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Genetic marking discovery could ease plant breeders’ work

bruce reisch with grapevines on a sunny day

Bruce Reisch, professor of horticulure and member of the VitsGen2 team at Cornell AgriTech, assesses powdery mildew on chardonnay vines. Photo: Allison Usavage/Cornell University

Cornell Chronicle/CALS News [2020-01-21]

Plant breeders are always striving to develop new varieties that satisfy growers, producers and consumers.

To do this, breeders use genetic markers to bring desirable traits from wild species into their cultivated cousins. Transferring those markers across species has been difficult at best, but a team of grapevine breeders, geneticists and bioinformatic specialists at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York, has come up with a powerful new method.

Their research is detailed in “Haplotyping the Vitis Collinear Core Genome With rhAmpSeq Improves Marker Transferability in a Diverse Genus,” published Jan. 21 in Nature Communications.

The team’s new technique for developing genetic markers improves markers’ transfer rate across grapevine species by leaps and bounds – from 2% to 92%. With it, breeders worldwide can screen their collections and find out immediately which vines have the traits they want – regardless of what varieties they are, where they came from or which species their parents were.

“This new marker development strategy goes well beyond grapes,” said co-author Bruce Reisch, professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and leader of Cornell’s Grapevine Breeding and Genetics Program. “It’s applicable for breeding and genetic studies across different grape breeding programs, plant species and other diverse organisms.”

Read the whole article.

How much would you pay for the perfect strawberry?

Marvin Pritts with high tunnel raspberries

Marvin Pritts with high tunnel raspberries.

According to an article in Time Magazine published online January 9,  high-end “Omakase berries”  —  a Japanese strawberry variety known for its “beautiful aroma and exceptional sweetness” with a seedless exterior and “creamy texture” — will set you back $50 for a package of eight.

Even if you could afford them, it’s unlikely you’ll ever see them in the supermarket any time soon at any price because “what supermarkets stock tends to be what they can sell with ease and consistency; a pesky thing like flavor is secondary,” explains Marvin Pritts, Professor of Horticulture at Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science.   “Consumer demand for a year-round supply of everything makes it challenging for supermarkets to provide consumers with consistently good-tasting fruits and vegetables — so they try to make everything generic,” he says.

Pritts believes that despite the fact that they are priced out of the reach of most consumers, innovations like the Omakase berry are only encouraging, and we should be excited about “anything that contributes to people eating more fruits and vegetables.”  He suggests checking out local farms and picking your own fruit. “This could be a blessing in disguise, as it will expose consumers to what really good fruit can taste like,” he points out.

Read the whole article.

Art of Horticulture final projects

poppy skateboardIf you’d like to catch a glimpse of students’ final projects in the Art of Horticulture course, you can sneak a peek online.

You can also see previous classes’ work (as well as other class projects and videos) by visiting the Art of Horticulture’s gallery page.

Emily Detrick (MPS Horticulture ’16), who is a lecturer in the Horticulture Section and Director of Horticulture at Cornell Botanic Gardens, teaches the course.  She started teaching the course —  created by Marcia Eames-Sheavly in 2003 — in 2018.





Yale Climate Connections features Bassuk, sustainable landscapes trail

Peterson Lot near Stocking Hall features porous asphalt and a rain garden to reduce runoff.

Peterson Lot near Stocking Hall features porous asphalt and a rain garden to reduce runoff.

Yale Climate Connections is a nonpartisan, multimedia service providing daily broadcast radio programming and original web-based reporting, commentary, and analysis on the issue of climate change. Last week, they featured Nina Bassuk in an episode entitled. A walking trail shows how Cornell is adapting to extreme weather:

“On their way to class, Cornell University students stroll past a garden planted with bayberry and red-twigged dogwood shrubs. But they may not know that this is a rain garden that helps filter and hold water during heavy storms. Cornell horticulture professor Nina Bassuk says the university has been using techniques for sustainable landscapes for a long time, but people didn’t know that they were special in some way.”

Listen to the whole episode:

Learn more about the sustainable landscapes trail.

Hortus Forum Poinsettia Sale Dec. 6&7

If you are looking for some gorgeous poinsettias, whether Tapestry or Red Glitter, Whitestar or Jubilee Jingle Bells, we’ve got you covered!

View all eight varieties available and fill out your pre-order preferences here. Or just come to our sale December 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or December 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Yellow Polyhouse 1135C at Post Circle Ithaca, NY.

