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Extension and outreach

Vanden Heuvel to lead CAU wine masterclass

Fruit of the Vine: The History and Culture of Drinking Wine
Cornell Adult University
February 7–9, 2020

Justine Vanden Heuvel

Take a wine masterclass taught by wise and witty Cornell faculty with CAU. Join horticulturist Justine Vanden Heuvel and classics professor Michael Fontaine for a weekend seminar on the science, history, and culture of drinking wine in Ithaca, New York.

We’ll attend lectures on the Cornell campus, discuss wine pairings over dinner, travel to local Finger Lakes wineries for exclusive tastings, and enjoy lunch and a fireside chat at the historic Aurora Inn.

You’ll leave the weekend with knowledge about the origins of wine, the effects of the environment on crops, and fascinating tales about wine counterfeiting throughout the ages.

Register by November 15th to save 20% off the program fee!

A block of rooms have been reserved at a reduced price at the Statler Hotel, the hub of our on-campus event, for a limited time. Book a room with the link on our program’s website.

View the preliminary schedule.

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley is connecting people to plants

Cornell Chronicle and CALS News [2019-10-22]

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. Above, Hopkins-Hensley works with local children while interning at the Ithaca Children’s Garden in summer 2017. Photo provided

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. Above, Hopkins-Hensley works with local children while interning at the Ithaca Children’s Garden in summer 2017. Photo provided

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. She earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science in 2018 and a Master of Professional Studies in public garden leadership in 2019, but her interest in plants started when she was a child.

Her grandfather loved plants, and Hopkins-Hensley recalls his extensive gardens, both outside and in three rooms that were converted into a conservatory inside their Colorado home. He grew cacti inside and food plants outside. At age 12, she planted her first backyard garden.

“I wanted to explore the types of plants that my ancestors from my mom’s side of my family had planted to sustain themselves,” says Hopkins-Hensley. “I became very interested in the Three Sisters cropping system and tried growing squash, pumpkins and sunflowers.”

Cornell Botanic Gardens, in partnership with Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, offers a one-year MPS program for individuals interested in leading botanic gardens and similar organizations.

Read the whole article.

How to pick out a great pumpkin

Horticulture chair Steve Reiners explains:

Susan Brown named American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) fellow

CALS News [2019-07-25]:

Susan Brown with apples

On July 22, Susan Brown, head of Cornell’s apple breeding program and the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science, was named a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) for her outstanding contributions to horticulture through her research, teaching, extension work and leadership in the horticulture industry. Above, Brown holds an apple variety she developed.

In New York, apples are big business: the state’s 600 commercial growers produce an average of 30 million bushels annually, making it the second-largest apple producer in the U.S. But growing apples isn’t easy, and much has changed since Cornell began its breeding program roughly 115 years ago. Cornell’s program, one of the largest in the world, has released 66 apples, including the well-known Cortland, Jonagold, and Empire varieties.

But just over the past decade, public and private breeders have sped up the pace of release of new varieties—patenting hundreds of consumer-friendly apples, many trademarked, that are beginning to take a bite out of older varieties’ sales.

Enter Susan Brown, head of Cornell’s apple breeding program and the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science. Brown has dedicated her professional career to using molecular marker-assisted breeding to develop important apple varieties that provide the best appearance, flavor, growing characteristics, and highest prices for New York growers and those in other temperate North American and international regions.

On July 22, she was named a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) for her outstanding contributions to horticulture through her research, teaching, extension work and leadership in the horticulture industry.

Brown excels at meeting consumer and grower needs through plant breeding. Her research on the genetic control of tree form led to the development of trees that combine high yield with less labor, as well as those uniquely suited as ornamentals. And she has laid the groundwork for future advances with her research on the underlying biological mechanisms of phenolic synthesis, disease resistance genes, fruit texture and flavor, as well as the apple’s nutritional properties, plant architecture, and cross-pollination peculiarities.

Brown has published 64 research articles, 60 outreach publications, nine book chapters, and holds nine U.S. plant patents: four sweet cherries, one tart cherry, and four apple varieties. Her two most recent releases, in 2011, introduced growers to SnapDragon™ and RubyFrost™—apples that combine superior eating quality with high disease resistance and packout, which means that more market-ready fruit can be picked from each tree at one time. After more than a decade in development, consumers got their first taste in 2013 and Brown said demand has been exceptional for both.

Brown picks apples in a Cornell AgriTech orchard.

Brown picks apples in a Cornell AgriTech orchard.

