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Geneva saves Cornell Orchards’ cider season

Cider coming off the press at Cornell Orchards. ()Photo: Jason Koski/Cornell Marketing)

Cider coming off the press at Cornell Orchards. ()Photo: Jason Koski/Cornell Marketing)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-12-06]:

Unfavorable apple growing conditions in Ithaca this season nearly crushed a seasonal favorite: Cornell Orchards’ cider. But with the help of Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, New York, the popular beverage pressed right on campus is once again available to the Cornell community.

For a time this fall, the production of Cornell cider seemed in jeopardy. Erratic temperatures and a late spring frost followed by a persistent summer drought spelled trouble for the Ithaca campus apple trees used to make the cider.

While Ithaca’s apples suffered, the orchards 50 miles north in Geneva benefited from slightly more favorable conditions.

Read the whole article.

 

Kale Is About To Have An Identity Crisis

Photos: Hannah Swegarden

Photos: Hannah Swegarden

NPR’s The Salt [2016-11-28]:

Kale is getting a makeover, and the very essence of kaliness may hang in the balance.

To develop a new variety of kale tailored to American palates, horticulture professor Philip Griffiths of Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Science and graduate student Hannah Swegarden are soliciting consumers’ kale reflections — the good, the bad, and the ugly. The scientists face a philosophic question for the ages. Asks Swegarden:

“How far can you push a consumer’s concept of what kale is, before it’s not kale anymore?”

Kale, like many other vegetables, has been bred with agricultural practicality in mind, selected for virtues like drought- and disease-resistance. But Swegarden says those traits don’t necessarily translate into a better taste and appearance, qualities that matter more to consumers. Griffiths has been working with kale for years, so he and Swegarden decided to see if they could develop strains to seduce farmers and consumers alike.

Read the whole post.

 

Video: Björkman, Mazourek on NBC News Mach

Thomas Björkman and Michael Mazourek share insights into their research in this video feature at NBC News’ science and technology site:  Meet the Scientists Breeding Vegetables for Our Changing Environment.

“Artificial intelligence, new smartphones and missions to Mars now dominate innovation headlines, but seemingly less sexy scientific progress is landing on our plates every day. And it’s making the food we eat better, safer, more abundant, and more delicious in the process.” Read full accompanying article.

Plant breeders take cues from consumers to improve kale

Hannah Swegarden, right, and technician Matt Wavrick transplant a kale cultivar from a research field at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, New York. (Photo: Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

Hannah Swegarden, right, and technician Matt Wavrick transplant a kale cultivar from a research field at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, New York. (Photo: Matt Hayes/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

Cornell Chronicle [2-16-11-17]:

A Cornell program is reimagining kale – its color, shape and even flavor – in a bid to breed the naturally biodiverse vegetable for consumer satisfaction.

Traits of importance for plant production, such as resistance to disease, pests and drought are often a major focus for plant breeders. Consumers, however, are usually more interested in the culinary and aesthetic qualities of vegetables that directly impact their preparation in the kitchen.

Cornell vegetable breeder Phillip Griffiths, a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and doctoral student Hannah Swegarden have embarked on a program to identify the different leaf shapes, colors, flavors and textures favored by consumers, and breed for those traits.

Read the whole article.

Getting to the root of it: Predicting root biomass with electrical capacitance

Reposted from the SIPS blog Discovery that Connects:

Craig Carlson

Craig Carlson

For scientists, an understanding of root morphology is of tremendous importance for agricultural and biofuel crops alike. The measurement of the belowground traits of plants has become increasingly important because of the vital role that root biomass and architecture play in traits like drought tolerance and carbon sequestration. The ability to measure root biomass is useful in plant breeding programs, but is a daunting task that requires washing, filtering, drying, and weighing fine and intricate root tissues. Researchers have used electrical capacitance—the ability of an object to store an electrical charge—to measure root biomass, but this technique had only been shown to work in hydroponically grown plants and had not been extensively tested in soil-grown woody plants grown from cuttings.