Hortus Forum is Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club, cultivating a positive community which fosters a passion for plants and teaches the value of horticulture.

hortus forum poinsettia poster

Majors gather to bake pies

group shot of majors

To get in the holiday spirit, de-stress from prelims, and socialize, new Plant Sciences Majors gathered at the home of Director of Undergraduate Studies Marvin Pritts to bake a variety of pies with help from Plant Sciences Major Coordinator Leah Cook .  A festive time was had by all.

plant sciences majors baking pies

Vanden Heuvel to lead CAU wine masterclass

Fruit of the Vine: The History and Culture of Drinking Wine
Cornell Adult University
February 7–9, 2020

Justine Vanden Heuvel

Take a wine masterclass taught by wise and witty Cornell faculty with CAU. Join horticulturist Justine Vanden Heuvel and classics professor Michael Fontaine for a weekend seminar on the science, history, and culture of drinking wine in Ithaca, New York.

We’ll attend lectures on the Cornell campus, discuss wine pairings over dinner, travel to local Finger Lakes wineries for exclusive tastings, and enjoy lunch and a fireside chat at the historic Aurora Inn.

You’ll leave the weekend with knowledge about the origins of wine, the effects of the environment on crops, and fascinating tales about wine counterfeiting throughout the ages.

Register by November 15th to save 20% off the program fee!

A block of rooms have been reserved at a reduced price at the Statler Hotel, the hub of our on-campus event, for a limited time. Book a room with the link on our program’s website.

View the preliminary schedule.

Moonbeam adds a big bang of flavor to Galaxy tomatoes

Griffiths picking tomatoes

Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture, picks Moonbeam tomatoes at Cornell AgriTech.

Cornell Chronicle, CALS News [2019-11-06]

Fresh from Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York, the newest grape tomato – Moonbeam – has joined a constellation of tasty, small, heirloom-style tomatoes in the 2020 High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog, released Nov. 1 to home gardeners and commercial growers.

“Moonbeam is a very good eating experience from start to finish … from first bite to aftertaste,” said Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture at Cornell AgriTech, who started developing Moonbeam in 2006 and made it a selection in 2011.

Moonbeam is considered a white grape tomato, with a citrus flavor. In the High Mowing catalog, it joins five other small tomatoes in the catalog’s Cornell-developed Galaxy Suite collection: Supernova, a marbled mini-Roma; Midnight Pear, a small, dark pigmented, pear-shape fruit; Comet, a plump, red grape tomato; Sungrazer, an orange colored grape tomato; and Starlight, a slender, finger-shaped, yellow grape tomato.

The High Mowing catalog called Moonbeam a “glowing white, translucent grape tomato with oblong frame and delicious, fruity bite. This remarkable tomato has dramatic visual appeal, especially when added to a small tomato mix. Not only are these white grape tomatoes stunningly unique, they are packed with a tasty punch of unbeatable flavor.”

Beyond taste, Moonbeam is a highly productive grape tomato – with outstanding texture and exceptional looks – that is suited for home gardens, commercial fields and high tunnels, said Griffiths. It has a good shelf life and it is less likely to split.

Read the whole article.

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley is connecting people to plants

Cornell Chronicle and CALS News [2019-10-22]

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. Above, Hopkins-Hensley works with local children while interning at the Ithaca Children’s Garden in summer 2017. Photo provided

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. Above, Hopkins-Hensley works with local children while interning at the Ithaca Children’s Garden in summer 2017. Photo provided

Bailee Hopkins-Hensley ’18, MPS ’19, is passionate about exploring the connections that humans have to plants – especially the connections that indigenous communities have to the species that sustain them. She earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science in 2018 and a Master of Professional Studies in public garden leadership in 2019, but her interest in plants started when she was a child.

Her grandfather loved plants, and Hopkins-Hensley recalls his extensive gardens, both outside and in three rooms that were converted into a conservatory inside their Colorado home. He grew cacti inside and food plants outside. At age 12, she planted her first backyard garden.

“I wanted to explore the types of plants that my ancestors from my mom’s side of my family had planted to sustain themselves,” says Hopkins-Hensley. “I became very interested in the Three Sisters cropping system and tried growing squash, pumpkins and sunflowers.”

Cornell Botanic Gardens, in partnership with Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, offers a one-year MPS program for individuals interested in leading botanic gardens and similar organizations.

Read the whole article.

Toward Sustainability Foundation grant deadline is Dec. 6

For two decades, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has bolstered its sustainability research with a steady stream of gifts from the Toward Sustainability Foundation (TSF), a Massachusetts-based organization founded by an anonymous, eco-minded Cornell alumna.

Since 1999, TSF provided more than $1.5 million in funding for more than 100 faculty and student projects administered through the Horticulture Section that examine the technological, social, political, and economic elements of sustainable agriculture.

The deadline for proposals for the 2020 round of funding is December 6, 2019.

Read more about TSF grants, download the full Request for Proposals, and view titles and contacts of recent projects.

Entomologist Scott McArt lead session on pollinator-friendly gardens at Bluegrass Lane.

Entomologist Scott McArt leads a session on pollinator-friendly gardens at the Cornell Floriculture Field Day at Bluegrass Lane. McArt was a co-PI for the TSF-funded project, Assessing methods for and benefits of establishing beneficial insect habitat for growers and gardeners.

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