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Cornell Plant Breeder Develops Better Cucumbers

Lauren Brzozowski inspects cucumber plants in the Guterman Greenhouse Complex. Photo by Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Plant breeding graduate student Lauren Brzozowski inspects cucumber plants in the Guterman Greenhouse Complex. Photo by Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Excerpted from article by Melanie Greaver Cordova in CALS News [2017-06-29]

Plant breeding graduate student Lauren Brzozowski’s research is giving farmers access to more resilient breeding lines as she ultimately works to develop new cucumber and squash varieties that can be cultivated without pesticides. Her work with organic breeding systems earned her a fellowship from the Seed Matters Initiative of the Clif Bar Family Foundation, which funds graduate students working for organic systems by breeding better varieties of plants. Seed Matters works toward crop diversity as well as improving education and research in the agricultural sector.

Brzozowski is working with Michael Mazourek, assistant professor of plant breeding and horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Integrative Plant Science, to develop more resilient cucumbers and other vegetables, such as variegated snacking peppers and summer squash. The striped cucumber beetle is similarly destructive in summer squash, not only defoliating the plants, but transmitting diseases as well.

“Lauren’s work highlights the importance of innovation in organic agriculture for all agricultural systems,” Mazourek said. “By working on alternatives to chemical disease and insect control, we can have solutions now for organic growers that are adopted by conventional growers as well when their use of pesticides becomes restricted or loses effectiveness.”

“Organic growers don’t have a lot of the same tools as conventional growers for addressing many of the problems they face on the farm,” Brzozowski said. “We really need resistant varieties to help all farmers succeed.”

Brzozowski became hooked on plant breeding as a way to increase the sustainability of agricultural systems. She uses her background in engineering and horticulture to develop crops that benefit farmers: “You get to use science and math to bring together basic research into something that can be applied and tangible for growers. It’s thrilling.”

Read the whole article.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Cornell team helps rescue National Mall elms

Bassuk uses a penetrometer to measure soil compaction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Yoshiki Harada)

Bassuk uses a penetrometer to measure soil compaction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Yoshiki Harada)

A team of Cornell experts is helping the National Park Service aid ailing elms ringing the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“There are hundreds of trees in this iconic landscape that really need help,” says Nina Bassuk, director of Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI), who is leading the team.

“When it’s hot, people gather in the shade under these trees, making soil compaction from all the foot traffic a huge problem,” adds Bassuk, who is also a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. Dutch elm disease and other maladies also plague many of the trees.

The Park Service asked Bassuk to put her expertise helping trees cope with tough urban environments to work helping them develop a master plan for managing the trees. She traveled to Washington in mid-June to begin gathering more information along with horticulture graduate student Yoshiki Harada, UHI visiting fellow Bryan Denig, and Barb Neal, a community educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tioga County who has extensive professional landscaping experience in the Washington metro area.

Neal, Denig and Bassuk assess the health of one of the iconic elms ringing the National Mall.  (Photo: Yoshiki Harada)

Neal, Denig and Bassuk assess the health of one of the iconic elms ringing the National Mall. (Photo: Yoshiki Harada)

Harada and Bassuk collected more than 100 soil samples, half sent to the Cornell Soil Health Lab for analysis and half used to measure the soil’s bulk density, an indicator of compaction.

Meantime, Neal and Denig – both certified arborists – conducted a tree inventory and risk assessment to determine the health status of the individual trees and to let the Park Service know which should be removed and which will require frequent monitoring so as not to pose a hazard.

Once the soil analyses are completed and Bassuk has digested the data, she’ll report her findings back to the Park Service. “We’ll focus on what steps can be taken going forward to help these trees thrive,” she says.

Symposium showcases NYSAES science June 23

2016 symposium

Reposted from CALS News:

Fascinating science is being done at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), and student researchers are eager to share their work.

Organized by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, the second annual Research Symposium will provide an overview of research being conducted across departments, sections and groups on the Geneva campus.