As Craig Carlson, a PhD candidate at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, explains, “A majority of electroconductivity studies have focused on annual grasses and hydroponic systems. We wanted to develop a cheap, quick method of measuring root biomass in soils.” Carlson works with Dr. Larry Smart, leader of North America’s largest breeding program for shrub willow (Salix spp.), an important biofuel crop. One aspect of their breeding work requires growing up to 400 individual plants in separate pots, and an efficient method to quantify root biomass would allow for rapid selection of individuals with optimal traits to continue breeding. The alternative is to mechanically remove soil to measure root biomass, a method that is both destructive and extremely time consuming.

Despite being initially skeptical that the root electrical capacitance (REC) method would work in soil, Carlson was able to tweak the technique and demonstrate its efficacy in a paper published in a recent issue of Applications in Plant Sciences.

More information:

In the news

Alan Lakso

Alan Lakso

Lakso wins in first USDA Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST)  prize competition [USDA press release]- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced November 1 the winners of the first Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) $200,000 prize competition. I-FAST helps scientists and engineers broaden the impact of their NIFA-funded research by encouraging collaboration between academia and industry to translate fundamental agricultural innovations into the marketplace. Alan Lakso, emeritus professor in the Horticulture Section, was on of four winners. Lakso  and his Cornell team — including Abe Stroock, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Vinay Pagay, PhD Horticulture ’14, and Michael Santiago, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering graduate student — won for their micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) microtensiometer.

CU in Nature website encourages students to get outside [Cornell Chronicle 2016-11-03] – Students can feel overwhelmed by the pressures associated with getting a top-quality education, but a new website and programming aims – by nature – to lower their stress levels. CUinNature.cornell.edu, which launched this fall, is a clearinghouse for the many natural areas on campus, including theCornell Botanic Gardens, most just a short walk away for students. Don Rakow, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, Horticulture Section, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is hoping students take advantage of an easily accessible antidote for academic and other stressors.

Geneva project explores ways to improve Northeast grape growing [Station News 2016-10-28] – Jason Londo, adjunct associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and a geneticist in the USDA-ARS Grape Genetics Unit,  is teaming up with researchers from across the country to map genetic traits in grapevine roots in order uncover the ways genes interact with the environment. The research aims to optimize the productivity and environmental resilience of grapevines, potentially pointing to new ways to improve grape growing in the Northeast.

Tech brings value to vineyards [periodiCALS, Vol. 6, Issue 2, 2016] – Each morning, the same question greets Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory Director Terry Bates from his office white board: What are you doing for the grape growers? This summer, the answer has come easily. He’s systematically taking the guesswork out of managing vineyards, with help from a fleet of sensors that see the vineyard more clearly than the human eye.

Archer, newest Cornell strawberry, hits the sweet spot

Courtney Weber, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, New York. Photo: Rob Way/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Courtney Weber, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, New York. Photo: Rob Way/College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Cornell Chronicle [2016-09-12]:

Strawberry fans, rejoice. The newest Cornell strawberry variety concentrates intense flavor in a berry big enough to fill the palm of your hand.

Topping out at over 50 grams, Archer, the latest creation from Cornell berry breeder Courtney Weber, is comparable in size to a plum or small peach. But this behemoth stands out in ways beyond just its proportions: the flavor and aroma exceed what you’d expect from a strawberry of such unusual size.

“Archer is an extraordinarily high-flavored berry,” said Weber, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “It has an intense aroma, so when you bite into it you get a strong strawberry smell, and it’s very sweet, so you get a strong strawberry flavor that really makes an impact.”

Weber says the combination of large fruit and strong flavor hits the sweet spot for local growers who sell in farmers markets, u-pick sites and roadside stands. Archer ripens in June and holds its large size through multiple harvests for two to three weeks.

Read the whole article.

In September 12 Horticulture Section seminar, Weber explains the long road he had to take to bring ‘Archer’ to market:

View full seminar.

