Skip to main content

Plant exploration in China with Michael Dosmann

The Arnold Arboretum’s Michael Dosmann with a Rodgersia leaf and plumes of Astilbe grandis (Photograph: Jonathan Shaw)

Michael Dosmann, PhD ’07 and keeper of living collections at the Arnold Aboretum, with a Rodgersia leaf and plumes of Astilbe grandis (Photograph: Jonathan Shaw)

Hat tip to Nina Bassuk for passing along the article Botanizing in the “Mother of Gardens” – Pursuing seeds and specimens in Sichuan which appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of Harvard Magazine.

Michael Dosmann, PhD ’07 and keeper of living collections at the Arnold Arboretum, led a team that braved terrestrial leaches, rockslides and other hazards while collecting plants in China for two weeks last fall.

Why explore for plants in China? The Harvard Magazine article points out:

“Though it might seem like a commission from another century, the hunt to locate and collect rare plants from around the globe so they can be grown for scientific study and long-term observation is very much alive, and carries new urgency. One in five plant species on Earth is endangered. Changing patterns of temperature and rainfall, competition from invasive species, and loss of habitat are spurring new exploration—particularly in biologically rich areas.”

Read the whole article.



In the news

Kalenga Banda and professor emeritus Chris Wien, M.S. ‘67, Ph.D. ‘71 in the Kenneth Post Laboratory Greenhouse complex. Photo by Matt Hayes.

Kalenga Banda and professor emeritus Chris Wien, M.S. ‘67, Ph.D. ‘71 in the Kenneth Post Laboratory Greenhouse complex. Photo by Matt Hayes.

Some recent articles of horticultural interest:

The sweet gift of knowledge [periodiCALS 2017-11-28] – A gift in 2006 from professor emeritus Chris Wien created the Cornell Assistantship for Horticulture in Africa (CAHA), which provides a doctoral assistantship to one student from sub-Saharan Africa who completes coursework at Cornell but conducts dissertation research in the region. The position is contingent upon the student returning to his or her home country after their doctoral degree is complete. “Too often you see students get really involved in some fascinating project at Cornell and lose sight of the fact that they came from a country that could really use their help,” says Wien, who in the 1970s spent time working in Africa at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. That experience awakened him to the continent’s need for greater support in horticulture education.

Cornell program trains new farm owners for business success [CALS News/Cornell Chronicle 2017-12-12] – The Cornell Small Farms Program is preparing the next generation of farmers and ranchers to scale up their operations and reach key business milestones by preparing them to hire, manage and retain skilled employees, thanks to a USDA grant. “Our long-term goal is to ensure that all new farmers in our region can access high-quality information, supportive networks and proven tactics essential to starting and scaling viable farms,” said Anu Rangarajan, director of the Cornell Small Farms Program (CSFP) and senior extension associate in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science

Northeast farmers weigh warm climate, drenched fields [CALS News/Cornell Chronicle 2017-12-13] – Farmers in the Northeast are adopting production habits tailored to longer, warming climate conditions, but they may face spring planting whiplash as they confront fields increasingly saturated with rain, according to a new Cornell-led paper in the journal Climatic Change, November 2017. Climate change in the Northeast could present two faces. “Climate change can easily intensify agricultural susceptibility, but also present fresh, surprising opportunities,” said David Wolfe, professor of plant and soil ecology and senior author of the paper.  Earlier this fall, Wolfe also delivered the prestigious 2017 John MacLeod Lecture at the Royal Horticultural Society in London, where he detailed how gardeners can adapt to climate change as well as help mitigate its effects. View video.

Herbs From the Underground [New York Times 2017-12-06] – A hydroponic garden in a TriBeCa basement is growing rare herbs and edible flowers, and many prominent chefs are flocking to it. “People who find it weird to eat food grown in a basement have no reason to worry, said Neil Mattson, associate professor and greenhouse extension specialist at Cornell University. ‘There is nothing icky about it. Plants don’t care whether they get light from the sun or the lamps. It’s the same thing.’”

Honeynut Squash Is a Tiny Squash with a Big History [Bon Appétit 2017-11-30] – The fascinating story of how Cornell plant breeder Michael Mazourek created the shrunken butternut squash that’s increasingly popular in farmers’ markets and elsewhere. “Whether it’s farmers, chefs, or food enthusiasts talking about it, it’s clear that word of mouth is what boosted the popularity of the Honeynut. Two years ago, half the farms in the Northeast that grew squash had it, Mazourek revealed. ‘Now 90 percent of the farms grow it—you see it moving beyond regional to Cleveland going west and Virginia going south,’” he added.

