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Extension and outreach

50+ attend reduced tillage field day

More than 50 growers, educators and others attended the Reduced Tillage in Organic Vegetables Field Day at Cornell’s Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, N.Y. August 17.

The hay wagon tour include stops on the NOFA-NY certified organic portion of the Thompson Farm to view research on reduced tillage practices on permanent beds, a strip tillage demonstration, and talks on pests, organic soil amendments and soil health.

The farm is managed by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. The event was co-sponsored by NOFA-NY.

Research technician Ryan Maher explains his trial evaluating reduced tillage practices on permanent beds.

Research technician Ryan Maher explains his trial evaluating reduced tillage practices on permanent beds.

Christy Hoepting, Extension vegetable specialist for the Cornell Vegetable Program, discusses organic management of Swede midge, a growing pest problem in brassica crops.

Christy Hoepting, Extension vegetable specialist for the Cornell Vegetable Program, discusses organic management of Swede midge, a growing pest problem in brassica crops.

Anusuya Rangarajan, director of the Cornell Small Farms Program, explains features of strip tillage equipment used to limit soil disturbance to the area around the row and break up hardpans that limit rooting.

Anusuya Rangarajan, director of the Cornell Small Farms Program, explains features of strip tillage equipment used to limit soil disturbance to the area around the row and break up hardpans that limit rooting.

Attendees await strip tillage demo.

Attendees await strip tillage demo.

 

SIPS staff visit Bluegrass Lane

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Research technician Kendra Hutchins explains her mixed container trial featuring combinations of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Administrative staff in CALS School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) took a quick field trip August 11 to learn more about the Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility located adjacent to campus near the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course.

SIPS floriculture research technician Kendra Hutchins explained the trials she manages, including evaluations of the latest annual flower varieties coming onto the market, pollinator-friendly plants, and mixed container plantings that include vegetables, herbs and flowers in a single pot. They also perused perennial flower plantings and rose test plots.

“The trials there are beautiful,” says Tara Reed, SIPS event coordinator. “But it was also great to see how the research we support connects with the plants we see in the garden center every spring.”

100 attend Floriculture Field Day

More than 100 greenhouse growers and retailers, florists, educators and others from around New York and the Northeast attended the annual Cornell Floriculture Field Day August 9.

The morning program at Stocking Hall featured presentations including (click links for video):

Attendees also applauded entomology professor John Sanderson who was awarded an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM). In his 25 years at Cornell, Sanderson has enthusiastically helped greenhouse growers identify pest problems, reduce pesticide use and increase profits.

The afternoon program at the Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility featured tours of annual flower trials, mixed container plantings of vegetables, herbs and flowers, pollinator-friendly plants, alternatives to invasive plants and more. Attendees also applauded winners of the 13th annual Kathy Pufahl Container Competition, which since 2003 has raised more than $10,000 for IBD research at Mt. Sinai Hospital. View 2016 winners.

bed0736x640Attendees view annual flower trials.

pollinator-plants0723x640Betsy Lamb (with clipboard), New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, leads pollinator-friendly plant walkabout.

pollinator-plants0703x640Lamb (right) and attendees observe pollinators swarming on Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver’s root).

pollinator-bed0745x640Sue and Mark Adams, of Mark Adams Greenhouses, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who sponsored this pollinator plant bed, pose with research technician Kendra Hutchins, who manages the annual flower trials.

pollinator0674x640Bee visiting blooms in the pollinator bed.

containers0685x640Cheni Filios (MS ’14), Vegetable Product Line Manager, PanAmerican Seed Company at Ball Horticultural, explains strategies for mixing vegetables, herbs and flowers in containers.

