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What I did on break

Many in the Cornell horticulture community embarked on expeditions of note over the break:

Mark Bridgen and Betsy Lamb led students in Special Topics in Horticulture: Plant Biodiversity (PLHRT 4940) on a trip to Chile for hands-on study and exploration of wild and native plants, commercial breeding programs, and botanical gardens and arboreta to supplement their classroom experiences last fall. See more pictures from the trip on their class blog.

Exploring native plants in Valle Nevado.

Exploring native plants in Valle Nevado.


Bryan Duff
and 13 undergraduates traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they spent all day every day for a week embedded in an elementary school that is turning to project-based learning to boost student motivation and performance. Bryan and the students taught the children to use video-making equipment and then guided them in making music videos for songs celebrating Black History Month.

Students try their hand at video (left). Duff interviews students waiting for class (right).

Students try their hand at video (left). Duff interviews students waiting for class (right).


Marvin Pritts
traveled to Myanmar with other faculty and students in IARD 6020 – International Agriculture in Developing Nations.

Temple-studded landscape.

Temple-studded landscape.

Click on thumbnails below to see more scenes from Myanmar:

Curiosity and expertise earn Excellence in IPM award for Cornell ‘pumpkin whisperer’

'Pumpkin whisperer' checks in with her 1,872-pound patient.

‘Pumpkin whisperer’ checks in with her 1,872-pound patient.

NYSIPM program news release:

Meg McGrath, a Cornell University plant pathologist based at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, is an internationally recognized researcher, sought-after speaker, and well-versed in the solutions to devastating plant diseases.

And for growers with trouble on their hands, she’s available at a moment’s notice.

These qualities and more have earned McGrath an Excellence in IPM award from Cornell University’s New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM).

McGrath’s expertise spans the gamut of IPM strategies and tactics that both organic and conventional growers use to combat disease pests such as late blight and downy mildew. “Meg embraced the concepts of integrated pest management from the beginning of her career,” says colleague Margery Daughtrey. “She does a splendid job of bringing her discoveries to the practical level for growers in dozens of presentations annually.”

But it’s her help in the field that farmers value the most — help that’s delivered with a welcome dose of levity. “Meg’s funny,” says Marilee Foster at Foster’s Farm in Sagponack. “She’ll say ‘I’m sorry, I’m a plant pathologist. I like to study sick plants.’” When a nearby outbreak of late blight threatened Foster’s organic heirloom tomatoes, Meg came to help scout — “arriving early so we’d have the visual benefit of dew,” Foster says.

When they found a handful of plants with symptoms, McGrath reviewed Foster’s alternatives, but none were suited for organic crops. The strategy they hit on together? Using a handheld weed-flamer to take down suspect plants. “Blight can’t handle temperatures much above eighty degrees,” Meg told Foster. “And it might feel good!”  Which, Foster agrees, it did.

Meg focuses on core IPM principles — principles such as careful identification so you don’t treat a disease the wrong way, or changing a crop’s environment to outsmart its pathogens. “She helps Long Island growers deal with the limited availability of products they can use to manage pests, given the island’s heightened groundwater concerns,” says Jennifer Grant, director, NYS IPM. “It’s not every day you find someone who brings such warmth and knowledge to a position that means so much to so many farmers’ livelihood.”

Marilee Foster echoes that. “I have long admired the energy and curiosity Meg brings to farmers in eastern Long Island. We are lucky to have her working with us, for everyone.”

McGrath received her award on January 18 at the 2017 Empire State Producers Expo in Syracuse, New York. Learn more about integrated pest management at nysipm.cornell.edu.

More information:

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].

The Grand Pomologist of Hard Cider

Greg Peck — arguably the nation’s preeminent hard cider scientist — is on a mission to turn America’s fledgling hard cider scene into a sophisticated industry, à la the viticulturists of California, according to Modern Farmer. Read more,

Peck talks cider apple production at 2016 cider field day at Cornell Orchards.

Peck talks cider apple production at 2016 cider field day at Cornell Orchards.

New botanical arts display in Plant Science Building

New botanical arts display in case west of the foyer on the first floor of the Plant Science Building.

New botanical arts display in case west of the foyer on the first floor of the Plant Science Building.