Trees – the True Urban Warriors [Scientia 2017-12-12] – Trees benefit cities in many often-overlooked ways. They not only beautify concrete backdrops, but also improve the quality of our urban lives by providing shade, reducing storm runoff, filtering air and providing homes for birds and insects. Trees face big challenges, however, growing up in cities, largely because of drought and poor soils. To help trees survive these concrete deserts, Nina Bassuk and her colleagues at Cornell University have been evaluating trees and shrubs for their ability to adapt, including developing resilient hybrid oak trees. A parallel research track aims at remediating urban soil conditions to reduce urban tree stress.


Miller receives USDA National Teaching Award


Chad Miller Ph.D. '11

Chad Miller Ph.D. ’11

From Greenhouse Product News [2017-11-22]:

Chad Miller (Ph.D.  Horticulture ’11) , Associate Professor of Landscape Horticulture at Kansas State University,  was one of two educators honored with the USDA’s 2017 Best New Teacher Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities 130th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The New Teacher Award recognizes a faculty with no more than seven consecutive years of experience in higher education teaching who has demonstrated a commitment to a career in teaching, has exhibited meritorious teaching through scholarship of teaching and learning, and exemplary service to students.

Miller teaches several undergraduate horticulture courses in the KSU horticulture program including an orientation course, plant propagation, and two plant identification courses. In addition, Miller assists with developing and leading departmental international study abroad course experiences. He advises an average of 25 undergraduate students each year and is also the co-advisor for the Horticulture Club.

Miller has been previously recognized for his teaching and advising, receiving the Perennial Plant Association Academic Award; North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Educator Award; K-State College of Agriculture Advisor of the Year; K-State College of Agriculture Teaching Faculty of the Semester; the Gamma Sigma Delta Teaching Award; KState College of Agriculture Innovative Teaching and Learning Award; Association of Public Land Grant Universities Innovative Teaching Award; Big 12 Faculty Fellow and was a recipient of the Greenhouse Product News Top 40 under 40 award.

Congratulations Chad!

New genomic insights reveal a surprising two-way journey for apple on the Silk Road

Yang Bai

Yang Bai

Yang Bai (Ph.D. Horticulture ’14), post-doctoral scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) is first author of the Nature Communications journal article Genome re-sequencing reveals the history of apple and supports a two-stage model for fruit enlargement  featured in this BIT News article by Alexa Schmitz. Bai’s research was also featured in The Guardian.

Centuries ago, the ancient networks of the Silk Road facilitated a political and economic openness between the nations of Eurasia. But this network also opened pathways for genetic exchange that shaped one of the world’s most popular fruits: the apple. As travelers journeyed east and west along the Silk Road, trading their goods and ideas, they brought with them hitchhiking apple seeds, discarded from the choicest fruit they pulled from wild trees. This early selection would eventually lead to the 7,500 varieties of apple that exist today.

Researchers at Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) have been working hard to excavate the mysteries of the apple’s evolutionary history, and a new publication this week in Nature Communications reveals surprising insights into the genetic exchange that brought us today’s modern, domesticated apple, Malus domestica.

In collaboration with scientists from Cornell University and Shandong Agricultural University in China, the researchers sequenced and compared the genomes of 117 diverse apple accessions, including M. domestica and 23 wild species from North America, Europe, and East and central Asia.

A tale of two roads

The most exciting outcome of this genomic comparison is a comprehensive map of the apple’s evolutionary history. Previous studies have shown that the common apple, Malus domestica arose from the central Asian wild apple, Malus sieversii, with contributions from crabapples along the Silk Road as it was brought west to Europe.

With the results of this new study, the researchers could zoom in on the map for better resolution. “We narrowed down the origin of domesticated apple from very broad central Asia to Kazakhstan area west of Tian Shan Mountain,” explained Zhangjun Fei, BTI professor and lead author of this study.

In addition to pinpointing the western apple’s origin, the authors were excited to discover that the first domesticated apple had also traveled to the east, hybridizing with local wild apples along the way, yielding the ancestors of soft, dessert apples cultivated in China today.

“We pointed out two major evolutionary routes, west and east, along the Silk Road, revealing fruit quality changes in every step along the way,” summarized Fei.

Although wild M. sieversii grows east of Tian Shan Mountain, in the Xinjiang region of China, the ecotype there was never cultivated, and did not contribute to the eastern domesticated hybrid. Instead, it has remained isolated all these centuries, maintaining a pool of diversity yet untapped by human selection. First-author Yang Bai remarked, “it is a hidden jewel for apple breeders to explore further.”

