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New course teaches cutting-edge food production

To better prepare Cornell students to thrive in the growing  hydroponic industry, associate professor Neil Mattson initiated a course last fall, Hydroponic Food Crop Production and Management, to teach the principles and practices of commercial food crop production in controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Read more in the Cornell Chronicle [2017-01-19].

Class travels to Chile to study biodiversity

Alstroemeria in Valle Nevado, Chile

Alstroemeria in Valle Nevado, Chile

Today, students in Special Topics in Horticulture: Plant Biodiversity (PLHRT 4940) arrive in Chile. For the next 10 days, they will follow-up on their classroom experiences last semester learning about how biodiversity is perceived, valued, measured, monitored, and protected with hands-on study and exploration of wild and native plants, commercial breeding programs, and botanical gardens and arboreta.

“The biodiversity of Chile is rich and precious, and its plants are valued highly throughout the world,” notes Mark Bridgen, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who is leading the trip. “Of the 5,100 species of flora and fauna found in Chile, more than 2,500 are endemic – that is, found nowhere else on Earth.”

In fact, Bridgen has developed two ornamental cultivars of the native Chilean Inca Lily (Alstroemeria): ‘Tangerine Tango’ and ‘Mauve Majesty’.

If you’d like to follow the class’s adventures, visit and/or subscribe to the class blog, Biodiversity in Chile. The site is already populated with profiles of fascinating plants — including the alien-looking Yareta (Azorella compacta) from the high desert and the national tree of Chile Araucaria araucanabetter known as the Monkey Puzzle Tree — and posts on other biodiversity topics.

View additional pictures from Chile on Mark Bridgen’s Facebook page.

Swegarden takes top honors at rutabaga curling competition

hannah-rutabagax640

Photo courtesy Edna Brown Photography

It’s only fitting that kale aficionado Hannah Swegarden, PhD student in the Graduate Field of Horticulture, took top honors in the Almost 20th Anniversary Ithaca Farmers Market  Rutabaga (a related Brassica) Curl December 17.

Swegarden faced stiff competition from runner-up ‘God’ (left, aka Michael Glos, technician in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section representing Kingbird Farm).

More curling event images at Edna Brown Photography.

January graduates celebrated at recognition ceremony

Justin France waves to family and friends after receiving recognition for earning his master's degree in horticulture. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Justin France waves to family and friends after receiving recognition for earning his master’s degree in horticulture. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-12-19]:

Dressed in their academic regalia, Alice Beban France and her husband, Justin France, appeared relaxed at the reception following Cornell’s 14th January graduation recognition ceremony at Bartels Hall Dec. 17.

That relaxation was well-deserved for a couple juggling education with parenthood – they have two daughters, ages 4 and 6. Fortuitously, Justin earned his master’s in horticulture at the same time Alice completed her doctorate in development sociology.

“We prioritized family over school,” squeezing in coursework late at night and early in the morning, Justin said. It helped to live in graduate student housing at Hasbrouck Apartments, where there was a good support network and child care for families juggling school and children, Alice said.

The family plans to move to New Zealand, Alice’s home country, where she will work as a lecturer and he will manage a vineyard.

Read the whole article.

Kale Is About To Have An Identity Crisis

Photos: Hannah Swegarden

Photos: Hannah Swegarden

NPR’s The Salt [2016-11-28]:

Kale is getting a makeover, and the very essence of kaliness may hang in the balance.

To develop a new variety of kale tailored to American palates, horticulture professor Philip Griffiths of Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Science and graduate student Hannah Swegarden are soliciting consumers’ kale reflections — the good, the bad, and the ugly. The scientists face a philosophic question for the ages. Asks Swegarden:

“How far can you push a consumer’s concept of what kale is, before it’s not kale anymore?”