Donald Horowitz ’77 (Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture), Wittendale’s Florist & Greenhouses, East Hampton, N.Y. took first place in the new Edibles Division in the 2015 Kathy Pufahl Memorial Container Design Competition.Donald Horowitz ’77 (Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture), Wittendale’s Florist & Greenhouses, East Hampton, N.Y. took first place in the Edibles Division in the 2016 Kathy Pufahl Memorial Container Design Competition. He fashioned the planter from a container used to ship pots to his business. View other winners.

bed0639x640Getting a closer look at the annual trials.

Watkins Delivers Morrison Memorial Lecture at ASHS Conference

USDA-ARS news releat [2016-08-08]:

Chris Watkins

Chris Watkins

“New Technologies for Storage of Horticultural Products—There Is More to Adoption Than Availability” is the title of Christopher B. Watkins‘ 2016 ARS B.Y. Morrison Memorial Lecture, which he delivered today at the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) annual conference in Atlanta.

Watkins is director of Cornell University Cooperative Extension as well as a professor of postharvest science in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.

Consumers now have access to apples like Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious all year round, thanks in part to new storage technologies and management strategies.

Consumers now have access to apples like Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious all year round, thanks in part to new storage technologies and management strategies.

Watkins has contributed to the success of fruit and floral industries around the world as a leader in postharvest science and outreach. His research about controlled atmosphere biology, edible quality of fruit management, and chilling injury prevention is used across varieties and cultivars, across species, and across production areas.

In particular, Watkins has remained at the forefront of addressing significant apple industry issues by applying new developments in postharvest technologies. His research about the artificial ripening regulator 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) is instrumental in the understanding of apple ethylene biology, both from a scientific standpoint and from industry’s applied perspective and practical need to control ripening.

Within the floral industry, 1-MCP is used to preserve the freshness of ornamental plants and flowers. Growers, packers and shippers use 1-MCP to maintain the quality of fruits and vegetables as diverse as kiwifruit, tomatoes, plums, persimmons, avocados and melons.

By implementing the postharvest practices developed by Dr. Watkins, the apple industry has greatly improved the quality of fruit delivered to consumers while reducing or eliminating the use of synthetic postharvest chemicals. His research with ‘Honeycrisp’ apples identified a postharvest strategy that has largely eliminated postharvest chilling injury, which has allowed this variety to achieve a profitability unprecedented in the apple industry.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) established this memorial lectureship in 1968 to honor the memory of Benjamin Y. Morrison (1891-1966) and to recognize scientists who have made outstanding contributions to horticulture and other environmental sciences, to encourage the use of these sciences, and to stress the urgency of preserving and enhancing natural beauty. Morrison was a pioneer in horticulture and the first director of ARS’s U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. A scientist, landscape architect, plant explorer, author and lecturer, Morrison advanced the science of botany in the United States and fostered broad international exchange of ornamental plants.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s chief in-house scientific research agency.

Reduce stress, improve health with Nature Rx

Reposted from One Health @ Cornell [2016-07-18]:

Most people sense that spending time in nature makes them feel good – but now there is solid research showing the quantifiable mental and physical health benefits that result from time spent in forests.

As listed on the New York Department of Environmental Conservation website (“Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health”), spending time outside in the woods can result in the following health benefits:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves mood
  • Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increases energy level
  • Improves sleep

“Even five minutes around trees or in green spaces may improve health,” the DEC says. “Think of it as a prescription with no negative side effects that’s also free.”

Nature as a prescription, eh? What a concept!

Ahead of the game, as usual, Cornell University began a new and innovative campaign in 2015 that does just that: prescribes students to spend time outdoors in nature. Created by Horticulture professor Don Rakow, Nature Rx takes a critical and integrated One Health approach to maintaining the mental health of students: the program encourages students to appreciate and utilize time in their natural environment as a way to reduce stress and improve their own physical and mental health.

