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Researchers Look for Genetic Clues to Help Grapes Survive Cold

CALS News [2017-03-29]

Al Kovaleski, a doctoral student in the field of horticulture, visits the Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan, New York. Photo by Chris Kitchen / University Photography

Al Kovaleski, a doctoral student in the field of horticulture, visits the Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan, New York. (Photo:  Chris Kitchen /University Photography)

Months before northern vineyards burst into their lush summer peak, the delicate grape buds holding the nascent fruit in its tiny core must first withstand the freezing onslaught of winter.

Understanding how grape buds respond to subzero temperatures is of paramount concern to vineyard managers in New York and other northerly grape-producing states. Some of the more popular varieties used in the wine and juice industries can survive temperatures far below the freezing point of water. By a process known as supercooling, cellular mechanisms within the bud maintain water in liquid state down to around minus 4 to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the species. Beyond a certain low-temperature threshold, ice forms inside the cells, cellular functions cease and the bud dies.

Horticulturists have long relied on traditional methods to study freezing in plants. Now a researcher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is using powerful technologies on campus to explore in new ways the cellular mechanics that allow grape buds to survive brutal cold. The research has implications for vineyard economics, especially as climate change opens more northerly land for cultivation and current growing regions experience more extreme weather.

Al Kovaleski, a doctoral student in the field of horticulture, is using the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) to create 3-D images of grape buds. The images produced at CHESS are providing a unique perspective as Kovaleski unravels the genetic underpinnings of supercooling in grape buds.

Read the whole article.

 

This article originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Register now for Soil Summit March 28-29

CALS News [2017-03-15]:

Soil amendments such as raw manure offer clear benefits to agricultural production, but they can also pose potential environmental and food safety risks if not handled properly. The Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule outlines some requirements for using soil amendments because of the microbial risks associated with their use.  Raw manure has been shown to have a higher potential to contain foodborne pathogens that can cause illness, especially if fruits and vegetables become contaminated, either directly (e.g., improper application or processing of compost) or indirectly (e.g., through contaminated irrigation water from runoff).

To discuss the benefits and challenges of using soil amendments such as raw manure and compost relative to the safety of fresh fruit and vegetable production, Cornell food safety experts are convening a summit March 28-29, 2017. The Soil Summit will provide the opportunity for produce growers, educators, and researchers to discuss and identify barriers to using/producing compost while also identifying management strategies, resources, and additional support necessary to support growers in minimizing food safety risks on the farm, especially when using raw manure.

Held at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, the summit will address the need to support produce growers in identifying management options that preserve the benefits and minimize the risks from using soil amendments such as manure and compost, while also addressing the environmental impacts. The summit will include presentations and break out discussions, and provide participants a better understanding of current research and risk assessment efforts by the U.S Food and Drug Administration. Participants will learn details about the final Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule and the standards it sets in the use of biological soil amendments of animal origin and human waste.

The summit costs $100. Registrations can be made at: http://events.cals.cornell.edu/soilsummit2017

The Secret to a Really Crisp Apple

Susan Brown

Susan Brown

Why are some apples mealy while others are crisp?

Cornell apple breeder Susan Brown answers that question in this New York Times science Q&A.

The differences are partly genetic, she explains. Some varieties can be stored longer before they get mushy.

But proper storage at home will help you keep your apples crisp. “If consumers store fruits at room temperature, rather than in the refrigerator, they will soften and get mealy sooner,” she says.

Read the whole article.

Björkman in American Vegetable Grower

Thomas Björkman

Thomas Björkman

American Vegetable Grower magazine turned to Thomas Bjorkman, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Intergrative Plant Science,  to answer questions about Cornell Soil Health Laboratory’s Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health and the importance of knowing more than just your soil’s nutrient levels to produce healthy crops in two recent articles:

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.

Bruce Reisch on new wine grape varieties

Bruce Reisch

Bruce Reisch

Growers and the market are all conditioned to accept certain popular varieties—Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet. [My grapes] may have qualities that could be similar to elite varieties, but these would be entirely new varieties.

— Grape breeder Bruce Reisch, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, in Can Science Save Our Favorite Wines? in Wine Enthusiast [2016-12-08].

Read the whole article.

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.

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