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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 or at 315-787-2454.

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

Geneva scholars experience a summer of Cornell science

Sofia González Martinez of the University of Puerto Rico researched the viability of using progeny of a native apple species crossed with a Cornell breeding selection for use in hard cider production for a project with Professor Susan Brown. (Photo: Susan Brown)

Sofia González Martinez of the University of Puerto Rico researched the viability of using progeny of a native apple species crossed with a Cornell breeding selection for use in hard cider production for a project with Professor Susan Brown. (Photo: Susan Brown)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-08-03]:

Growing up in Puerto Rico meant Sofia González Martinez never saw apple orchards dotting the landscape. The thought of studying apples as an academic pursuit seemed like a remote possibility for a young student with a love of all plants.

That all changed this summer for the horticulture student from the University of Puerto Rico. For nine weeks she received a world-class education at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), where as a Geneva Summer Research Scholar she had the opportunity to perform research for Susan Brown, one of the top apple breeders on the planet.

Working under the mentorship of Brown, the Goichman Family Director of the NYSAES and the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences, González Martinez spent her summer in the orchard and the laboratory, collecting and analyzing apple spurs from 138 trees at the Geneva campus. There she learned how to perform sophisticated data analysis using statistical software for a project to determine the viability of using progeny of a native apple species (Malus fusca) crossed with a Cornell breeding selection for use in hard cider production.

Read the whole article.

Björkman, Cheng receive USDA-SCRI grants totaling $6.3 million

Thomas Björkman

Thomas Björkman

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack August 2 announced 19 grants totaling $36.5 million for research and extension to support American farmers growing fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops including floriculture. The grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Two faculty in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science were among the recipients:

“America’s specialty crop farmers face many challenges ranging from a changing climate to increasing production costs. Investing in cutting edge research helps uncover solutions to keep their operations viable and ensures Americans have access to safe, affordable and diverse food options,” said Vilsack. “The universities, state departments of agriculture and trade associations that partner with USDA address challenges at the national and local levels to help sustain all parts of America’s food and agriculture system, whether the farms are small or large, conventional or organic.”

More information:

Vineyard cover crops save expense, environment

Undervine cover crop in vineyard.

Undervine cover crop in vineyard.

Cornell Chronicle [2017-07-18]:

Cornell researchers have advice for vineyard managers in cool and humid climates like the Northeast: cover up.

Maintaining bare soil beneath vines has long been accepted management practice to stifle competition from other vegetation, preserving water and nutrients to optimize grape growth. Exposing soil beneath trellises has been achieved by using extensive herbicide treatments, a practice that is expensive and potentially damaging to the surrounding vineyard ecosystem and locations downstream due to runoff.

Excessive vine growth can result as a function of the lack of competition for water and nutrients, requiring costly canopy management practices in the vineyard to maintain fruit quality.

Planting cover crops under grapevines instead can remediate these problems, according to researchers at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. A series of studies led by Justine Vanden Heuvel, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, provides vineyard managers with an environmentally sustainable alternative to herbicide treatments in cool and humid climates while tamping down the cost associated with unnecessary herbicide use.

Read the whole story.

Cornell Fruit Field Day, July 20, Geneva, N.Y.

fruit compositeFrom Art Agnello, Dept. of Entomology, NYSAES:

Mark your calendars for the Cornell Fruit Field Day, to be held in Geneva on Wednesday, July 20.  The 2016 version of this triennial event will feature ongoing research in berries, hops, grapes, and tree fruit, and is being organized by Cornell University, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station, CALS Fruit Program Work Team and Cornell Cooperative Extension.  All interested persons are invited to learn about the fruit research under way at Cornell University.  Attendees will be able to select from tours of different fruit commodities.  Details of the program presentations are still being finalized, but the event will feature a number of topics, including:


  • Spotted wing drosophila research update in berry crops
  • Hummingbird use, monitoring network
  • Use of exclusion netting for managing spotted wing drosophila in fall raspberries
  • Monitoring spotted wing drosophila for management decisions in summer raspberry and blueberry
  • Behavioral control of spotted wing drosophila using repellents and attract & kill stations
  • Effect of habitat diversity on ecosystem services for strawberries
  • High tunnel production of black and red raspberries
  • Day-neutral strawberries/low tunnel production

 Tree Fruits

  • Apple breeding and genetic studies
  • Research updates on fire blight, apple scab, mildew
  • Bitter pit in Honeycrisp
  • 3D camera canopy imaging
  • Ambrosia beetle management trials
  • Malus selections for potential use in cider production
  • Precision spraying in orchards
  • Role of insects in spreading fire blight in apples
  • Bacterial canker of sweet cherries
  • Rootstocks & training systems for sweet cherry
  • NC-140 rootstock trials on Honeycrisp and Snap Dragon
  • Pear rootstocks & training systems

 Grapes & Hops

  • Sour rot of grapes
  • VitisGen grape breeding project
  • Precision spraying in grapes
  • Managing the spread of leafroll virus in Vinifera grape using insecticides and vine removal
  • Early leaf removal on Riesling
  • Overview of NYSAES hops planting
  • Powdery and downy mildew management in hops
  • Hops weed mgt; mite biocontrol
  • Update on malting barley research


  • FSMA Produce Safety Rule

Field Day details

The event will take place at the NYSAES Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm South, 1097 County Road No. 4, 1 mile west of Pre-emption Rd. in Geneva, NY.