As one component of this program, Gannett Health Services has begun issuing “nature prescriptions” directly to students, encouraging them to go outside and engage, interact and cultivate an appreciation for nature. According to the prescription, spending even five minutes outside is a fast and easy no-cost way to reduce stress and regain a sense of balance.

nature rx prescription

“Research has shown that being outdoors and interacting with the environment has many health benefits, including decreasing depression, relieving anxiety, and providing a new perspective,” says Rakow. “These symptoms are more and more common in college students. Cornell University is located in the middle of such a beautiful and diverse area – it simply makes sense to use the environment that is naturally available to us to better our own health.”

With input from the co-chairs of the Student Assembly’s Health and Wellness Committee, Carolina Bieri (Atmospheric Science, ‘16) and Matthew Indimine (Policy Analysis and Management, ‘18), Student Services –IT has created CUinNature, a website app which allows students to locate a selection of nearby nature spots on campus. Viewers can look at photos of the F.R. Newman Arboretum at the Cornell Plantations, the Fall Creek Gorge, Beebe Lake, and the Mundy Wildflower Garden among others – and then take short walks to these locations and enjoy their beauty in person.

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“Students may feel that they have to go a long way to reach nature,” explains Rakow, “But it’s all around them at Cornell.  Gorges, gardens, and greenways beckon us from almost every portal.”

Take it Outside (PLHRT 4940) is a new course developed for freshmen with the purpose of getting students out to explore the many natural wonders – gorges, gardens, green spaces – found on the Cornell campus.  According to Sonja Skelly, director of education for Cornell Plantations and course instructor, “Take it Outside” is specifically offered only to freshmen because she hopes that getting younger students hooked on nature early will keep them coming back outdoors – and keep them mentally healthy – for the length of their college careers and beyond.  Skelly adds that, for those not enrolled in the class, the Cornell Plantations website makes it easy for interested students to find great places to spend time outdoors and appreciate the natural beauty of the landscape in the Cornell area.

If we assume that it’s easier to teach a young dog new tricks, should we be teaching even younger people to develop a life-long habit of appreciating nature?

According to the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF), over the last 20 years there has been a real decline in the amount of time that young children spend outside. The NWF says that this has had a significant impact on the health of children’s bodies, minds and spirits. “Our kids are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out, because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world,” the NWF website reads. Teaching kids to enjoy, appreciate and utilize nature for its mental and physical benefits to health early on will allow them to better handle stress and always have a safe place to regroup as they grow up. Rakow and others hope that students involved in Nature Rx at Cornell will be able to teach these good habits early on to their children as well.

Farm-to-Table on a City Roof

Left to right: Yoshi Harada, PhD Candidate, Graduate Field of Horticulture, Cornell University; Ben Flanner, President & Director of Agriculture, Brooklyn Grange; Thomas Whitlow, Associate Professor, Horticulture Section, Cornell University. (Photo: Diane Bonderaff Photography)

Left to right: Yoshi Harada, PhD Candidate, Graduate Field of Horticulture, Cornell University; Ben Flanner, President & Director of Agriculture, Brooklyn Grange; Thomas Whitlow, Associate Professor, Horticulture Section, Cornell University. (Photo: Diane Bonderaff Photography)

By Sheri Englund via Atkinson Center Blog [2016-07-21]:

The skyline view from Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop is delectable, but fresh organic produce from the organization’s one-acre rooftop Flagship Farm is even more delicious.

Director David Lodge and ACSF faculty fellows joined with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on June 29 for a farm-to-table dinner showcasing Cornell’s work on local food systems and sustainable agriculture. More than 50 Cornell alumni and friends toured the facility and learned about Brooklyn Grange’s successful model for urban farming and collaborations with Cornell researchers.

Brooklyn Grange grows more than 50,000 pounds of organic produce each year at the world’s largest rooftop soil farms, located on two roofs in New York City, and distributes the vegetables and herbs to local restaurants, CSA members, and the public. Since its founding in 2010, the organization has become the United States’ leading green roofing business, providing urban farming and green roof consulting and installation to clients worldwide.