Kale, like many other vegetables, has been bred with agricultural practicality in mind, selected for virtues like drought- and disease-resistance. But Swegarden says those traits don’t necessarily translate into a better taste and appearance, qualities that matter more to consumers. Griffiths has been working with kale for years, so he and Swegarden decided to see if they could develop strains to seduce farmers and consumers alike.

Read the whole post.

 

Dreer Award offers opportunities to pursue horticultural interests abroad

From Nina Bassuk:

The Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science offers a wonderful opportunity once a year, the Frederick Dreer Award, that allows one or more students to spend 4 months to up to a year abroad pursuing his or her interests related to horticulture.

See the application and instructions that spell out the procedure for applying. Basically it is quite simple. Submit a written proposal to the Dreer Committee by the deadline (March 6, 2017 in this cycle), which is followed by an informal interview, generally in a week or two. The faculty receives the recommendation of the Dreer Committee and votes on the nominee.

The only obligation of the Dreer award winner is to write to the Dreer Committee monthly while overseas, and upon return to the United States, give a presentation about their time abroad to students and faculty.

Please look into this opportunity seriously. It can be taken as a summer and a semester’s leave or a year’s leave of absence during school or upon graduation. If you would like to talk over a potential idea for the Dreer with a member of the Committee (and we encourage you to do so), please contact Nina Bassuk (Horticulture) Josh Cerra (Landscape Architecture) or Marvin Pritts (Horticulture).

2015 Dreer Award winner Adam Karl, now a PhD student in the Graduate Field of Horticulture, traveled to Spain to study dryland viticulture.

2015 Dreer Award winner Adam Karl, now a PhD student in the Graduate Field of Horticulture, traveled to Spain to study dryland viticulture.

Plant breeders take cues from consumers to improve kale

Hannah Swegarden, right, and technician Matt Wavrick transplant a kale cultivar from a research field at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, New York. (Photo: Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

Hannah Swegarden, right, and technician Matt Wavrick transplant a kale cultivar from a research field at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, New York. (Photo: Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

Cornell Chronicle [2-16-11-17]:

A Cornell program is reimagining kale – its color, shape and even flavor – in a bid to breed the naturally biodiverse vegetable for consumer satisfaction.

Traits of importance for plant production, such as resistance to disease, pests and drought are often a major focus for plant breeders. Consumers, however, are usually more interested in the culinary and aesthetic qualities of vegetables that directly impact their preparation in the kitchen.

Cornell vegetable breeder Phillip Griffiths, a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and doctoral student Hannah Swegarden have embarked on a program to identify the different leaf shapes, colors, flavors and textures favored by consumers, and breed for those traits.

Read the whole article.

Horticulture Section Wine Tour

From Hannah Swegarden, Society of Horticulture for Graduate Students (SoHo):

35 people attended Horticulture Wine Tour this past Saturday. It was a beautiful day and we visited Domaine Leseuerre, Keuka Brewing Co., and Keuka Lake Vineyards.  We even made it to Bully Hill to snap a picture:

soho wine tour at bully hill

Toward Sustainability Foundation grant deadline is Dec. 5

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 $1.2 million in funding for more than 100 faculty and student projects that examine the technological, social, political, and economic elements of sustainable agriculture.

The deadline for proposals for the 2017 round of funding is December 5, 2016

Read more about TSF grants, download the full Request for Proposals, and view titles and contacts of recent projects.

A 2016 Toward Sustainability Foundation grant helped fuel construction of a moveable high tunnell at Dilmun Hill Student Farm featuring an innovative design by Alena Hutchinson '18.

A 2016 Toward Sustainability Foundation grant helped fuel construction of a movable high tunnel at Dilmun Hill Student Farm featuring an innovative design by Alena Hutchinson ’18.

Seminar video: Waste management at Cornell

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Waste management at Cornell: How does it work and why should we care? with Horticulture Sustainability Committee, it  is available online.

More information about Cornell University R5 Operations (Respect, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle): r5.fs.cornell.edu

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

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