In the news

high-density-plantingx400In the field: Pomologists dig roots into cider apple research [CIDERCRAFT Magazine, Volume 6] – Scientists like Greg Peck,  Thomas Chao and Susan Brown are responding to the growing interest in cider with field trials and lab work that promise rewards for growers, cider producers and consumer. Peck is evaluating how cider apple varieties perform in high-density plantings. Chao curates the largest and most diverse apple collection in the world at the USDA Plant Genetic Resources Unit in Geneva, N.Y. And Brown is crossing cider apple varieties with other Malus species to try to improve performance while maintaining the fruit qualities cidermakers value.

USDA grant could boost eastern broccoli production [The Packer 2016-08-24] –  “The project will provide better varieties so growers can extend their season and reduce their risk. To get the market going, having a year-round supply with the quality the retailers expect, will make it a lot easier for everyone on the supply end,” says Thomas Björkman, associate professor, Horticulture Section, who leads the effort.

Early-onset spring models may indicate ‘nightmare’ for ag [Cornell Chronicle 2016-08-24] – Warm springs in the Great Lakes and Northeast regions – which create havoc for agriculture – may start earlier by mid-century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a new study published in Climate Dynamics. “The spring of 2012, with its summerlike warmth, brought plants out of dormancy and then had a lengthy freeze. This was a nightmare scenario for many growers, and it showed us a snapshot of what global warming might look like in this region,” said Toby Ault, assistant professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, an author on the study.

Rebranding of Cornell Plantations to better reflect mission, vision [Cornell Chronicle 2016-08-25] – In early September, Dean Kathryn Boor will present to the Buildings and Properties Committee of the Cornell Board of Trustees that “Cornell Plantations” be changed to “Cornell Botanic Gardens,” a fitting moniker that succinctly captures the organization’s mission and aspirations.

Plant Breeders Carry the Weight of the World on Their Shoulders [2016-08-30] – SeedWorld interviews Michael Gore, associate professor, Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, on making rubber from a nearly wild desert shrub, hidden hunger, climate change and the importance of new breeding techniques.

Horticulture Graduate Field Review

Faculty, graduate students and staff associated with the Graduate Field of Horticulture held their biannual Field of Horticulture Graduate Student Reviews and Field Meeting August 19 in Jordan Hall at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), Geneva, N.Y.

Seventeen students and three faculty gave 2-minute/2-slide flash presentations about their research progress, in addition to two longer talks. During breaks, students presented posters providing more details about their work.

Horticulture chair Steve Reiners used the occasion to present NYSAES director Susan Brown with the Wilder Award from the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) recognizing the contributions of her apple breeding work to advancements in pomology.

Graduate Field of Horticulture, August 19, 2016.

Graduate Field of Horticulture, August 19, 2016.

An engaging poster session.

An engaging poster session.

Susan Brown (right) shows her Wilder Award medal to Hannah Swegarden, president of the Society of Horticulture for Graduate Students (SoHo).

Susan Brown (right) shows her Wilder Award medal to Hannah Swegarden, president of the Society of Horticulture for Graduate Students (SoHo).

USDA apple, grape and tart cherry collection tour Sept. 17

apple and grape cultivarsFrom C. Thomas Chao, horticulturist and curator for the national clonal germplasm collections of apples, cold-hardy grapes, and tart cherries of the Plant Genetic Resources Unit, USDA-ARS at Geneva, NY.:

Mark your calendar…

On September 17,  the Clonal Collection of Plant Genetic Resources Unit, USDA-ARS, Geneva, NY will host its annual open house from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the McCarthy Farm, 2865 County Road 6 (Preemption Road), Geneva, NY, 14456 (across from St. Mary’s Cemetery).

There will be a two hour walking tour on uneven ground through the orchard and vineyard to view the collection — about 10 minutes about the overall collection, 10 minutes about the tart cherry collection, 70 minutes about the apple collection, and 30 minutes about the grape collection.

f there is any question, please contact me at c.thomas.chao@ars.usda.gov or at 315-787-2454.

We will see you rain or shine on 9/17/2016.

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