Brooklyn Grange operates at the intersection of sustainable agriculture, economic and environmental sustainability, and urban resiliency—all top research concerns for the Atkinson Center. After dinner, plant ecologist Thomas Whitlow gave a presentation about engaging communities in urban horticulture. Sustainable communities expert Katherine McComas closed the evening. She remarked:

“Tonight provided a taste of the innovative and impactful partnerships that are transforming the world around us in profound ways—the partnership that here, tonight, has helped to create new spaces for food, agriculture, sustainability, education, and community development right in the center of our most urban environments.”

View more pictures at CALS Notes.

Björkman, Cheng receive USDA-SCRI grants totaling $6.3 million

Thomas Björkman

Thomas Björkman

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack August 2 announced 19 grants totaling $36.5 million for research and extension to support American farmers growing fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops including floriculture. The grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Two faculty in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science were among the recipients:

“America’s specialty crop farmers face many challenges ranging from a changing climate to increasing production costs. Investing in cutting edge research helps uncover solutions to keep their operations viable and ensures Americans have access to safe, affordable and diverse food options,” said Vilsack. “The universities, state departments of agriculture and trade associations that partner with USDA address challenges at the national and local levels to help sustain all parts of America’s food and agriculture system, whether the farms are small or large, conventional or organic.”

More information:

Red will be on the greens (and fairways) at the Rio Olympics

Cornell Chronicle [2016-07-29]

Rossi at 2015 Turf Field Day at Cornell's Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility

Rossi at 2015 Turf Field Day at Cornell’s Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility

When some of the world’s best golfers tee off next month in the 72-hole Olympic competition, they will be navigating fairways and greens imagined and designed by a pair of Cornellians. …

Gil Hanse, MLA ’89, bested a field of 29 of the world’s top golf architects four years ago and won the job of turning an abandoned sand mine in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro into a golf course that could challenge the best players in the game, then be used as a municipal course for a city and nation just being introduced to the sport.

“It’s very humbling and an incredible honor,” Hanse told reporters shortly after winning the competition four years ago.

Hanse – an award-winning course architect who founded Hanse Golf Course Design in Malvern, Pennsylvania, in 1993 – enlisted the help of fellow Cornellian Frank Rossi, Ph.D. ’91, to come up with a grassing plan in keeping with his philosophy of tailoring the golf course to the site, and not the other way around.

“He’s the best – he’s so passionate,” Hanse said of Rossi, who is an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Integrative Plant Science. “He was out there doing a lot of research for us. My partner, Jim Wagner, and I talked with him about what sort of characteristics we want the grass to have from a playability standpoint.”

Read the whole article.

High tunnel rises at Dilmun Hill Student Farm

A production-scale high tunnel is rising at Dilmun Hill Student Farm. Once complete, it will not only extend the growing season for the farm, but also serve as an educational resource for the many classes that visit the farm.  A high tunnel production workshop series is being planned in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension that will draw on the knowledge and experience of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates across many different departments.

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) staff, along with members of the Dilmun Hill Steering Committee, have been laying the groundwork at the high tunnel site since early spring, grading the land, spreading and incorporating compost, and installing the foundation. This past Wednesday afternoon, they made short work of installing the frame. (See time-lapse video.)

The high tunnel was made possible by the Toward Sustainability Foundation grant program. Undergraduate Steering Committee member and former Dilmun Hill Farm Manager Alena Hutchinson (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, ’18) secured funding for the tunnel, and worked with builder Howard Hoover of Penn Yan, N.Y., to design a custom tunnel to meet the specialized needs of small- and medium-sized growers in Upstate New York.

The tunnel will feature a solar-powered, automated sidewall system designed by Hutchinson and fellow undergraduate engineering students to make ventilating the structure easier.

Another innovative feature of the high tunnel:  It is mounted on rails, so that the tunnel can be easily moved between two different growing areas.  Along with increasing production capacity, this design has environmental benefits, such as making crop rotation possible and allowing rain to leach salt from soil, avoiding the salt build up that can be a problem with stationary high tunnels.