“Susan has been breeding for the apples you wish you could have. She’s meeting the needs of everyone involved to get consumers better apples,” said Thomas Björkman, professor of vegetable crop physiology in the School of Integrative Plant Sciences, and also an ASHS fellow. “They have great texture and flavor plus disease resistance, which is critical for growers and valuable environmentally. Efficient tree form makes the economics work. Storage ability means a more marketable apple that people can enjoy for more of the year. Nobody else puts all the pieces together like that.”

Joy Crist of Crist Brothers Orchards in Walden, New York, said Brown’s work is crucial for her farm and all New York growers’ sustainability. Crist Brothers is a member of Crunch Time Apple Growers, a cooperative owned by growers that was formed in 2010 solely to manage and market the SnapDragon™ and RubyFrost™ varieties. The cooperative now has 147 growers representing 60 percent of New York’s apple production.

“We’re vying for shelf space in grocery stores with other club varieties. You have to have an apple that looks good and holds up to harsh handling,” Crist said. “The value of Susan’s work is keeping agriculture viable in New York state by growing something that’s appealing to customers, so they choose apples instead of other fruit. Without these new varieties, I don’t see how we’d be able to compete.”

Brown also has helped ensure that Cornell remains a leader in agricultural research and extension, and that its students can compete. She was former director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (now Cornell AgriTech) and has advised dozens of graduate students, mentored undergraduates in Cornell’s Summer Scholars program, and speaks regularly to anyone who loves apples as much as she does—including garden clubs, nurserymen and researchers.

“The society considers fellows to be the ‘best of the best’ that bring honor and prestige to the organization,” said Michael Neff, ASHS executive director. “I’m pleased to see Dr. Brown recognized as a fellow of ASHS this year. She and her colleagues in this 55th class of ASHS fellows exemplify professionalism in horticulture and are richly deserving of this signal honor of the society.”

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.

Online organic gardening course starts June 1

Registration is now open for Organic Gardening one of the online courses offered by the Horticulture Section in Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science.

Raised bed vegetable gardenOrganic Gardening is designed to help new gardeners get started and help experienced gardeners broaden their understanding of organic techniques for all kinds of gardens.

Starting with a strong foundation in soil health and its impact on plant health, the course then explores tried-and-true and cutting-edge techniques for all different kinds of garden plants including food plants, trees and shrubs and lawn.

Participants read assigned essays and book excerpts, participate in online group discussions with other students, complete reflective writing/design work and take part in some hands-on activities. Most students spend about 5 hours each week with the content, though there are always ample resources and opportunity to do more.

View more information and full course syllabus for Organic Gardening.

Questions about either course? View FAQ or contact, Fiona Doherty: fcd9@cornell.edu.

Cornell researchers win major awards from cider industry

Greg Peck working at Cornell Orchards. Peck, assistant professor in the horitculture section of the School of Integrative Plant Science,  and Chris Gerling, extension associate in the food science department, both recently received major awards from the cider industry. Photo by Sasha Israel

Greg Peck working at Cornell Orchards. Peck, assistant professor in the horitculture section of the School of Integrative Plant Science,  and Chris Gerling, extension associate in the food science department, both recently received major awards from the cider industry. Photo by Sasha Israel

Erin Flynn, CALS News [2019-04-19]

Hard cider is a fast-growing segment in the U.S. fermented beverage industry, and New York’s position as a leader in craft beverage production and expertise is paving the way for cider producers to succeed.

“The burgeoning craft beverage industry in New York state has helped create a lot of applicable resources and expertise for cider makers,” said Ian Merwin, M.S. ’88, Ph.D. ’90, owner of Black Diamond Cider and Cornell professor emeritus of plant science. “We can get bottles and equipment from well-established companies in the area. We have the legislative support we need and Cornell experts like Chris Gerling and Greg Peck to help us every step of the way.”

Merwin notes that the benefit of cider makers working with both Gerling, extension associate in the Department of Food Science, and Peck, assistant professor in the horticulture section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, is that they can gain expertise on both ends of the spectrum—when growing the cider apples and when making the cider itself.

Recently Gerling and Peck received major awards from the cider industry. Gerling was given the Apple of Appreciation award from the New York Cider Association (NYCA), and Peck was chosen as the Grower Advocate of the Year by the U.S. Association of Cider Makers (USACM).

Chris Gerling, who began his career offering extension expertise in the field of enology, found a natural transition into hard cider extension work. Wine and cider have many similarities, including the types of yeast used and the effect of climate, soils and terrain on the overall flavor profile.

“Chris has distinguished himself as being fully invested in improving the quality and profitability of cider made in New York and beyond,” said Jenn Smith, NYCA executive director. “He is as curious as he is knowledgeable, and in particular has been central in NYCA’s work to tackle the challenges of measuring and communicating the tricky concept of dryness to drinkers. We are grateful and lucky to have him as a partner in our work of developing a sustainable, excellent cider industry in our region.”

