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Alan Lakso

Alan Lakso

Lakso wins in first USDA Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST)  prize competition [USDA press release]- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced November 1 the winners of the first Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) $200,000 prize competition. I-FAST helps scientists and engineers broaden the impact of their NIFA-funded research by encouraging collaboration between academia and industry to translate fundamental agricultural innovations into the marketplace. Alan Lakso, emeritus professor in the Horticulture Section, was on of four winners. Lakso  and his Cornell team — including Abe Stroock, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Vinay Pagay, PhD Horticulture ’14, and Michael Santiago, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering graduate student — won for their micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) microtensiometer.

CU in Nature website encourages students to get outside [Cornell Chronicle 2016-11-03] – Students can feel overwhelmed by the pressures associated with getting a top-quality education, but a new website and programming aims – by nature – to lower their stress levels. CUinNature.cornell.edu, which launched this fall, is a clearinghouse for the many natural areas on campus, including theCornell Botanic Gardens, most just a short walk away for students. Don Rakow, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, Horticulture Section, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is hoping students take advantage of an easily accessible antidote for academic and other stressors.

Geneva project explores ways to improve Northeast grape growing [Station News 2016-10-28] – Jason Londo, adjunct associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and a geneticist in the USDA-ARS Grape Genetics Unit,  is teaming up with researchers from across the country to map genetic traits in grapevine roots in order uncover the ways genes interact with the environment. The research aims to optimize the productivity and environmental resilience of grapevines, potentially pointing to new ways to improve grape growing in the Northeast.

Tech brings value to vineyards [periodiCALS, Vol. 6, Issue 2, 2016] – Each morning, the same question greets Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory Director Terry Bates from his office white board: What are you doing for the grape growers? This summer, the answer has come easily. He’s systematically taking the guesswork out of managing vineyards, with help from a fleet of sensors that see the vineyard more clearly than the human eye.

Liberty Hyde Bailey Lecture video: Genomics and the Future of Agriculture

If you missed Friday’s  Liberty Hyde Bailey Lecture, Genomics and the Future of Agriculture, it’s available online.

The lecture and panel discussion, in honor of professor emeritus Steve Tanksley, winner of the 2016 Japan Prize, featured three former lab members — Greg Martin, Jim Giovannoni, and Susan McCouch — introduced and moderated by Kathryn J. Boor, Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. They celebrated Tanksley’s contributions to plant breeding and genetics and the spirit of genomic discovery in the School of Integrative Plant Science with a panel discussion on genomics and the future of agriculture.

Reunion events

Reunion is coming up fast (June 9-12). Mark your calendar for these events of plant science interest:

Tanksley, Martin, Giovannoni, and McCouch

Tanksley, Martin, Giovannoni, and McCouch

In addition, Cornell Plantations will be hosting walks, tours and other events including a plant sale June 11.

Contribute to the Robin Bellinder Graduate Student Fund

Robin Bellinder

Robin Bellinder

From Steve Reiners, Horticulture Section chair:

On November 13, 2015, we received the sad news that our friend and colleague, Robin Bellinder, professor of Horticulture at Cornell University for 31 years and an international expert in weed control in vegetable crops, died unexpectedly. She was 70 years old. Robin died of a pulmonary embolism after a brief hospitalization and stay in a physical rehabilitation clinic for an unrelated spinal injury.

At Cornell, Robin’s research program focused on weed management for vegetable crops. One of few women in her field at that time, she became a national and international leader. She published research results widely in peer reviewed publications, as well as publications that advised growers about her work’s practical applications. She served as president of the Northeastern Weed Science Society and, in 2005, was named the recipient of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences award for outstanding accomplishments in applied research. She will be remembered as a weed scientist who ardently and tirelessly supported New York vegetable growers. Robin had a deep concern for people, whether farmers in South Asia, for whom she championed the introduction of more efficient weed control practices, or hungry families in New York’s southern tier. She initiated Cornell’s efforts to provide fresh fruits and vegetables from the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. She realized that rather than composting the farm’s edible produce, they could feed hungry area families. Since 2004, as a result of her initiative, Cornell has donated almost 2 million pounds of produce.

Robin will be remembered as an intense, thoughtful, loyal, generous, creative and loving person who tenaciously advocated for the things she believed were important.  Mentoring students and seeing them become leaders around the world provided Robin with great satisfaction.  At the urging of her colleagues, Cornell is proud to announce the establishment of the Robin Bellinder Graduate Student Fund. The fund will be established “to provide financial support for graduate students working on vegetables crops, with a preference given to projects with a weed science emphasis. The fund will be distributed at the discretion of the chair of the horticulture section, and may be used to supplement travel or research expenses for the successful candidates”.

Those interested in supporting the fund should make checks payable to “Cornell University” with “Bellinder Fund, Horticulture” in the memo line. We will be happy to share any notes or messages with Robin’s family. Checks can be sent to:

Chair, Horticulture Section
Cornell University
134 Plant Science Building
Ithaca, NY 14853 USA

Thank you for your support of the Robin Bellinder Graduate Student Fund.