Detailed design plans and assembly manuals for all aspects of the tunnel will be available upon the tunnel’s completion. For questions and/or if you want to be involved in the project, contact Alena Hutchinson (amh345@cornell.edu).

Hutchinson and CUAES technician Ethan Tilebein begin rafter intallation.

Hutchinson and CUAES technician Ethan Tilebein begin rafter intallation.

Betsy Leonard, CUAES organic farm coordinator, and Glen Evans, CUAES operations director, install sidewalls.

Betsy Leonard, CUAES organic farm coordinator, and Glen Evans, CUAES operations director, install sidewalls.

Anja Timm, CUAES communications coordinator, Hutchinson and Evans work on sidewall. Note roller and rail that allow the high tunnel to be moved easily.

Anja Timm, CUAES communications coordinator, Hutchinson and Evans work on sidewall. Note roller and rail (lower right) that allow the high tunnel to be moved easily.

Tilebein, Hutchinson and Thompson Research Farm farm manager Steve McKay install rafters.

Tilebein, Hutchinson and CUAES Thompson Research Farm farm manager Steve McKay install rafters.

McKay secures ridgepole.

McKay secures ridgepoles.


Update [2017-07-29]

On June 28, while still under construction, the tunnel took it’s first trip, traveling from a fallow area to an area newly planted with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

Rx for dry landscapes: Water trees and shrubs, not lawn

Scorched leaves and brown lawns have been a common site in much of the Northeast this summer, particularly from the Hudson Valley south to New Jersey and Long Island, where rainfall through July was half of normal or less. Photo courtesy Jerry Giordano, CCE Westchester County. Click image for high resolution version.

Scorched leaves and brown lawns have been a common site in much of central and western New York, where some areas received less than 25 percent of normal rainfall in June and the first half of July. Photo courtesy Jerry Giordano, CCE Westchester County. Click image for high resolution version.

Despite some welcome rains yesterday (July 25), much of central and western New York remains in a severe drought.

The combination of low snowfall last winter and meager rainfall and warm temperatures this season has reduced stream flows to a trickle, ruined crops and scorched many landscapes this summer.

So, according to Cornell scientists, what’s your best bet to save your grass, trees and shrubs?

Water your trees and shrubs, but not the lawn.

“Overwatering during hot weather does far more damage to a lawn than drought,” says Frank Rossi, turf specialist in the Horticulture Section of Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science. Watering – particularly frequent light watering – encourages lawn diseases and weeds, he explains.

The cool-season lawn grasses commonly grown in the region naturally slow down as temperatures rise and soil moisture decreases, even in normal summers, notes Rossi. When it’s hot and dry, he suggests just letting the lawn go completely dormant.

“Think of your lawn like a hibernating bear,” he suggests. “Many lawns will turn completely brown. But most of the lawn grasses will survive 4 to 6 weeks without significant rainfall.” In most cases, they’ll green up again in late summer or early fall when the rain returns and the temperatures moderate.

But that’s not the case with trees and shrubs, says Nina Bassuk, director of the Urban Horticulture Institute in Cornell’s Horticulture Section. “When it’s really hot and dry, many trees and shrubs will shed their leaves – and some will just dry up. Drought is very stressful and can sometimes kill them outright,” she points out.

Newly planted trees and shrubs are particularly vulnerable because their root systems aren’t fully developed. They have a harder time foraging for moisture, warns Bassuk. Depending on the species, site and planting practices, that might mean keeping two- to five-year-old plantings carefully watered during dry periods, hopefully preventing drought-caused leaf damage or loss in the first place.

But don’t give up on trees and shrubs that have shed their leaves, says Bassuk. “Go ahead and water them,” she suggests. “It’s better late than never. If they’re still alive, they’ll grow new leaves. And after two weeks of photosynthesizing they’ll have made up for the extra effort it took them to re-leaf.” Any extra energy the leaves gather after that can be channeled into new growth or stored by the plants to help them get through winter.