Read the whole article.

silk road map

Meyers, Ph.D. ’11, is new CCE viticulture specialist

James Meyers is the new viticulture and wine specialist covering the 17-county Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program area.

James Meyers is the new viticulture and wine specialist covering the 17-county Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program area.

Press release from Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program (ENYCHP):

The Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program of Cornell Cooperative Extension has announced the hiring of James Meyers as the new viticulture and wine specialist for a 17-county region in the eastern part of New York State. Meyers will provide regional grape growers with a combination of on-the-ground grape production assistance and some high flying technology.

Meyers earned his Ph.D. in Viticulture at Cornell University and has applied a Masters degree in Computer Science from Brown University to his viticultural research. Using satellite imaging and drone technology, Meyers has mapped canopy and vineyard variability to help growers in the Finger Lakes region of New York and in California optimize the efficiency and profitability of their vineyard operations. He will continue the use of that technology in eastern New York.

“Images taken by a drone-mounted camera can be used to identify areas of inconsistency in a vineyard and create variability maps to guide ground level assessments of vine performance for potential remediation such as soil amendments, canopy management activities, or rootstock changes,” Meyers explained. “This technology can also be used to add harvesting and processing efficiency.”

Meyers is introducing himself to growers and learning about their operations in Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Ulster, Warren, and Washington counties.

His hiring is timely for the 300-mile eastern NY region that experienced a 34 percent increase in the number of grape-growing operations and a 50 percent increase in grape acres from 2007 to 2012, according to the October 2016 Grape Production in the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Region report issued by the Cornell Cooperative Extension ENYCHP.

Meyers will create and develop an Eastern New York geospatial database of vine performance that will help growers better understand their local climates, track vineyard performance, and adjust decision making for greater productivity and profitability.

“Adding a specialist with Jim’s agricultural and technological skills will maximize Extension learning opportunities in support of the Eastern New York grape industry,” said ENYCHP Small Fruit and Vegetable Team Leader Laura McDermott.

To contact Meyers or any of the other 12 specialists advising commercial fruit and vegetable growers in eastern NY, and to find educational resources, newsletters and pest alerts, visit the ENYCHP website.

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

Mattson, Whitlow, Bassuk lauded for urban horticulture efforts in PeriodiCALS

Mattson (top) and Whitlow

Horticulture Section faculty Neil Mattson and Tom Whitlow  are among the CALS faculty focusing their efforts on urban agriculture and other innovations that will reap benefits for city dwellers. With varied areas of focus, from climate change to food and social injustice to human health, they and other CALS faculty agree that challenges related to these issues can be traced to the severe lack of space in increasingly population-dense cities. Read more in Sky’s the Limit in the latest issue of PeriodiCALS, the College’s news magazine.

Other horticultural coverage in PeriodiCALS includes:

Seminar video: ‘Seed to Supper’ program: Reaching underserved audiences through garden education

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar ‘Seed to Supper’ program: Reaching underserved audiences through garden education  with Christine Hadekel,  Oregon Food Bank, it is available online.


More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Our Roots Grow Deep: Alumni in Extension

Lindsay Jordan was also a 2013 Dreer Award Winner  who traveled to New Zealand to explore cool-season viticulture practices.

Lindsay Jordan was also a 2013 Dreer Award Winner who traveled to New Zealand to explore cool-season viticulture practices.

This week, CALS News featured two alumni from the Graduate Field of Horticulture.

Liberty Hyde Bailey once described extension work as “a plain, earnest, and continuous effort to meet the needs of the people on their own farms.” Now as extension professionals, viticulture and enology graduates Lindsay Jordan, M.S. ’14, and Justin Scheiner, Ph.D. ’10, use their Cornell experience to apply Bailey’s goal to the grape and wine industry every day.

Jordan and Scheiner’s shared desire to make a tangible difference in the lives of growers belies the fact that they do their work nearly 2,000 miles apart. Both graduate students of the Vanden Heuvel group, Jordan worked on under-vine cover crops for weed management and their impact on grape production during her time at Cornell, and several years earlier, Scheiner examined the connection of methoxypyrazine levels and ‘bell pepper’ aromas to vineyard practices.

Their diverse backgrounds and research interests easily translated into working in extension. Jordan is currently based in California as the University of California Cooperative Extension Area Viticulture Advisor for three counties in the arid San Joaquin Valley, while Scheiner works as an assistant professor and viticulture specialist at Texas A&M University.

“My favorite part has been getting to know my local growers, and getting to participate in applied research that can directly impact growers,” said Jordan. “It’s pretty much the dream.”

Read the whole article.

In the news

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., 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.

Skip to toolbar