Robin Bellinder (right) with volunteers gleaning potatoes for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier at the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm in 2012.

Robin Bellinder (right) with volunteers gleaning potatoes for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier at the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm in 2012.

In the news

Alex Traven

Alex Traven

Some recent items of horticultural interest:

GenNext Researchers: Jaume Lordan SanahujaGrowing Produce interviews post-doc associate in Terence Robinson’s lab.

Trendsetter: Alex TravenGreenhouse Management profiles former Dilmun Hill farm manager and Plant Science major.

Fall colors above average this year – Karl Niklas, the Liberty Hyde Baily Professor of plant biology, predicts the 2015 fall season will be filled with beautiful, vibrant colors despite the lack of rainfall in this Cornell Media Relations tip sheet.

How to pick the perfect pumpkin – Horticulture chair Steve Reiners,  shares some tips on picking the perfect pumpkin for the Halloween season in this Cornell Media Relations tip sheet. New York is one of the country’s top producers of pumpkins. Last year the local crop was valued at more than $20 million.

Greg Peck explains the science behind the ‘Tree of 40 Fruit’

[Via livescience.com 2015-08-03]:

“An art project featuring a live tree that bears 40 different kinds of fruit is more than just a conversation piece. The so-called “Tree of 40 Fruit” — blossoming in a variety of pretty pink hues when completed — is rooted in science.

“The eye-catching artistic rendering of the tree brought worldwide attention to its creator, Sam Van Aken, a professor in the school of art at Syracuse University in New York. And although Van Aken’s “Franken-tree” is not common, the processes that hold it together are, according to experts.

“‘[Van Aken has] taken the idea of a single root stock and a single variety and amplified it to express something creative, and that’s the artistic side of it for him,’ said Greg Peck, an assistant professor of horticulture at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. [Peck received his PhD in Horticulture at Cornell in 2009 and will be joining the Horticulture Section faculty here this fall.]”

Read the whole article.

Tree of 40 Fruit

More information, video.

Lakso presents keynote at Mexican Horticultural Congress

Alan Lakso

Alan Lakso

Dr. Alan Lakso presented a keynote presentation on innovations in fruit crop research to the Mexican Horticultural Congress held September 2-6 in Puebla, Mexico.

A former student of Lakso’s, Dr. Guillermo Calderon PhD ’04, has been elected the President of the Mexican Society for Horticultural Science. As Vice President, he was the head of the organizing committee for the recent Mexican Horticultural Congress. Dr. Calderon is a professor at the Collegio de Postgraduados Montecillo in Texcoco, Mexico teaching fruit production and researching berries and peaches.

Study shows promise for East Coast broccoli industry

Thomas Björkman works with broccoli varieties adapted to the East Coast's hot and humid summers. Robyn Wishna photo.

Thomas Björkman works with broccoli varieties adapted to the East Coast’s hot and humid summers. Robyn Wishna photo.

Study shows promise for East Coast broccoli industry [Cornell Chronicle 1/8/2013] – Thomas Björkman provides a recipe to grow a year-round, $100-million-a-year East Coast broccoli industry.

“Most standard varieties developed for western climates have trouble lasting through hot and humid eastern summers,” he says. “But new genetics have allowed us to develop varieties that don’t make misshapen heads when the weather turns consistently warm.”

Björkman is leading a collaboration with public breeders, seed companies, ag economists, grower networks, and others fueled by a $3.2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and supplemented by $1.7 million in matching funds from participating companies.

Read the whole article.

Alumni newsletter (Spring/Summer 2012)

Spring/Summer Alumni NewsletterThe Spring/Summer 2012 Department of Horticulture Alumni Newsletter is now online. Catch up on news from alumni around the world and more.

Bioenergy, invasive ecology seminar

Jacob Barney

Jacob Barney

Welcome back Jacob Barney (Ph.D. Horticulture 2007) at this Crop and Soil Sciences Seminar:

Cultivating energy not weeds: The intersection of bioenergy and invasion ecology

Jacob Barney, Assistant Professor – Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science – Virginia Tech

Thursday, April 5, 2012
12:20 – 1:10 pm
135 Emerson Hall

Unlike traditional food, feed, and fiber crops, bioenergy crops are being selected to be maximally productive on marginal land, which requires they be easy to establish, highly competitive, and thrive with minimal human intervention. The most promising crops are perennial rhizomatous grasses and fast growing trees that exhibit rapid growth rates, possess broad climatic tolerance, tolerate poor growing conditions, harbor few pests, and require minimal inputs. These traits also describe the invasive ‘ideotype’, and typify many of our worst invasive species, most of which were intentionally introduced. I will discuss the risk of invasion and mitigation strategies for the bioenergy industry.

Light refreshments will be served starting at noon.

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