The symposium – June 23 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Jordan Hall – aims to launch student-driven interdisciplinary collaboration among NYSAES scientists, according to Larissa Osterbaan and Adrienne Gorny, student coordinators for the event organized by the Student Association of the Geneva Experiment Station.

The free event aims to spark conversations that lead to further interdisciplinary projects, said Osterbaan, a doctoral candidate in the field of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology.

“The entire Cornell community as well as local and regional growers and other NYSAES stakeholders are encouraged to attend,” she said. “We’re especially eager to have some of our Ithaca colleagues join us in Geneva for the day to hear about our latest research.”

This year’s symposium will feature keynote speaker Sam Crowell, Ph.D. ’15, agricultural science adviser at the U.S. Department of State. Crowell will speak about his journey from Cornell to the State Department and on the role of agricultural sciences within the U.S. executive branch.

The symposium is funded through the NYSAES Director’s fund, the Sections of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology and Horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Science, and the Department of Entomology.

A light lunch and refreshments will be provided. Transportation will be arranged for attendees coming from Ithaca.

The deadline to register is June 12.

In the news: Seed to Supper, hard cider course, ag career day

hofo plant sale

From University Photo’s May 2 Picture Cornell feature: Hortus Forum member Patty Chan helps a customer at the club’s plant sale on Ho Plaza at Spring Fest on April 20. The club will have a bedding plant sale featuring vegetable and flower transplants May 19 from 3 to 6 p.m. and May 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Kenneth Post Laboratories. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photograph)

A roundup of recent news:

Seed to Supper Connects Students with the Community – Marcia Eames-Sheavly’s Seed to Supper two-semester course sequence is part of a statewide Seed to Supper initiative that connects Cornell Cooperative Extension offices with local food banks and volunteer educators who teach adults on a limited budget how to garden and grow their own food, thereby creating more food-secure communities.[CALS News 2017-05-02, Cornell Chronicle 2017-05-02]

As presenter at the 2017 Building the Agricultural Intellect of the Finger Lakes Youth Career Day, Larry Smart, associate professor of plant breeding and genetics, showed high school students some of the tools he uses in his research at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

As presenter at the 2017 Building the Agricultural Intellect of the Finger Lakes Youth Career Day, Larry Smart, associate professor of plant breeding and genetics, showed high school students some of the tools he uses in his research at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

Agriculture Career Day Exposes Teens to Diverse Fields – From dairy robotics and precision farming technology to the chemistry of wine making and integrated pest management, jobs in agriculture dot a diverse and varied career map in the Finger Lakes. Helping area high school students navigate ag-related vocational opportunities was the goal of the 2017 Building the Agricultural Intellect of the Finger Lakes Youth Career Day April 26. [CALS News 2017-05-04, Cornell Chronicle 2017-05-04]

Course teaches hard cider production, from fruit to fermentation – To prepare students to become leaders in the burgeoning cider industry, Gregory Peck, assistant professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.and Kathleen Arnink, lecturer in the viticulture and enology program in the Department of Food Science, initiated a cider production lecture and laboratory course. The first of its kind in the country, the course teaches the full cycle of production, from growing apples to fermenting cider. [CALS News 2017-05-04, Cornell Chronicle 2017-05-02]

students in pounder

In Cornell Botanic Gardens’ Pounder Vegetable Garden, gardener Emily Detrick (left, MPS Public Garden Leadership ’16) shows Organic Vegetable Gardening (PLHRT 1250) students how to use fabric row covers to protect young crops from insect pests. Horticulture chair Steve Reiners teaches the course.

Thompson awarded the Sellew Family Fellowship

Grant Thompson and Mark Sellew

Grant Thompson and Mark Sellew


Reposted from Discovery that Connects (SIPS blog):

The School of Integrative Plant Science is pleased to announce that Grant Thompson, PhD student in the Field of Horticulture, has been awarded the inaugural Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship.  Thompson works in the program of Jenny Kao-Kniffin, investigating how land use legacy impacts soil microbial community structure and function as it relates to soil organic matter dynamics in turfgrass systems.  Greater understanding of these processes will lead to more sustainable management of urban landscapes.

The Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship is supported by a current use fund of $50,000 from Mark ‘78 and Lisa ‘79 Sellew and was created to highlight the valuable role that graduate students play in contributing to the educational experience of Cornell undergraduates.

During his time in the Kao-Kniffin lab, Thompson has mentored several undergraduates including Princess Swan (BS Plant Sciences, ’15), Laura Kaminsky (BS Plant Sciences, ’17), and Michelle Chen. Kao-Kniffin wrote in Thompson’s application, “Grant worked with three different students on field and lab methodological measurements, training each student very carefully with rather complex techniques.” She added, “Grant is a very professional and mature graduate student that thinks deeply about mentoring and the impact it has on the effective training of a new generation of scientists.”

Mentee Laura Kaminsky commented, “Grant has taught me that science is truly a collaborative action. He invested himself into many facets of my project and growth as an undergraduate researcher. My research flourished as a result of his expertise and support, and I likely wouldn’t have half my data (nor the ability to interpret it) without him.” Kaminsky attributes her passion for research to her experience in the Kao-Kniffin lab.  Following graduation she will be moving to Penn State University to begin work on a PhD in Environmental Microbiology.

The Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship will be awarded to a student in a different SIPS graduate field for each of five years. In subsequent years, the awardee will be selected (in order) from the Fields of Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology, Plant Biology, Soil and Crop Sciences, and Plant Breeding and Genetics.

Mattson, Whitlow, Bassuk lauded for urban horticulture efforts in PeriodiCALS

Mattson (top) and Whitlow

Horticulture Section faculty Neil Mattson and Tom Whitlow  are among the CALS faculty focusing their efforts on urban agriculture and other innovations that will reap benefits for city dwellers. With varied areas of focus, from climate change to food and social injustice to human health, they and other CALS faculty agree that challenges related to these issues can be traced to the severe lack of space in increasingly population-dense cities. Read more in Sky’s the Limit in the latest issue of PeriodiCALS, the College’s news magazine.

Other horticultural coverage in PeriodiCALS includes:

A host of horticulture events April 24-28

Kick off the week with Christine Hadekel’s return to the Horticulture Section to talk about the ‘Seed to Supper’ program: Reaching underserved audiences through garden education at Monday’s seminar. Then flesh out your calendar with a host of other events of horticulture interest:

The Curious Mister Catesby: A “Truly Ingenious” Naturalist Explores New Worlds – April 26

Leslie Overstreet, curator of Natural-History Rare Books at the Smithsonian Libraries, will talk about the historical and scientific significance of plant explorer and artist Mark Catesby (1683–1749), and his monumental book, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. April 26, 2017 at 4:00p.m., Mann Library, Stern Seminar Room 160.

Community Gardens Seminar – April 26

Learn about the importance of community gardening, its impact and how you can get involved on campus and at home. Hosted by Hortus Forum and featuring Fiona Doherty (Cornell Garden-Based Learning), Steve Reiners (Horticulture Section) and Chris Smart (SIPS director).

Speaker: Melissa Madden, Finger Lakes Cider House/Good Life Farm – April 26

Part of the Ithaca Food Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. April 26, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., 102 Mann Library. Presented by Dilmun Hill Student Farm. Funded by Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. Refreshments provided.

Iscol Lecture: Michael Pollan ‘Out of the Garden’ – April 27

The Atkinson Center’s Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture this year features author Michael Pollan, April 27, 5:00 p.m. David L. Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall.: “When Michael Pollan faced his suburban lawn in the 1980s, he looked past the Bermuda grass and saw acreage ripe for invention and discovery. ‘The garden suggests there might be a place,’ he concluded, ‘where we can meet nature halfway.’ His books look at nature close to home: the garden, the farm, the table. Today Pollan tells the story of the path his writing has taken since he planted his first vegetable garden. Beginning with that horticultural adventure, his work has evolved into an exploration of human engagement with the natural world. What’s at stake when we garden, cook, and eat is not only our health, Pollan argues, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth.”

michael pollan

Horticulture Outreach Day – April 28

Hands on activities to learn about the diverse field of horticulture: Chia pet sculpture, printing from plants, mushroom inoculation. April 28, 1 to 4 p.m. Purple Greenhouses, Plant Sciences Building. (Go to the basement floor and look for the signs.) Sponsored by Society of Horticulture Graduate Students (SoHo).

