More than 30 seed growers, researchers, food industry representatives, consumers and others attended the first Cornell Kale Day at the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm in Freeville, N.Y. August 23.
Phillip Griffiths, associate professor in the Horticulture Section, welcomed the group by pointing out the rapid growth in kale’s popularity, but also cautioning that it takes time to develop new varieties with superior agronomic traits and consumer appeal.
Griffiths’ efforts to breed new leafy brassicas began in 2008 with a focus on African kale (sukuma wiki). This effort expanded with support from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, incorporating diverse genetic material from collections maintaining biodiversity.
Participants spent most of the afternoon touring Griffiths’ breeding research, including plots featuring currently available varieties and breeding lines in various stages of refinement. To get feedback from the group, participants were asked to flag their favorite varieties. The feedback will help guide decisions for what hybrids will be used in on-farm trials next summer funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI), says horticulture graduate student Hannah Swegarden, who works with Griffiths.