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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 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.

Horticulture in Upstate Gardeners Journal

The March-April 2012 issue of Upstate Gardeners’ Journal features a story by Michelle Sutton (née Buckstrup, M.S. ’00), Love letter to the mother ship (pages 14-17). “Cornell is a beacon for New York gardeners,” writes Sutton. “It’s a source of definitive information for all things horticultural.” Read the whole article.

In the news

Botanist William Dress dies at age 93 [Cornell Chronicle, 1/5/2012] – William J. Dress, Ph.D. ’53, professor emeritus of botany at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium at Cornell, author of 10 plant books and for whom two plants have been named, died Dec. 15 at his home at Kendal at Ithaca. He was the editor of the hortorium’s two journals and for many years served as the editor of the authoritative reference work “Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada.”

Seeds of Change [Essentials blog, 1/5/2012] – Lindsay Myron ’11 is taking lessons learned in her Cornell coursework on garden-based learning to rural Tanzanian farmers.

Ian MerwinWeird winter has growers wary [Albany Times-Union, 1/4/2012] – Ian Merwin says it’s too early to tell whether the mild, snowless start to winter will damage the state fruit harvest. “He said an oscillation between unusually warm and normally cold temperatures poses the greatest risk, and that such a pattern is predicted in climatic models used to forecast the direction of man-made climate change. ‘It is not just how cold it gets; it is whether it was unusually warm before that,’ Merwin said.”

School 2 students get extra tunnel to learning [Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 1/1/2012] – School 2 in Rochester is one of six statewide selected participate in high tunnel project funded by the USDA. “Our intent was to observe how the schools use the structure and whether it would enhance their school gardening program,” said Chris Wien, professor in the Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.

Fall/Winter 2011 Alumni Newsletter

The Fall/Winter 2011 Department of Horticulture Alumni Newsletter is available online.

Garden-based learning lessons put to work in Africa

Lindsay Myron cooks ugali (made from maize flower) at Magoma, Tanzania.

Lindsay Myron cooks ugali at Magoma, Tanzania.

Less than a year ago, Lindsay Myron ’11 (Plant Sciences, Natural Resources) got her first taste of garden-based learning along with other students in HORT/IARD 3200 (Experiential Garden-Based Learning in Belize). Today, she’s putting what she learned to work as a Project Coordinator for The Magoma Project in rural Tanzania.

The project is part of the nonprofit 2Seeds Network (, which focuses on meeting community goals and teaching African farmers best practices. 2Seeds’ projects grow from the concept of a “triple bottom line” that integrates economic viability, social equity and ecological sustainability.

In Magoma, Lindsay is helping to turn the primary school into a community center to nourish, teach, and empower both youth and adults. The primary school’s farm, which was started last year, is cultivated by the students and promotes food security through practice in critical thinking and agricultural education using existing lines of communication. Profits from the farm fund a school lunch program for the students.

Pilipili hoho (green peppers) in the school garden at Magoma.

Pilipili hoho (green peppers) in the school garden at Magoma.

“We now have about half an acre of pilipili hoho (green pepper) seedlings that are steadily growing,” writes Lindsay. “The students did a great job finishing up the cultivation and bed preparation in the last week of school, and we’ve transplanted (and re-transplanted) about forty beds. We anticipate that within the next week or so, after the seedlings have grown a little more, we’ll be intercropping cowpeas between rows to help cover the soil and fix nitrogen for those growing peppers!”

Lindsay has also involved the students in the twice-daily irrigations necessary to keep the peppers thriving in this hot, dry season. The students struggled with large buckets, so Lindsay burned holes in the bottoms of old plastic water bottles to create make-shift watering cans. To increase participation, students receive a colored ribbon bracelet and an additional ribbon to tie onto the bracelet for each time they help.

Students display the bracelets they receive for helping with irrigation.

Students display the bracelets they receive for helping with irrigation.

“If they reach seven ribbons they receive a zawadi (gift) and move up to the next colored ribbon,” writes Lindsay. “This week’s zawadi was a pencil and balloon, generous donations from a Brazilian couple who passed through Magoma awhile back. The students are loving the bracelets maybe even more than the zawadis and it has sparked some competition among them to see who can come the most often. The bracelets also serve as a visual reminder about the project to both the kids who wear them and their friends who admire them. It’s been working great. At least 15 to 20 kids show every time and we can finish irrigating in 20 to 30 minutes!”

Other projects include creating a colorful mural at the primary school and building a chicken coop at Kijango primary school located in a neighboring village that is also starting a school feeding program with 2Seeds Network support. “I’ve been looking into integrated chicken farming methods, including a tilapia-azolla-poultry system. We’re looking for diversity on both economic and ecological levels.”

Because of differences in culture and the environment, Lindsay has had to adapt what she learned in Belize. For example, it hasn’t been feasible to incorporate the school farm into the students’ curriculum because the Tanzanian education system is too rigid.

“However, I have taken the foundational understanding about garden-based learning and school garden programs that I learned in HORT/IARD 3200 and am using it to critically think about and develop the Magoma Project here,” writes Lindsay. “Things like developing community buy-in, student interest, teacher involvement, and project sustainability. I cannot overstate how much the exposure and the experience I had in Belize has helped me constructively address the challenges we’re facing here.

“It’s so funny too, because I essentially stumbled into garden-based education in the last semester of my Cornell career when I, by chance, passed by the course announcement poster in the basement of Plant Science. Who knew a little piece of paper could shape so much!”

HORT/IARD 3200 is offered alternatives years, coming again spring semester 2013.

More information: