Archive for the “Grad program” Category

Nina Bassuk and Urban Eden students tag a Littleleaf Linden in front of Warren Hall.

Nina Bassuk and Urban Eden students tag a Littleleaf Linden in front of Warren Hall.

What’s a tree worth?

Students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) are helping to make people more aware of why trees are worth hugging by hanging bright green “price tags” on trunks around the Ag Quad.

The students entered data about the trees, such as species, diameter and location, into i-Tree — a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service. The application then calculates monetary benefits from reduced stormwater runoff, improved air quality,  carbon dioxide sequestration and energy savings to nearby buildings by blocking wind in winter and providing shade in summer.

“It’s really quite eye-opening for people who think that trees are just nice to look at and don’t have any other value,” said Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who leads the class alongside Peter Trowbridge, professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

There are also benefits that are not easily quantified, such as wildlife habitats and emotional responses, added Bassuk, who is also director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

More Urban Eden tree-taggers:

Urban Eden students tagging trees on Ag Quad.


Urban Eden students tagging trees on Ag Quad.

Urban Eden students tagging trees on Ag Quad.

Urban Eden students tagging trees on Ag Quad.

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Poppy cyanotype

Poppy cyanotype

From Jeffrey Beem-Miller, Society of Horticulture for Graduate Students (SoHo):

Celebrate Horticulture this Earth Day! Come learn about plant propagation, make beautiful artwork with plant materials (cyanotypes, right), and compete with the bees for prizes in a game of pollination at the annual Horticultural Outreach Day.

April 22 (Earth Day), 12 to 2 p.m.
On the Ag Quad south (by Plant Science)

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Emily Detrick

Emily Detrick

Emily Detrick, graduate student in the Public Garden Leadership program, will speak on Cultivating Alpine Plants in the Northeast at the April 18 meeting of the Adirondack Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society.

Before coming to Cornell, Detrick was the alpine horticulturist at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, N.Y., where she worked with a diverse collection of alpine plants from around the world developed by the late Frank Cabot and long-time director Caroline Burgess. Detrick will share what she learned about which alpine plants and growing practices are best suited to the inhospitable conditions they face in Ithaca and the Northeast.

The program is free and open to the public and starts at 1 p.m in Plant Science 404. Bring a brown bag lunch and socialize starting noon.

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Kevin Panke-Buisse

Kevin Panke-Buisse

Cornell University researchers have discovered that it is possible to alter plant flowering time and other traits by manipulating soil microbial communities, a finding that they ultimately hope will help reduce crop inputs on everything from greenhouse plants to agronomic crops.

“For example, if we can give grass a competitive edge over weeds by enriching the soil with microorganisms that provide benefits only to the grass while suppressing the growth of other plants, it will give us another tool to grow high-quality turf without resorting to chemical weed control,” says weed specialist Jenny Kao-Kniffin, assistant professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, one of the study’s authors.

Developing such tools is particularly important with the 2010 passage in New York of the Child Safe Playing Fields Act – and similar laws in other states – that prohibit pesticide applications to playgrounds and athletic fields at schools and daycare facilities, she adds.

The study, Selection on soil microbiomes reveals reproducible impacts on plant function, was published October 28, 2014, in The ISME Journal, and has been in the top ten of articles downloaded at the journal’s website for weeks.

The study’s lead author, Kevin Panke-Buisse, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Field of Horticulture, used a single genotype of Arabidopsis thaliana to develop two different soil microbial communities. He grew the plants for 10 generations, harvesting soil each time from early- and late-flowering plants to inoculate the soil for the next generation.

“By using seeds from the same Arabidopsis genotype – keeping the plant genetics the same from generation to generation within an inbred line – we were able to verify that the differences in flowering time were due to differences in the microbial inoculants alone,” he observes.

When Panke-Buisse then used the resulting inoculants to grow additional Arabidopsis genotypes and a related mustard-family plant (Brassica rapa) — an important agronomic crop — he found that the soil inoculation continued to either delay or accelerate flowering with these different plants.

Analyses showed that the early-flowering soils were dominated by bacteria from families associated with decomposition and nutrient mineralization. The late-flowering soils were dominated by different bacteria families known for promoting plant growth.

“But the greatest differences we saw were in the presence or absence of relatively rare bacteria, suggesting that they could play a big role in controlling flowering time despite being in low abundance,” Panke-Buisse notes.

Later flowering plants also saw a 50 to 100 percent increase in biomass. “If we can harness soil microbes so that we can enhance grass density and shade out competing weeds, it should go a long way to help us reduce herbicide use,” he adds.

Panke-Buisse and Kao-Kniffin plan to further investigate how soil microbes affect other plant traits and apply what they learn to other horticultural systems.


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chili-cook-offx400-4583The annual School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) Chili Cook-Off was an event not to be missed.

Students, faculty, and staff from all five Sections packed Emerson 135 Thursday to sample traditional and exotic versions ranging from hot to savory to sweet — many making use of unusual ingredients not found in most recipes. The creations demonstrated the kind of creativity, ingenuity and good taste you’d expect from SIPS folks.

18 teams competed for prizes in three categories.

And the winners were:

  • Meat category: Get Shorty by  Jenn Thomas-Murphy, Soil and Crop Sciences
  • Vegetarian category: Pineapple Chili by Sammy Mainiero and Sam Leiboff, Plant Biology
  • Wild card category: Bunny Chow by Andy Read, Ian Small, Monica Carvalho, Jose Vargas Asencio, PPPMB/Plant Biology

“It was a lot of fun and a big success,” says Adam Karl, Horticulture graduate student who has helped organize the event three years running.

