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Roadmap points way to better soil health in N.Y.

Soil at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, New York.

Soil at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, New York.

Cornell Chronicle [2019-02-28]:

There is a revolution of sorts going on in farming today, triggered by discoveries in plant and soil ecology, and a recognition that we will need to restore the health of our soils to feed an expanding population.

New York has been a leader in this soil health revolution, but where do we go from here? This is the focus of the recently released New York Soil Health Roadmap, a collaborative effort of the New York Soil Health (NYSH) initiative coordinated by Cornell.

The roadmap identifies key policy, research and education efforts to overcome barriers to adoption of soil health practices by farmers. It also identifies strategies for integrating soil health goals with state priorities focused on environmental issues such as climate change and water quality.

Roadmap contributors developed four goals for advancing soil health. The goals include overcoming barriers to wider adoption of soil health practices, and the integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation in all aspects of soil health programming.

As a resource for policymakers, researchers, farmers and those concerned about healthy food and a healthy environment, the roadmap comprises input from many individuals, organizations and government agencies in New York and nationally. It is intended to help expand soil health policy, research and outreach efforts to reach New York’s underserved.

“This roadmap highlights the linkages between soil, water and air quality,” said David Wolfe, Cornell professor of plant and soil ecology and leader of the project. “It was impressive to see how such a diverse group of stakeholders was able to find consensus on a few key goals that address some of our most urgent environmental challenges while supporting the long term success of our farms.”

Read the whole article.

SAGES Cookbook to support Geneva Campus Bike Share

Reposted from the SIPS blog, Discovery that Connects:

Craving some Black Magic Cake, Cherry Stuffed Tenderloin, or Red Lentil Coconut Curry?  These are just some of the thirty nine recipes in the 2017 cookbook assembled by the Student Association of the Geneva Experiment Station (SAGES) to benefit the Geneva Bike Share Program.

Recipes were contributed by faculty, staff, and students on the Geneva campus. SAGES President Adrienne Gorny draws particular attention to those derived from annual Chili Cook-offs, Cookie Bake-Offs, and Underappreciated Vegetable Cook-offs; this last being an event where Geneva campus employees are challenged to produce a dish incorporating a pre-determined underappreciated vegetable. Hannah Swegarden recommends her recipe for Tomato Basil Soup, perfect for this time of year when gardens are bursting with these two ingredients.

Also featured are recipes from a variety of cultural traditions such as George Abawi’s Baklava, several Scandinavian desserts, and Pavlova, described by Sarah Pethybridge as “a famous Australian and New Zealand dessert!”

Available for $14 or two for $25, proceeds from the cookbook sales will be used to support the Bike Share Program at the Geneva campus.  The SAGES Bike Share Program provides bicycles for rent to students and other members of the Geneva station community. Begun in 2014 with a few donated bicycles, the program has grown in the years since. Proceeds from cookbook sales will be used to expand the Bike Share Program by funding repairs of old bikes and purchasing of new ones.  Donations can also be made directly to the program.

Cookbooks are available in the SIPS main office at 135 Plant Science in Ithaca or in Hannah Swegarden’s mailbox in Hedrick Hall, Geneva.  Buy one soon and kick back with a piece of Larry Smart’s PhD Party Pie.  Filled with chocolate, pecans, Kahlua, and Jack Daniels, it’s the cure for whatever ails you!


Updated guide to shrubs for stormwater retention

cover shotCornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) has released the second edition of its Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions). The updated and expanded 57-page guide is an essential resource for choosing plants that can provide low-maintenance, attractive cover for filter strips, swales, rain gardens  and other stormwater retention and infiltration practices.

“For plants to thrive in stormwater retention areas, they need to be able to tolerate both dry and periodically saturated soils,” says UHI director Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “These can be tough sites with high pH and salt levels. So it’s important to choose the right plants for the job.”

In addition to profiling more than 35 shrubs – including hardiness, sun requirements, site considerations, potential pest issues, and deer resistance – the guide also details site assessment and design considerations for stormwater retention structures.  Descriptions also include cultivar information and ecological impacts, such as attractiveness to pollinators.

For a free download, visit the UHI outreach page.

