Many arrive at class early, stay late, answer questions before they can be asked and jump in to lecture at times when a professor’s research pulls her away from her students. Some tackle field research in Asia, outreach in Africa or biochemistry tutoring at midnight in Roberts Hall.
But all 29 of this year’s Outstanding Teaching Assistants honorees have at least one thing in common – the deep respect and gratitude of the more than two dozen faculty members and college leaders on hand in G10 Biotech on Thursday to offer their thanks.
“TAs definitely make a significant contribution to our teaching mission in the college, and we want to recognize that. You make a huge impact on the students you interact with,” said Donald Viands, associate dean and director of academic programs for CALS. “We’re here to celebrate the positive things that you all have done.”
Hortus Forum, Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club, will have its final plant sale of the school year on Friday, May 8, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Hortus Forum greenhouse at the Kenneth Post Lab greenhouse complex on Tower Rd. (Directions.)
The students will be selling their usual selection of tropicals and succulents, plus pitcher plants, air plants, ferns, ivy topiaries, and lots of spring bulbs (tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils).
And as long as you’re in the area, be sure to check out SoHo’s Horticulture Outreach Day activities …
Our planned Horticulture Outreach Day that was postponed because of rain and cold weather has been rescheduled:
Friday, May 8, 1 to 3 p.m. in the Horton classroom at Kenneth Post Lab.
Come learn about plant propagation, make beautiful artwork with plant materials (cyanotypes, right), create soil painting and compete with the bees for prizes in a game of pollination at the annual Horticultural Outreach Day.
24 graduate students, undergrads, faculty, staff and family members visited The Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Highland Park in Rochester, N.Y., during a field trip Sunday sponsored by Pi Alpha Xi, the horticulture honor society.
“The early spring flowers and the butterflies in the Butterfly Conservatory were lovely,” says Ed Cobb, research support specialist in the Plant Biology Section. “But the real highlight was seeing the magnificent mature trees.”
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.
“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.
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)
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.
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’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.
The 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.
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.
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.