 

What comes to mind when you think of botanical arts?

A new display in the cabinets west of the first-floor foyer in Plant Science Building may challenge your notions.

“Many just think of floral design and botanical illustration,” says Marcia Eames-Sheavly, senior lecturer and senior Extension associate in the Horticulture Section.  “They’re important examples, but there’s so much more!”

For the display, Eames-Sheavly drew largely on works by students in her Art of Horticulture and Intensive Study in Botanical Illustration courses, and sprinkled in a few of her own.

“This display highlights just some of the expressions of the intersections of art and horticulture including works in cloth, concrete, gourds, pressed flowers and wood, as well as more traditional media such as pencil, acrylic, and watercolor,” she notes.

Undergraduates (who are not Plant Sciences majors) interested in pursuing the Horticulture Minor with a Focus in the Botanical Arts should visit the minor’s webpage or contact Eames-Sheavly: ME14@cornell.edu.

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.

Online garden design course starts March 13

garden_designx300Introduction to Garden Design
March 13 to April 28, 2017.
Cost: $675.
Enrollment limited to 12 students.

About the course

  • Learn garden site analysis and apply the concepts to your personal space.
  • Gain proficiency in basic garden design principles.
  • Articulate your personal aesthetic — what appeals to you, and what you enjoy.
  • Lay out a rough site plan overview of your garden design.

You’ll do all that and more if you take this 6-week online course (plus the introduction days), which provides an opportunity for you to design your own garden. You will be studying and experimenting with the basic design procedures, learning about proper plant selection, and you will write and reflect on the process as you learn. The instructor will take an active role in this creative endeavor by providing feedback on your assignments and journal entries. You will also have the opportunity to learn from one another through an open forum in which you can share your ideas with others.

This course is designed to encourage your discovery of basic garden design techniques. It is a garden design course for the beginner. We teach an approach to gardening that is based on the principle of right plant, right place. In other words, we will consider the needs of the plant in addition to the needs of the gardener.

Course schedule:

  • Introduction Days: Welcome & Introductions
  • Week 1: Site Assessment Part 1
  • Week 2: Site Assessment Part 2 / Basic Design Principles: Personal Style, Garden Unity, and Maintenance
  • Week 3: Basic Design Principles: Scale & Proportion, Balance & Symmetry, Repetition, Movement
  • Week 4: Basic Design Principles: Color, Form & Texture
  • Week 5: Designing Your Garden: Choosing & Buying Plants
  • Week 6: Designing Your Garden: Final Project and Buying Plants

More information/registration.

Full syllabus.

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.

NYSAES Gifts Brighten Holiday for Geneva Children

NYSAES staff, faculty, students, and NYSIPM Program and USDA-ARS employees sponsored 23 children from 12 families in the Geneva City School District as part of the Cornell University Elves Program.

NYSAES staff, faculty, students, and NYSIPM Program and USDA-ARS employees sponsored 23 children from 12 families in the Geneva City School District as part of the Cornell University Elves Program.

From Matt Hayes, CALS communications:

This holiday season will be even merrier — and warmer — for nearly two dozen Geneva school children thanks to Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES).

Members of the Station community sponsored 23 children from 12 families in the Geneva City School District as part of the Cornell University Elves Program. The Elves Program was founded in 1989 to benefit elementary school students who are in greatest need.

This is the 5th year members of NYSAES have taken part in the program by providing local children with a new outfit of clothes, pajamas, a winter hat, gloves, and a toy.

The support comes from across the Geneva campus: staff, faculty, students, including those in the Student Association of the Geneva Experiment Station (SAGES), as well as members of the New York State Integrated Pest Management and those in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service based in Geneva all took part.

This year the community also purchased new boots and winter coats for almost all of the children, said Beth Demmings, a postdoctoral associate and VitisGen project manager.

“Each year I am blown away by the overwhelming generosity of this small campus to support families in the greater community of Geneva,” said Demmings, who co-coordinated this year’s event with Jessica Townley.

Station members wrapped the gifts on Dec. 14 during a lunch hosted by the office of Susan Brown, the Goichman Family Director of the NYSAES and the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

All of the gifts will be delivered to West Street School this week.

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