vegetables.

Recognizing the vulnerabilities that would have to be overcome, Wasonga and Griffiths started crossing several kale and collard varieties at Cornell with the goal of breeding for improved resistance to black rot. After Wasonga returned to Kenya, Griffiths applied for and was chosen as a David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future Academic Venture Fund project to continue the collaboration and investigate more diverse leafy Brassica vegetables in Kenya and Tanzania.

Read the whole article.

Wolfe advises House sub-committee on climate stress and mitigation strategies

David Wolfe testifying to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research

David Wolfe testifying to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research

Reposted from the SIPS blog, Discovery that Connects [2019-06-14]. See also Cornell Chronicle article.

SIPS faculty member David Wolfetestified Wednesday to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research in a public hearing entitled, “Increasing Resiliency, Mitigating Risk: Examining the Research and Extension Needs of Producers”. Wolfe led the expert testimony by outlining challenges presented by recent extreme weather events and ways in which farmers are responding. He went on to list areas of need such as improved regional climate data, digital agriculture infrastructure, and greater access to capital.

The entire witness panel strongly emphasized the importance of public sector research to develop regionally adapted cultivars and address pest and pathogen challenges exacerbated by climate variability. Cooperative extension and collaborative research with USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) were also hailed. Followup questions from representatives covered topics as diverse as the benefits of gene editing, efficacy of cover crops to mitigate both flooding and drought, international competition in the realm of biotechnology, to concerns about the proposed move of USDA headquarters.

Other experts testifying at the hearing included Robert W. Godfrey, Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at University of the Virgin Islands, Brise Tencer, Executive Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, CA, Sam Godwin of Godwin Family Orchard in Tonasket, WA, and Fred Gmitter of the Citrus Research and Education Center at the University of Florida.

Wolfe’s program in the SIPS Horticulture Section focuses on the accounting and management of carbon, nitrogen, and greenhouse gases in agroecosystems. He is also a project coordinator of the recently released New York Soil Health Roadmap.

Empire apple breeder Roger Way dies at 100

Cornell ChronicleCALS News [2019-06-12]:

Roger Way

Roger Way

Roger Way, Ph.D. ’53, professor emeritus of pomology and world-renowned apple breeder, died June 2 in State College, Pennsylvania. He was 100 years old.

Way gained worldwide recognition for apple varieties he developed. His apple-related fame landed him on a “Jeopardy!” question, under the category “By the Way,” which read: “Roger Way tasted 200 of these a day, helping him develop the Empire and Jonagold types.”

“Dr. Roger Way contributed to the New York apple industry, but also nationally and internationally,” said apple breeder Susan Brown, the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science at Cornell AgriTech. “His Jonagold apple, named in 1968, is seventh in European apple production by variety and Empire is ninth in U.S. production.”

Read the whole article.

Towering ‘Double Allium’ sculpture installed at Cornell Botanic Gardens

Cornell Chronicle, CALS News [2019-06-12]:

double allium ribbon cutting

Anne Simon Moffat ’69, right, and husband Keith Moffat, center, along with Christopher Dunn, executive director of Cornell Botanic Gardens, cut the ribbon on Double Allium, a steel-and-glass sculpture by blacksmith-artist Jenny Pickford, June 8 during Reunion 2019. Photo by Sonja Skelly.

 

A towering new sculpture welcomes visitors to the Cornell Botanic Gardens: “Double Allium,” crafted of metal and glass, stands 12 feet tall and sits along the walkway to the Nevin Welcome Center.

The work features graceful leaves crafted of metal and closed blooms in purple glass.

Jenny Pickford, a contemporary artist blacksmith based in the United Kingdom, created the sculpture to illustrate the co-existence and co-dependence of strength and fragility in the natural world. Its whimsical qualities are inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and aim to invoke childlike awe and wonder toward nature.

Anne Simon Moffat ’69 and husband Keith Moffat, a professor at the University of Chicago, commissioned the sculpture, which was dedicated June 8 during Reunion weekend. Anne Moffat was celebrating her 50th reunion.

The Moffats are experienced glass collectors and share a love of gardening.

“Keith and I wanted to combine our passion for glass, horticulture and Cornell University by bringing an iconic sculpture to Cornell Botanic Gardens,” said Anne Moffat, a certified master gardener. “We hope that it will give visitors joy and deepen their understanding of our relationship with the natural world.”

Pickford designs her sculptures for outdoor installation, where they draw attention to the natural beauty around them. Cornell Botanic Gardens’ sculpture is her first permanent installation in the U.S. and her first sculpture in the double allium form.

