Archive for the “Extension and outreach” Category

CALS Communications

Greenhouse ribbon-cutting at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, N.Y., October 2014. Photo: Rob Way, CALS Communications.

Reposted from CALS Notes [2015-02-24]

It was a year of promises and deliveries, of new partnerships and the research and outreach results those relationships fuel. For Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, 2014 will be remembered as a very good year.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • The Northern Grapes Project, led by senior extension associate Tim Martinson, received a $2.6 million USDA grant to continue developing grape growing, wine making and marketing resources for cold climate grape growers.
  • Susan Brown, incoming Station director and faculty in the Horticulture Section, was named a 2014 “Women of Distinction” in a ceremony at the State Capitol.
  • Sarah Pethybridge was hired as an assistant professor in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section, Steve Reiners assumed the position of associate chair of the Horticulture Section, Anna Katharine Mansfield was promoted to associate professor in the Department of Food Science, and Jennifer Grant was named director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program.
  • The Station completed its 10th year of boosting science literacy through a plant science program for the Geneva City School District’s third and fourth graders.
  • The Summer Research Scholars Program hosted 27 students from top universities around the country for immersion in agricultural research.

And that’s just a start.

Read all the highlights in the Station’s “2014 Year in Review” available online on the NYSAES homepage:

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For more than 15 years, CALS has bolstered its sustainability research with a steady stream of gifts from the Toward Sustainability Foundation (TSF), a Massachusetts-based organization founded by an anonymous, eco-minded Cornell alumna.

Since 1999, TSF provided more than $1.1 million in funding for more than 100 faculty and student projects that examine the technological, social, political, and economic elements of sustainable agriculture.

Projects funded for 2015 include research and outreach topics ranging from soilless media for rooftop farms to growing organic grains for local markets to using vermicompost to grow tomatoes.

View full list of funded projects and contact information for each.

A 2014 TSF grant aided Horticulture graduate student Miles Schwartz-Sax's study on long-term urban soils remediation using organic amendments.

A 2014 TSF grant aided Horticulture graduate student Miles Schwartz-Sax’s study on long-term urban soils remediation using organic amendments.

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Raised bed vegetable gardenThe Horticulture Sections’s online Organic Gardening course is designed to help new gardeners get started and help experienced gardeners broaden their understanding of organic techniques for all kinds of gardens.

The course runs March 11 to April 24, 2015, and covers one topic each week. (See course outline below.) With a strong foundation in soil health and its impact on plant health, we then explore tried-and-true and cutting-edge techniques for all different kinds of garden plants including food plants, trees and shrubs and lawn.

Participants view recorded presentations, 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 3 to 4 hours each week with the content, though there are always ample resources and opportunity to do more.

Please contact the instructor, Elizabeth Gabriel, for information:

Course outline:

  • Week 1:Introduction: What is Organic Gardening?  Knowing Your Site.
  • Week 2: Soil, Compost, and Mulch
  • Week 3: Vegetables and Flowers: Site Design & Planning for the Season
  • Week 4: Vegetables and Flowers: Early, Mid, Late Season Crops; Harvesting, Herbs
  • Week 5: Maintenance a & Managing Pests Organically
  • Week 6: Trees, Shrubs, and Herbaceous Perennials: The Long-Term Landscape
  • Optional Extra Readings: Advanced Topics for the Adventurous Gardener
More information:

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Two Cornell projects were recently featured on the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program‘s Dig Deeper online feature:

Judson Reid

Judson Reid

High tunnels for winter greens – Cornell Vegetable Specialist Judson Reid used a Northeast SARE grant to research and document pest and disease management in high tunnels using biological controls and biorational pesticides on winter crops like spinach, kale, pak-choi, chard, and mustard. Target pests included caterpillars, slugs, aphids, and thrips, and diseases like downy mildew and rot. Reid and his research team also looked at varietal susceptibility to these disease and insect pressures.

Twenty growers agreed to take part in a case-study component designed to build their scouting, pest identification, and cultural control skills through regular contact with the project team; this contact also helped farmers understand action thresholds and how to use cultural control strategies with more precision. This one-to-one interaction had real impact—as one farmer in Allegany County put it, “The regular contact with Cornell Cooperative Extension project personnel gave me access to a great resource—someone who was always willing to discuss all ag-related questions.” Read more.


Marvin Pritts

Marvin Pritts

Analyze this: Professional development for berry production – The rising cost of inputs and the environmental impacts of fertilizers provide new impetus for taking a whole-farm approach to berry crop nutrient and soil management. However, agricultural service providers, who are frequently on the front line for advice and assistance with berry crop soil and nutrient problems, often feel ill-equipped to address farmer concerns and promote beneficial practices; no single, comprehensive resource on this topic has been available for either educators or growers.