Water slow, water deep

A 2-inch layer of mulch reduces moisture lost from soil, while drip irrigation bags deliver water to trees slowly so that it has time to penetrate deep into the soil. Click image for high resolution version.

A 2-inch layer of mulch reduces moisture lost from soil, while drip irrigation bags deliver water to trees slowly so that it has time to penetrate deep into the soil. Click image for high resolution version.

The key to watering trees and shrubs is to water them slowly and allow the water to soak deep into the soil with no runoff. “You can’t really do that standing there with a hose in your hand,” observes Bassuk.

One solution is to use plastic drip irrigation bags that encircle the trunk of the tree. They can be quickly filled with a hose and then they slowly release the water (typically 20 gallons) over 8 to 12 hours. “You need to refill them if you want them to work – usually weekly but up to every three days when it’s really hot and dry,” says Bassuk. Special soaker hoses can also deliver water at a slow rate.

If you only have a few trees and shrubs to water, you can just use a hose turned on to a slow trickle – but you need to monitor the flow and move the hose before the water starts running off. Another low-tech solution is to drill small holes in the bottom of plastic buckets or trash cans, place them around the trees and shrubs, and fill them with water. “It’s not pretty, but it works,” says Bassuk.

Part of Bassuk’s research program involves studying how well different tree species recover from heat- and drought-stress. “If we’re smarter about what trees we plant in our urban areas, we’ll lose fewer next time we have a summer like this.”


Watering tips for trees and shrubs:

  • Remove competing vegetation (especially lawn) within at least 3 feet of the base of trees and shrubs. Mulch with 2 inches of shredded bark or similar material to reduce water loss from soil. Do not pile mulch against the trunk of the tree.
  • Focus your watering efforts on recently planted trees and shrubs, applying water slowly so that it soaks in deeply. (See main story.) In a landscape situation, apply 10 gallons to at-risk shrubs (newly planted or those that have wilted or browning leaves) every three days and 15-20 gallons of water to  trees at the same interval.
  • Reduce watering based on rainfall, but remember that all rain is not equal. A quick, heavy a rain falls so fast that it doesn’t have time to penetrate the soil, and much is lost as runoff. A slow, steady rain is much more effective at replenishing soil moisture.
  • Continue watering trees and shrubs through October to make sure they are in good shape going into winter.
  • If you want to make your water resources go farther, Bassuk suggests using gray water. Gray water is potable water that has been lightly used for washing the dishes or goes down the drain while you are waiting for the shower to warm up. Keep a bowl in your sink or a pail in your shower to catch this water and use it wherever you need it. Just don’t apply any gray water that has caustic chemicals or bleach in it. Ordinary soap is fine.
Stay off lawns when they're dormant to avoid damaging fragile grass crowns.

Stay off lawns when they’re dormant to avoid damaging fragile grass crowns.

Tips for parched lawns:

  • If you have an irrigation system that is well-designed and -maintained, functioning properly, and able to apply a known amount of water uniformly, then water deep and infrequently if there are no water restrictions. Otherwise just let your lawn go dormant.
  • When your unwatered lawn goes dormant in midsummer, stay off it. “No recreational mowing,” says Rossi, because the vibrating wheels of your lawnmower can damage fragile turfgrass crowns.
  • Don’t apply any fertilizer, pesticides or water when your lawn is dormant. “You wouldn’t try to feed someone who’s asleep,” says Rossi. “Why would you try to feed your lawn?”
  • During dry times, note which areas of your lawn are weakest, or become infested with crabgrass. Focus your fall reseeding efforts on these areas. “Consider using tall fescue when you renovate,” says Rossi. “It roots deeper, and is more drought-tolerant and resistant to insects than other grasses.”

More information:

Revised and updated from a previous post Rx for landscape woes: Water trees and shrubs, not lawn originally published August 3, 2010.

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