“Art highlights what is there and makes people notice its presence,” Pickford said, noting the glass features of her works “allow natural sunlight to pour into the glass.”

To create these structures, Pickford uses blacksmithing skills in her forge to transform industrial steel into a malleable form, bringing the piece to life. She uses special tools she has made herself, along with a fly press and 1930s-era power hammer. She obtains the glass pieces through partnerships with distinguished glass blowers.

Pickford’s sculptures are featured all over the world, including in China, Australia and across the United Kingdom. One her most notable works is the “Bluebell” sculpture at the Royal Derby Hospital in Derby, England, where it is in place to connect cancer patients with the hope and beauty of nature.

“Double Allium” is installed on the lawn near the Bioswale Garden at Cornell Botanic Gardens and along the walkway to the Nevin Welcome Center. The gardens are free of charge and open dawn to dusk daily.

By Alice Soewito, marketing and communications intern at Cornell Botanic Gardens.

Hort alums named to GPN ‘Forty Under 40’

Cheni Filios

Cheni Filios

Two alumni from the Graduate Field of Horticulture were named to Greenhouse Produce New’s 2019 Forty under 40.

Cheni Filios (M.S. ’14) is now Global Product Manager for Vegetables at PanAmerican Seed Co.  Since joining the team there, she has helped to double the company’s product portfolio and sales.  While at Cornell, she also received the Frederick Dreer Award, which she used to study post-havest horticulture in New Zealand and Europe.

Ockert Greyvenstein

Ockert Greyvenstein

Ockert Greyvenstein (M.S. ’09) is now a plant breeder, also at PanAmerican Seed Co.  There, he’s helped get the male-sterile patent approved for the company’s vinca breeding program and has been instrumental in the program’s trialing, evaluation, test production and ultimate product selection. He has also been active mentoring college interns in the company’s breeding program to create an exciting, meaningful and educational experiences.

Both were advised by Bill Miller, director of Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program.

Commencement videos

If you missed the festivities this weekend — or want to relive them — you can view videos of the Class of 2019 Undergraduate Recognition Ceremony (recognizing students receiving degrees in Agricultural Sciences and Plant Sciences May 26) and the 2019 Graduate Degree Ceremony (recognizing students receiving MPS, MS and PhD students from each of the five graduate fields within SIPS).

New book a how-to for bringing stressed students to nature

Nature Rx coverCALS News, Cornell Chronicle [2019-05-22]:

Nearly two in three U.S. college students reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year, according to a 2018 report from the American College Health Association.

While there’s no simple solution, copious scientific evidence backs up the notion that even short, semi-regular exposure to parks, gardens and other natural spaces can help with stress and depression.

A new book co-written by Don Rakow, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, explores ways schools can use those spaces to address the problem.

Rakow has teamed up with co-author Greg Eells, formerly the director of the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services, to write “Nature Rx: Improving College-Student Mental Health,” which came out May 15.

“It’s basically a how-to manual for college administrators, faculty and staff,” said Rakow, one of the forces behind the NatureRx@Cornell program. “The goal is to get a group of people at a school to come together to support a time-in-nature program for students.”

With its gorges, Botanic Garden and other natural areas, Cornell is well-known as one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses. But it’s far from unique in terms of natural beauty. “Every school,” Rakow said, “even urban campuses, has access to green spaces.”

Cornell serves as a case study in the book, along with three other schools. But Rakow said there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. “Each campus has to develop the sort of nature Rx program that best fits their school,” he said.

See also What the Woods Do for Stressed Students, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 21, 2019.

 

Toxicology expert Donald Lisk dies at 88

 

Lisk

Lisk

By Krishna Ramanujan. Cornell Chronicle | CALS news [2019-05-09]:

Donald J. Lisk, M.S. ’54, Ph.D. ’56, professor emeritus of soil chemistry and toxicology and a champion of graduate education, died April 27. He was 88.

A former director of Cornell’s Toxic Chemicals Laboratory, Lisk was known for his work analyzing pesticides – including DDT – in soils, plants and animals; the toxic effects of chemicals on occupationally exposed populations; and the effects of diet on inhibiting cancer.

“Although Don was primarily a researcher, he was committed to graduate students and, upon his retirement, left a substantial amount of unrestricted funds to the Department of Horticulture to support graduate education,” said Marvin Pritts, professor of horticulture. “Don was always willing to take time to learn about what others were doing and share exciting findings from his own work.”

Read the whole article.

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