Curb cuts channel runoff into into bioswale.‘Urban Eden’ students install bioswale along Tower Road in September 2014.

New book traces environmental history of local old growth forest

smith woods coverAuthors of this new book include Horticulture Section professor Marvin Pritts. Join Pritts and the other authors for a book launch at the Ulysses Philomathic Library in Trumansburg, N.Y., April 26 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Book ordering information.

Smith Woods: The Environmental History of an Old Growth Forest Remnant in Central New York State
Warren D. Allmon, Marvin P. Pritts, Peter L. Marks, Blake P. Epstein, David A. Bullis, and Kurt A. Jordan

Reviewed by Prof. Donald A. Rakow

Driving west along New York State Route 96, it would be easy to miss the old growth forest fragment known as Smith Woods just before entering the Village of Trumansburg.  That would be understandable since the woods holds neither the majesty of the great California redwood forests nor the extent of national parks like Yosemite.

It is, in fact, the rather diminutive nature of Smith Woods that has allowed the authors of this manual to offer a thoroughgoing treatment of the site’s geological history, forest development, early indigenous settlement, and recent ecological transition.  The result is a text that is as readable as it is enlightening.

Eschewing both a purely scientific and a simple layman’s approach, the authors use both text and extensive illustrations to delineate how physical, biological and anthropomorphic forces have shaped this site and made it into the habitat it is today.  The reader is left with a much clearer understanding of how such processes take place, along with a great appreciation for this very special place.

The authors represent a wide range of disciplines: lead author Warren Allmon is the director of the Paleontological Research Institute and professor in the Cornell Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Marvin Pritts is a professor of horticulture in the Cornell School of Integrative Plant Science; Peter Marks is an emeritus professor in the Cornell Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; and Kurt Johnson is a professor in the Cornell Department of Anthropology.  Blake Epstein is a student at the Ranney School in Tinton Falls, NJ and David Bullis is a graduate student at the SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.


AHS, Garden-Based Learning Program collaborate on updated guide

The American Horticultural Society and the Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program have joined forces  to update and make available a free, web-based  tool to help educators and others launch garden programs for children, youth and families.

Sowing the Seeds of Success, also available as a printable publication, is designed to address “the increased interest in school and community garden projects and the troubling issues of food insecurity and nature deficit disorder,” says Fiona Doherty, educator enrichment specialist with the Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program, who led the update.

Originally published in 1999, the guide includes lessons, activities and program tools as well as links to additional resources to help start, sustain, expand and reflect on garden programs. “These can be used by teachers, parents and leaders of other community gardening programs to help empower young people with the skills to become the next generation of environmental stewards,” adds Doherty.

The guide is available in both mobile friendly and printer friendly versions.

New book helps researchers find innovative solutions to complex challenges

From USDA-SARE Program news release:

Laurie Drinkwater

Author Laurie Drinkwater, professor, Horticulture Section

As farmers and ranchers strive to maintain profitability, they face a multitude of pressures such as protecting water and air resources, conserving biodiversity and limiting soil erosion. Too often, however, single-faceted agricultural research fails to account for the complex links between critical environmental, social and economic factors.

The result? Piecemeal solutions to complex and interrelated problems. Now, SARE’s groundbreaking Systems Research for Agriculture, by Laurie Drinkwater, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, provides the theories and tools that researchers and producers need to design and implement interdisciplinary systems research projects that advance sustainable agroecosystems.

book coverFrom USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program news release:Systems Research for Agriculture is based on groundbreaking SARE-funded research trials that mimic an entire production system rather than substituting and comparing individual practices. Modifying research trials to fit local best farming practices allows systems-level changes in economic, social and environmental conditions to emerge and be better studied. While the model requires close collaboration between researchers and producers, it provides producers with practical insight into the on-farm adoption of new techniques.

Systems Research for Agriculture addresses the theoretical basis for agricultural systems research and provides a roadmap for building effective interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder teams. This handbook is essential reading for researchers and producers working together to plan, conduct and analyze the complexities of multifaceted systems research experiments.

Systems Research for Agriculture is available as a free download at Print copies can be ordered for $20 plus shipping and handling. