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Landscape professionals learn about bioswale benefits

Tower Rd bioswale planting
Above: Students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (PLHRT/LA 4910/4920) planted more than 1,000 feet of beds along Tower Road from Plant Science Building to Stocking Hall with nearly 1,000 woody shrubs in September 2014.

Nearly 50 landscape architects, environmentalists, educators and others visited Cornell September 17 to learn about the ecosystem benefits of bioswales and tour the runoff-filtering structures on campus.

Bioswales channel water from streets and parking lots into areas where the water can infiltrate into the groundwater instead of entering storm drains and waterways. In the process, they keep sediment and other pollutants out of streams and lakes, reduce flooding and prevent streambank erosion.

They can also provide aesthetic benefits, habitat for pollinators and other ecosystem services, says Nina Bassuk, director of the Urban Horticulture Institute in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who led the program along with Peter Trowbridge, Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects and retired professor from the Department of Landscape Architecture.

Bassuk’s work has focused on the ‘bio’ aspects of bioswales, researching which plants are best-suited for the tough conditions they face. “We’re testing plants that can tolerate both saturated soil and periodic drought,” says Bassuk. “They also need to be able tolerate salty soil and bounce back from damage when snow and ice are piled over them during winter.” Woody shrubs that can be cut back to the ground and regrow quickly in spring are especially good candidates.

The landscape professionals saw many of those plants in three bioswales they toured while on campus, including northern bayberry (Morella pensylvanica), shining sumac (Rhus coppalina), creeping willow  (Salix repens), seaberry (Hippophae rhamnoides), ) buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) and others.

Those three bioswales – the quarter-mile-long Tower Road bioswale, the Rice Bowl bioswales adjacent to the parking lot next to Rice Hall, and the Cornell Botanic Garden bioswale next to the Nevin Welcome Center parking lot – are featured on the new Sustainable Landscapes Trail developed by the Land Team of the President’s Campus Sustainability Committee.

For more information on bioswales, download Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices at the Urban Horticulture Institute website.


Above: Nina Bassuk explains bioswale plant selection to landscape professionals touring the Tower Road bioswale.

Crusader for environmental golf course management earns Excellence in IPM award

Bob Portmess was a mechanical engineer and former executive with Cox Communications who just happened to be an avid golfer.

That last item is key. Twelve years ago, Portmess walked into turf guru Frank Rossi’s office at Cornell University. He knew exactly what he wanted: to work, he said, “with the people who produce the finest golf playing surfaces in the world.”

Two years later, Portmess had received his Masters of Professional Studies in turfgrass management by synthesizing the practical knowledge that Rossi and colleague Jennifer Grant, now director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM), had amassed over seven years of experimental work at the world-renowned Bethpage Golf Course, also a New York State Park.

And a year after that, Portmess had developed an “IPM Handbook” of best management practices for sustainable turf, informed in part by his engineering background. This handbook, now translated into Spanish, served as a resource for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s seminar that Portmess co-instructed at several International Golf Shows. It continues to guide management of New York’s 29 state park golf courses as well as golf courses around the country that want to cut back on inputs while maintaining top quality turf.

Portmess’s passion for teaching turned out to be as consuming as his passion for golf. “Whether it was frequent light topdressing, root pruning, over-seeding, better ways to aerify the soil, or careful use of water—Bob taught them all,” says Larry Specchio, superintendent at Chenango Valley State Park Golf Course. Each tactic Speechio notes is a core IPM method.

“I find myself almost daily wanting to pick up my phone and call him; he was more than just a consultant to me,” Speechio says. “No one has a had a more positive impact on my career than Bob.”

Rossi couldn’t have predicted it at that time, of course, but that meeting in 2006 turned out to be one of the most important partnerships of his career.

“For that, I owe Bob more than simply a nomination for an award he is more than worthy of, but rather my own continued commitment to the work that he started,” Rossi says.

Sadly, Portmess passed away before he could see the full impact of his work. “Losing Bob Portmess was a tragedy” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of New York State Parks. “But his legacy lives on in the sustainable management of our golf courses.”

Melinda Portmess, Portmess’s widow, received the Excellence of IPM award at a ceremony at Green Lakes State Park in Syracuse on August 10th.

Learn more about IPM at NYSIPM.cornell.edu.

Joseph Sieczka, potato specialist, dies at 79

Joseph Sieczka

Joseph Sieczka

Cornell Chronicle [2018-08-09]:

Joseph Sieczka, professor emeritus of horticulture, an expert on potatoes, died July 29 at his home in Mattituck, New York. He was 79.

He also worked as a Cooperative Extension agent in western New York and served as coordinator of Cornell’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, New York, for more than two decades.

Though he conducted research on vegetable crops, he focused on potatoes. Over the course of his career, he managed widely acclaimed potato extension programs, and his work on potato cultivation led to reduced grower costs and lower nitrate impacts on groundwater. Sieczka’s applied potato research included strategies for weed control and determining optimal applications of fertilizer. And he helped develop new potato varieties, including some that are resistant to golden nematodes, a major potato pest.

“Joe was extremely knowledgeable in all things ‘potato’ and had an encyclopedic memory,” said Donald Halseth, professor emeritus of horticulture. “He knew things about more potato varieties than anyone I have known.”

“From a personal point of view, I always valued the uncommon amount of ‘common sense’ that Joe showed when I would ask for his advice, which I did very often,” said Elmer Ewing, professor emeritus of horticulture. “He had sound judgment on important issues and was able to see the broad picture.”

Read the whole article.

Bluegrass Lane Open House August 11

flyer

Click image for flyer

Come and see:

  • Annual and perennial plant trials.
  • Pollinator garden.
  • Grafted tomatoes.
  • Planting media trials.
  • Containers planted by the Botanic Gardens’ amazing gardeners!
  • Staff will be available to answer questions..

Saturday, August 11
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Center
232 Bluegrass Lane, Ithaca, NY
Off Warren Rd., near Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, follow signs for parking. Map.

This event is open to the public; bring your friends and family!

If you have questions or need special accommodations please contact Tara Reed tln2@cornell.edu or 607-592-5620.

‘Cornell AgriTech’ reflects influence in food, ag innovation

Cornell Chronicle, CALS News [2018-08-01]

larry smart with industrial hemp in greenhouse

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences announced Aug. 1 the renaming of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) to Cornell AgriTech.

Agriculture and food are multibillion-dollar industries in New York, and the name change underscores the value Cornell AgriTech brings to improving the health of the people, environment and economy of the state and beyond. Based in Geneva, New York, Cornell AgriTech is home to more than 300 faculty, scientists, staff and graduate students at the leading edge of food science, entomology and plant sciences research.

“Cornell AgriTech is an essential part of Cornell CALS and supports our mission of discovery that grows the agricultural economy in New York and makes food more nutritious, safer and better tasting for everyone,” said Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS. “Cornell AgriTech is a global leader in food and agriculture research and innovation, as our scientists generate the breakthroughs and develop the technologies that improve the crops in our fields and the food on our plates.”

Read the whole article.

Learn the latest at industrial hemp field day August 14 at Cornell AgriTech

Join Cornell researchers and other industrial hemp experts to learn the latest about this emerging crop at an Aug.14 field day at the Cornell AgriTech Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm, 1097 County Road 4, in Geneva, New York. The Cornell Industrial Hemp Research Team Field Day is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.

Researchers in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) have expanded their efforts during their second year of field testing to improve agronomic outcomes for farmers. Cornell has been funded to identify and breed cultivars suitable for New York and to establish certified seed production in the state. They have expanded cultivar trials to the northernmost and southernmost parts of New York, and have initiated a long-term hemp breeding program aided by $2 million in new state funding.

Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. for the field day, which includes research and policy updates as well as field tours where Cornell scientists will describe the research trials underway.

The morning program includes:

  • Hemp disease update from Cornell plant pathologist Gary Bergstrom..
  • Hemp seed review by Cornell seed scientist Alan Taylor, who will provide an update on seed quality and coating studies plus information on the current status of the hemp seed certification program in New York .
  • Updates on the NYS Hemp Pilot Program, including procedures for licensing and other regulatory issues, led by Tim Sweeney of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Field tours starting at 10:30 a.m. include:

  • Cultivar evaluation trial: Members of Cornell plant breeders Don Viands’ and Larry Smart’s labs will describe the 2018 cultivar evaluation trials, including the 35 cultivars under evaluation at Cornell AgriTech. A member of Cornell entomologist Elson Shields’ lab will provide an update on insect pest surveys they have been conducting in New York hemp fields in 2018.
  • Pollination distance trial: Larry Smart will describe a study to better understand the risks to CBD production due to pollination from adjacent hemp fields with male plants.  Members of Cornell entomologist Katja Poveda’s lab will describe the bee surveys they are conducting in NYS hemp fields.
  • CBD production trial: Members of Larry Smart’s and Cornell plant pathologist Chris Smart’s labs will describe trials to evaluate cultivars selected for CBD production.