Bauerle Lab inspires young scientists at ‘Expanding Your Horizons’

EYH participants assemble water columns .

EYH participants assemble water columns .

As part Cornell’s Expanding Your Horizons program April 15, Horticulture graduate students in the Bauerle Lab — Annika Huber, Juana Muñoz Ucros, and Marie Zwetsloot — led workshop sessions on “Engineers of Nature: How do plants drink?”

The three developed activities directly related to their research on woody plant root physiology and helping plants cope with water stress. Their middle school workshop participants assembled water columns simulating the hydraulic systems plants use to transport water from roots to leaves, graphed their observations of how different sized tubes performed, used water to transport dyes into sunflower plants, and skeletonized leaves to observe the microscopic structure of their veins.

“It’s the third year Annika, Juana and Marie have pitched in to lead workshops for this event,” says Taryn Bauerle, associate professor in the Horticulture Section. “It’s great to see them as role models for the next generation of scientists.”

Annika Huber had middle school participants use water to transport dyes into sunflower leaf veins so they can observe their microscopic structure.

Annika Huber had middle school participants use water to transport dyes into sunflower leaf veins so they can observe their microscopic structure.

EYH student graphs water column experiment data.

Juana Muñoz Ucros helps EYH student graph water column experiment data.

Marie Zwetsloot assists student with microscopic observation of leaf structure.

Marie Zwetsloot assists student with microscopic observation of leaf structure.

Seminar video: Finding Anna: The archival treasure hunt into the life of Anna Botsford Comstock

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar Finding Anna: The archival treasure hunt into the life of Anna Botsford Comstock  with Karen Penders St. Clair, Graduate Field of Horticulture, it is available online.

 

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

In the news

Vanden Heuvel

Vanden Heuvel

Vanden Heuvel receives NYFVI grant [CALS News 2017-04-13] – Wine grape growers in the Finger Lakes region will be getting a high-tech view of both their vineyards and bottom lines thanks to work from Justine Vanden Heuvel. A project from the associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science will help select growers use drone technology to collect remote sensing measurements known as normalized difference vegetation index, or NDVI images. Her research is one of 11 projects led by Cornell scientists who received a total of more than $1.1 million from the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI) in their latest round of funding, announced April 12.

Bosco

Bosco

Bosco awarded Engaged Cornell grant [CALS News 2017-04-12] – Graduate Field of Horticulture Ph.D. student Sam Bosco is one of 16 students to receive an Engaged Graduate Student Grant. The grants provide opportunities for Ph.D. students and their thesis advisors to conduct research or scholarship that is community engaged or to develop strategies for incorporating community engagement into existing thesis work. Bosco is working with Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse, aka Iroquois) communities to further remember and restore their traditional foodways — much of which was lost during colonization — of integrating nut trees into a sustainable food system. Bosco’s work includes facilitating nut tree cultivation, and co-developing culturally-specific curricula, resources, and activities to expand interest and consumption of nuts. His advisor is Jane Mt. Pleasant, School of Integrative Plant Science – Horticulture, and American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program.

Peck

Peck

Spanish cider from American soil [Draft Magazine 2017-04-11] – “With the huge growth in the cider industry over the last five years, I think there are many commercial cider makers looking at how to make a product that’s quite different from what’s out there,”  Greg Peck, tells Draft Magazine. Peck, assistant professor in the Horticulture Section, is working with the USDA to test and release the new Spanish apple varieties.

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