This two-year project, led by Dr. Marvin Pritts, Cornell University small fruit horticulturalist and berry crop nutrition specialist, aimed to bridge this gap by training a cadre of 50 educators across the Northeast. The performance target was that 15 educators would develop and deliver outreach programs reaching 150 berry growers who manage a total of 750 acres of berry crops, with 50 growers going on to conduct soil, nutrient, and soil health testing; these growers would get one-on-one help interpreting test results, and would implement analysis-based fertilization and soil health management practices on their farms. Read more.



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Small-is-Beautiful-gardenLast year, the Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program awarded eight ‘Small is Beautiful’ mini-grants of $250 to $400 to garden projects across the state.

While the funding amounts were small, the impacts were not. Highlights include:

  • 4-H teens in Chenango County learned to wire, plumb and balance nutrients building an aeroponic growing system.
  • Junior Master Gardeners in Columbia/Greene Counties learned about plants, soil, biodiversity and vegetables in nine 3′ x 3′ raised be vegetable gardens.
  • In Putnam County, raised bed gardens were built at five childcare facilities and CCE staff and volunteers trained childcare staff on growing vegetables and engaging children in gardening.
  • Master Gardener and Rise Volunteers established a native plants pollination garden and compost project involving 450 students and six teachers.
  • In Schenectady County RISE Volunteers, Master Gardener Volunteers and Roots ‘n’ Wisdom youth contributed to construction of and inter-generational demonstration garden.
  • Sullivan County started a Junior Master Gardener Program. Youth gave a public vermiculture (composting with worms) presentation.
  • In Tompkins County, three new garden boxes were constructed and planted with perennial herbs to attract pollinators and add flavor to After-School Garden Club meals.
  • The 4-H gardening club in Yates County planned, built and planted two garden beds. Harvests were cooked at home to engage families.

Read the full report.

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Beginning Farmer Project homepage

By John Carberry, reposted from CALS Notes [2015-02-02]

A well-established agricultural outreach effort run by Cornell University is taking on a new mission designed in part to help returning veterans find futures in farming, thanks to a grant announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Northeast Beginning Farmer Project, part of the Cornell Small Farms Program, was awarded $712,500 through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The money will be used to create community-based training programs and farmer-to-farmer networks to support what organizers call two underserved groups – military veterans and “advanced beginners” who have been farming from four to seven years.

“Supporting new farmers is core to the mission of the Cornell Small Farm Program and our numerous partners,” said Anusuya Rangarajan, an Extension Associate in Plant Science and Director of the Small Farms Program. “This USDA investment will allow us to build new pathways for veterans entering agriculture and for entrepreneurs growing their farming businesses. ”

Rangarajan said the federal funds – to be supported by another $218,000 from the Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation and $100,000 from the New York Farm Viability Institute – will be used to create new communications tools and educational strategies to attract and keep military veterans in farming. She and her team plan to create a permanent, statewide network linking veterans and their service providers to agricultural support resources. The program’s organizers also hope to develop and demonstrate new educational approaches to get veterans interested in farming.

Read the whole post.

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apple ipm coverApple IPM for Beginners is a new series of simplified factsheets and scouting guides that make integrated pest management easier for beginners.

Topics include:

  • Choosing Sprays
  • Apple Scab
  • Fire Blight
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Apple Rust Diseases
  • Summer Diseases
  • Plum Curculio
  • Worms in Fruit
  • Aphids and Leafhoppers
  • Mites
  • Trunk Borers

Deborah I. Breth, Cornell Cooperative Extension Lake Ontario Fruit Program edited the publication with contributions from CCE educators, growers and others.

You can download the free online version or contact Breth for hard-copy purchase information:

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Kenong Xu's research will help researches change tree architecture allowing more high-density planting and transforming the layout of orchards. (Robyn Wishna photo.)

Kenong Xu’s work will help researchers change tree architecture, allowing more high-density planting and transforming the layout of orchards. (Robyn Wishna photo.)

Cornell Chronicle [2015-01-12]

A Cornell-U.S. government research team is poised to transform the shape of trees and orchards to come, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program.

The project, “Elucidating the Gene Networks Controlling Branch Angle and the Directional Growth of Lateral Meristems in Trees,” is led by Kenong Xu, assistant professor of horticulture at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, and plant molecular biologist Chris Dardick and research engineer Amy Tabb from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory in West Virginia.