First New York Soil Health Summit harvests collaboration

Donn Branton of Branton Farms illustrates the connection between water quality and soil health by showing two samples of water, one cloudy with sediment from the creek entering his property and the other with clear water that exits his farm.

Cornell Chronicle, CALS News [2019-07-27]:

New York government policy and nonprofit leaders, researchers, farmers and agricultural professionals from 40 organizations attended the first statewide Soil Health Summit July 18 in Albany, New York. It was organized by New York Soil Health, which is funded by the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and coordinated by Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

“The setting of this soil summit next to the state capital was by intention,” said David Wolfe, Cornell professor of plant and soil ecology and program lead for New York Soil Health. He said New York has been at the forefront of the global soil health movement and summit participants would discuss where to go from here.

“We were pleased to have representatives from Gov. Cuomo’s administration and agency partners as well as representatives from the state Senate and Assembly in attendance,” said Wolfe. “The summit goals were to expand collaboration among the many farmers and organizations working on soil health issues, and also to identify research, outreach and policy priorities for the future.”

Topics included economic analyses of soil health costs and benefits; the relationship between soil health and climate change; addressing challenges of reducing tillage on vegetable farms; soil health for apple orchard systems; fortifying biochar with manure wastes as marketable fertilizer; and research on cover crop interseeding and perennial grains.

Read the whole article.

Francescatto named a top young researcher

CALS News [2018-06-26]:

Francescatto in orchard

Poliana Francescatto has been named one of the nation’s top young researchers in the fruit and vegetable industries by Fruit Growers News.

The Cornell research associate was recognized as a next generation leader in the “40 under 40 category. She was lauded for her studies on the use of plant growth regulators to improve orchard management of temperate tree fruit crops for the benefit of New York state tree fruit growers.

Along with her research trials in orchards at Cornell, she works directly with growers in New York on practical applications they can use to modernize fruit production practices.

She joined the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2015 as a postdoctoral researcher with Terence Robinson, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

Based at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, her program seeks new, efficient and profitable strategies to improve and standardize fruit orchard practices to deliver more uniform, high-quality fruit, according to Francescatto.

As an applied fruit physiologist, she focuses on how plant growth regulators and crop load management can be used in the orchard. Her program focuses on pome fruits like apples and pear, and stone fruits, like cherries and peaches. Her research priority areas have focused on fruit thinning, improved fruit finish and flower bud formation.

“I grew up in an apple growing family in Brazil, and my parents continue to be growers today,” said Francescatto. “Because of that, I understand the impact research has on bettering people’s livelihoods and how it improves fruits delivered to consumers. This award means more than words can describe.”

Online organic gardening, garden design courses start September 5

Registration is now open for two 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.

garden_designx300Introduction to Garden Design will help you apply basic garden design techniques to your own garden. We teach an approach to gardening that is based on the principle of right plant, right place. In other words, we will consider the needs of the plant in addition to the needs of the gardener.

You’ll learn garden site analysis and apply the concepts to your personal space, gain proficiency in garden design principles and lay out a rough site plan overview of your garden design.

You will write and reflect on the process as you learn with the instructor taking an active role in this creative endeavor by providing feedback on your assignments and journal entries.

View more information and full course syllabus for Introduction to Garden Design.

Questions about either course? Please contact, Fiona Doherty: fcd9@cornell.edu.

Cornell research is growing the hard cider industry in New York

Gregory Peck, assistant professor of horticulture, tags apple trees as part of a research trial at Cornell Orchards.

Gregory Peck, assistant professor of horticulture, tags apple trees as part of a research trial at Cornell Orchards.

Cornell Chronicle 2018-05-15:

To say that hard cider has been making a comeback is an understatement. In the U.S. alone, the hard cider market has increased more than 10-fold in the past decade, with sales reaching $1.5 billion in 2017. And Gregory Peck, assistant professor of horticulture, has been paying attention.

Taking advantage of this upward trend, Peck has been tapping cider’s full potential to grow New York state’s apple market. Now he’s at the forefront of a hard cider renaissance.

“The industry has been booming because cider producers are innovative,” Peck said. “Consumers want to experience something different in their food and drinks. Cider has a rich depth of flavor and range of products that appeal to a large and growing consumer base.”

Read the whole article.

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