Greg Peck’s research explores ways to increase the quantity and quality of New York–grown cider apples, including best practices for fertilizer, crop load and harvest management. Peck also helps cider makers select varieties that will work best for high-quality and flavorful cider.

Michelle McGrath, executive director of the USACM, said the organization’s members overwhelmingly voted for Peck to receive the Grower Advocate of the Year award.

“His advocacy for cider at Cornell and his research collaborations with the industry are important for expanding our knowledge of growing cider apples. We know so little about propagating cider-specific varieties in the U.S., and Greg is such a valuable resource for cider makers looking to use specific apple varieties.”

While hard cider makers have many valuable resources in New York, the recent awards for Gerling and Peck underscore the fact that producers value experts who can help them piece together the many components that equate to a high-quality end product.

To learn more about Cornell’s hard cider research and outreach efforts, visit: https://hardcider.cals.cornell.edu

‘Urban Eden’ students put a price tag on trees for Arbor Day

Nina Bassuk and students tag a tree outside Roberts Hall.

Nina Bassuk and students tag a tree outside Roberts Hall.

What’s a tree worth?

In what has become an annual tradition, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) are helping to make people more aware of why trees are worth hugging by hanging bright green “price tags” on trunks around the Ag Quad.

The students entered data about the trees, such as species, diameter and location, into i-Tree — a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service. The application then calculates monetary benefits from reduced stormwater runoff, improved air quality,  carbon dioxide sequestration and energy savings to nearby buildings by blocking wind in winter and providing shade in summer.

“It’s really quite eye-opening for people who think that trees are just nice to look at and don’t have any other value,” said Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who leads the class alongside Zac Rood, lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

There are also benefits that are not easily quantified, such as wildlife habitats and emotional responses, added Bassuk, who is also director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

Students tagging oaks in front of Mann Library

Tagging an oak on the Ag Quad

Tagging a red oak.

Tagging a Kentucky coffeetree

Tagging Katsura tree outside Mann Library

Bauerle explores role of forests in providing water in podcast

“The Need for Trees,” a new episode of the “What Makes Us Human” podcast series  produced by the College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Cornell Broadcast Studios, explores the critical role trees play in the earth’s water cycle. The podcast’s fourth season — “What Does Water Mean to Us Humans?” — showcases the newest thinking across academic disciplines about the relationship between humans and water.

“We pass laws to protect our water sources like lakes and reservoirs, but what many people don’t know is that our access to clean water relies just as heavily on forests,” says Taryn Bauerle, associate professor in the School of Integrative and Plant Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in her podcast.

Bauerle’s overall interests lie in woody root physiological ecology. The majority of her research focuses on growth and physiological responses of plants to water deficits, such as how roots respond to and modify their environment when faced with water stress.

Bauerle (right) orients Plant Sciences major Tommi Schieder ’19 to equipment she used on her internship in Germany to collect data on the passive movement of water that helps trees survive drought stress.

Bauerle (right) orients Plant Sciences major Tommi Schieder ’19 to equipment she used on her internship in Germany in 2017 to collect data on the passive movement of water that helps trees survive drought stress.

Roadmap points way to better soil health in N.Y.

Soil at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, New York.

Soil at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, New York.

Cornell Chronicle [2019-02-28]:

There is a revolution of sorts going on in farming today, triggered by discoveries in plant and soil ecology, and a recognition that we will need to restore the health of our soils to feed an expanding population.

New York has been a leader in this soil health revolution, but where do we go from here? This is the focus of the recently released New York Soil Health Roadmap, a collaborative effort of the New York Soil Health (NYSH) initiative coordinated by Cornell.

The roadmap identifies key policy, research and education efforts to overcome barriers to adoption of soil health practices by farmers. It also identifies strategies for integrating soil health goals with state priorities focused on environmental issues such as climate change and water quality.

Roadmap contributors developed four goals for advancing soil health. The goals include overcoming barriers to wider adoption of soil health practices, and the integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation in all aspects of soil health programming.

As a resource for policymakers, researchers, farmers and those concerned about healthy food and a healthy environment, the roadmap comprises input from many individuals, organizations and government agencies in New York and nationally. It is intended to help expand soil health policy, research and outreach efforts to reach New York’s underserved.

“This roadmap highlights the linkages between soil, water and air quality,” said David Wolfe, Cornell professor of plant and soil ecology and leader of the project. “It was impressive to see how such a diverse group of stakeholders was able to find consensus on a few key goals that address some of our most urgent environmental challenges while supporting the long term success of our farms.”

Read the whole article.

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