The research team is seeking to uncover genes and gene networks that underpin how apical control – the inhibitory effect on a lateral branch’s growth by the shoots above it – influences branch growth in apple and peach trees.

Read the whole article.


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What varieties will perform best in your garden?

What varieties will perform best in your garden?

Just in time for arrival of this year’s crop of seed catalogs, the 2015 edition of Selected List of Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners in New York State is now available online.

The varieties listed in this report should be well adapted for most home gardens in New York State, offer relatively high quality, be dependable, possess disease and insect resistance when possible, and have a relatively long harvest period.

There may be varieties not listed in the report that will perform satisfactorily in your garden, or even better under certain conditions. If you’d like to dive into a larger pool of varieties as you plan you garden, visit our Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website for detailed descriptions and seed sources of more than 6,100 varieties. At the site, you can compare varieties, read ratings and reviews by fellow gardeners, and offer your own observations of which varieties perform best in your garden.

And if you’re looking for growing tips, check out our vegetable growing guides.

Best of luck with your 2015 growing season.

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Via CALS Notes:

On Nov. 10, Dean Kathryn Boor, Cornell Cooperative Extension Director and Associate Dean Chris Watkins, and more than 100 guests celebrated the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s best and brightest at the 11th annual Research, Extension and Staff Awards.

Part of the program was dedicated to the Core Value Staff Awards, created in 2010 and designed to recognize individuals or teams who have gone far beyond the standards defined by Cornell’s Skills for Success.

“These awards go to staff who consistently go above and beyond the call in their day-to-day activities,” Boor said, “and we are happy to highlight their dedication and accomplishments.”

This year the dean presented two awards for Unsung Hero. The award recognizes a team player whose accomplishments extend beyond the guidelines of a specific category.


 Dean Kathryn Boor presents 'Unsung Hero' award to Craig Cramer November 10.

Dean Kathryn Boor presents ‘Unsung Hero’ award to Craig Cramer November 10.

The first Unsung Hero Award was presented to Craig Cramer, an extension communication specialist in the Horticulture section in the School of Integrative Plant Science.

Cramer is a key point person for the communications needs of the new school. He works closely with CALS Communications to help cover events and accomplishments by faculty, students and staff. He keeps websites updated and evolving, writes blog posts and articles, partners with CALS Communications for press releases, and is an excellent photographer and videographer. He is often found visiting classes or attending field days, conferences, and other events to capture Horticulture’s exciting work in action.

In short, he does whatever it takes to get the word out about Plant Science’s exciting research, teaching and extension.

Dean Boor also noted that each year, Cramer learns new skills and takes on more responsibilities, even regularly offering seminars to students and extension educators on topics like “writing for the Internet” and “creating digital art.” Masterful at presenting information in an engaging way, he enthusiastically accepts new communications challenges, such as helping a class produce posters that advertise the quantifiable value of trees to our community or editing the “Cornell Guide for Growing Fruit at Home,” which won an award for best new publication.


Dean Kathryn Boor presents 'Unsung Hero' award to Steven McKay November 10.

Dean Kathryn Boor presents ‘Unsung Hero’ award to Steven McKay November 10.

The second Unsung Hero Award was presented to Steven McKay, farm manager at the Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, N.Y.

McKay’s technical role is to support the activities of 20-25 faculty researchers from more than a half a dozen departments who are investigating diverse questions associated with vegetables in New York. He oversees 260 acres of farmland, managing all aspects of land preparation, pest management, staff assignments and equipment purchases.

However, Boor said, his impact and reputation have expanded well beyond a support role.

He works long hours and is available 24/7, sharing his expertise with faculty and graduate students to help maximize the impact of their results. Field experiments are, by their nature, at the mercy of the elements, but Steve cares so deeply about on-farm experiments that he routinely goes beyond expectations to ensure their success.

For example, during Tropical Storm Lee, severe flooding jeopardized field trials at the farm. Due to the mud, it was impossible to use a tractor to apply fungicide treatments to one of the experiments, so Steve trudged through the mucky fields with a backpack sprayer to save the day.

During a time when sustainability and efficiency are key, he is a true forward-thinking leader. He has transitioned much of the farm to drip irrigation to reduce water usage by 80 percent, and he shuttered the Thompson lab building to save thousands of dollars annually on heating and utility costs.

The dean said his curiosity, creativity and ingenuity benefit everyone who depends on the farm – he is a lifelong learner who is always seeking new and improved practices. She noted that McKay even challenged an engineering class with a contest to design improved drainage and irrigation systems, and then implemented the winning design at the farm.

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