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pax keyFrom Mark Bridgen, Professor and Pi Alpha Xi advisor:

Pi Alpha Xi (PAX), the national honor society for horticulture, inducted new members on March 13, 2015. (See photo caption below.) Only the best students in the plant sciences are invited to join this national honor society.

Pi Alpha Xi was founded in 1923 at Cornell University and is the Alpha Chapter. Originally, it was the national honor society for floriculture, landscape horticulture and ornamental horticulture. In recent years it has changed and now honors excellence in all of horticulture.

Since its founding, PAX has grown to 36 chapters at baccalaureate-granting institutions. Its mission is to promote scholarship, fellowship, professional leadership, and the enrichment of human life through plants. PAX was very active at Cornell University for many years, peaking in the 1970s. But the chapter went dormant for several years until its revival in 2013.

In 2014 PAX activities included a 3-day excursion to visit botanical gardens in the Phildadelphia area and a collaboration with Hortus Forum (Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club) to revamp the planters in the Plant Science Building foyer. Society members also planted spring-flowering bulbs last fall around CALS that we’ll all be enjoying soon.

pax inductees

2015 PAX inductees and advisors, left to right, Tom Weiler, Horticulture professor emeritus; Neil Mattson, Horticulture associate professor; Ben Stormes, MPS/Public Garden Leadership program; Lauren Fessler ’17; Lindsay Chamberlain, ’17; Karl Kunze, ’17; Catherine Migneco, ’16; Matthew Uhalde, ’17; Jeremy Pardo, ’17; Justin Lombardoni, ’16; Emily Detrick, MPS/Public Garden Leadership program; Nor Kamal Ariff Nor Hisham Shah, MS Plant Breeding; Mark Bridgen, Horticulture professor and PAX Advisor.

Graduating members will wear the traditional PAX honor cords of cerulean blue and Nile green (the society’s colors) at commencement. They include graduate students Adam Karl and James Keach and seniors Kaitlyn Anderson, Danielle Park, Jeffrey Janusz and Angella Macias.

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pbicon24th Annual Cornell Plant Breeding Symposium
Domestication: The crossroads of cultural and natural diversity

Friday, March 20, 2015 ▪ 8:30am-4:45pm ▪ 135 Emerson Hall
Free registration for in-person and webinar attendance.


  • Contrasting patterns of genetic diversity between village dogs and purebred dogs – Adam Boyko, Cornell University
  • Discovery approaches within an industry context: How can crop native traits help inform the forward problem? – Bob Meeley, DuPont Pioneer
  • Agrobiodiversity as coupled systems: interactions of cultural and natural diversity amid global environmental and socioeconomic changes – Karl Zimmerer, Penn State
  • Tale of two underutilized tree crops: Where did they come from and where are they going? – Nyree Zerega, Northwestern University
  • Evolutionary genetics of maize adaptation: domestication and beyond – Jeff Ross-Ibarra, UC Davis
  • Hopi corn, the soul of Hopi culture – Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, Hopi Cultural Preservation Office

Sponsored by DuPont Pioneer and organized by the graduate students of Plant Breeding and Genetics.

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Xanthorrhoeaceae Aloidendron dichotoma (green) and Homo sapiens var. Miles Schwarz Sax (red)

Xanthorrhoeaceae Aloidendron dichotoma (green) and Homo sapiens var. Miles Schwarz Sax (red)

March 9, 2015 at 12:20 p.m. to 1:10 p.m.
404 Plant Science.
Also available via Polycom to A134 Barton Hall in Geneva.

Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar will feature Miles Schwarz Sax, Ph.D. candidate, Graduate Field of Horticulture and 2014 Frederick Dreer Award recipient. The award funded Miles’ travels in South Africa.

Internationally recognized as a biodiversity hotspot and home to roughly 10 percent of the vascular plant biodiversity on less than 1 percent of the earth’s land surface, South Africa has a long been admired as a botanical wonder. With charismatic endemic plants such as Proteas, Pelargoniums (geranium), Bird-of-paradise and Calla lilies, the horticultural introductions from this region have had impacts across the world.

The Frederick Dreer Award, administered by the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, offers wonderful opportunity for one or more students to spend 4 months to up to a year abroad pursuing his or her interests related to horticulture. The application deadline for the current cycle just closed. But you can view the application and instructions to start planning ahead for the 2016 award.

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chili_cookoffFrom horticulture grad student Adam Karl:

The School of Integrative Plant Science Chili Cook-Off will be held in Emerson 135 on Thursday, March 19th from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m. The Sections of Crop and Soil Science, Horticulture, Plant Biology, Plant Breeding, and Plant Pathology should assemble their best chili chefs in three categories:

  1. Meat
  2. Vegetarian
  3. Wild Card (non-traditional chilis)

Students, Faculty, and Staff are all welcome to participate! To enter the contest, email chili entries to Adam Karl (

Please include the following info:

  • names of cooks
  • section
  • category
  • name of chili

Registration deadline is Friday, March 13. We only have room for 20 chili entrants – so don’t delay registering!

There will be prizes for the winner of each chili category.

We look forward to sampling some chili with you!

 The Chili Cook-Off Team

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dilmun logoDilmun Hill, Cornell’s student-run farm,  is currently looking for students who would like to conduct research at the farm. This is a great opportunity for students interested in agroecology, soil science, horticulture, agronomy or other related fields.

If interested, please fill out the application and submit to Betsy Leonard by Friday, March 13th.

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