Arrive at 8:00 AM to get settled in. Tours begin promptly at 8:30 AM and are scheduled in the morning from 8:30 to 11:30 and in the afternoon from 1:30 to 5:00. Lunch will be served at the exhibit tent area between 11:30-12:30.

Visit sponsors anytime from 11:30-1:30

Learn about products and services from:

  • Agro Liquid
  • Arysta Life Science
  • Dow AgroSciences
  • Dupont
  • Farm Credit East, ACA
  • Finger Lakes Trellis Supply
  • LaGasse Works, Inc.
  • Lakeview Vineyard Equipment
  • NY Apple Sales
  • OESCO, Inc
  • Red Jacket Orchards
  • Superior Wind Machine Service
  • Valent USA Corp.
  • Wafler Farms
  • Tastings from War Horse Brewing

To participate as a sponsor, see the registration website or contact Shelly Cowles (315-787-2274;

Register now!

Admission fee is $50/person ($40 for additional attendees from the same farm or business), which covers tours, lunch and educational materials. Pre-registration is required. Walk-in registration may be available for a $10 surcharge on the day of the event.  Register on the Cornell Fruit Field Day Event registration page,

Geneva recognitions

Photos from Thomas Björkman from NYSAES horticulture recognitions June 3:

PhD student Archana Khadgi won the 2016 Perrine Award. The Perrine award recognizes excellence in pomological research by a graduate student. Archana is studying with Professor Courtney Weber (right), using genomic techniques to create phythophthora-resistant raspberries.


The Nelson Shaulis scholar for 2016, Corrigan Herbert (right), is congratulated by her supervisor for the summer, CCE Viticulturist Hans Walter-Peterson. Corrigan is a student in the wine program at Finger Lakes Community College. The FLCC wine program operates from a new dedicated building at the Ag Tech Park adjacent to the Station.


Jim Ballerstein, Research Support Specialist, received a 30-year service award from Horticulture Chair Steve Reiners. Jim runs one of the premier vegetable variety trial programs in the country. The program brings in substantial funding, and takes Jim on trips to conferences and company visits at home and abroad.


The Horticulture Section’s Summer Scholars arrived at the Station this week. The Geneva Summer Scholar program brings in excellent undergraduates from around the country for six weeks of research experience and a field course in agriculture. Many go on to graduate programs at Cornell and elsewhere.  Left to right: Brianna Moore (William Smith College/Smart Lab), Lisa Kime (Penn State/Griffiths Lab), Anna Agloro (Saint Martin’s University/Smart Lab), Sofia Gonzalez-Martinez (University of Puerto Rico/Brown Lab), Alexi Nystrom (Newberry College/Xu Lab), Ari Heitler-Klevans (Oberlin College/Smart Lab), Catharina Ortiz-Thomazella (University of Wisconsin-River Falls/Taylor Lab), Carlie Leary (The New School/Smart Lab).

Christine Smart named interim SIPS director

Christine Smart

Christine Smart

CALS Notes [2016-05-18]:

Christine Smart, professor of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, has been named interim director of the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS), effective July 1.

She will take over for Alan Collmer, the Andrew J. and Grace B. Nichols Professor in the SIPS Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology when his two-year appointment as the school’s inaugural director concludes.

Launched in June 2014 to enhance the visibility and impact of the plant sciences at Cornell, the school integrated the departments of Horticulture, Plant Biology, Plant Breeding and Genetics, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology and Soil and Crop Sciences into a single administrative unit within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). The college will conduct an open search for a new director.

“Alan Collmer transformed plant sciences at Cornell into a single dynamic school with a bold vision to meet major world challenges through agricultural innovation,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS. “His legacy will be of a transformative thinker who broke down barriers to forge constructive collaboration across our top-ranked plant science disciplines. He established solid roots that will undoubtedly lead to continued innovation and discovery, and I thank him for his extraordinary efforts.”

Smart has broad professional experience encompassing research on fungal and bacterial plant pathogens, extension work in vegetable pathology, and outreach to K-12 students. At her lab at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva,  NY, she explores ways to improve vegetable disease management while promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Most recently, she has served as head of the SIPS Council of Extension Leaders and initiated the “Skills for Public Engagement” class for undergraduate and graduate students.

Read the whole article.

CUAES Director and CALS Associate Dean Jan Nyrop announces Smart's appointment at SIPS open house.

CUAES Director and CALS Associate Dean Jan Nyrop announces Smart’s appointment at SIPS open house.

Chris Smart talks with colleagues at the SIPS open house.

Chris Smart talks with colleagues at the SIPS open house. (Lindsay France, University Photo)

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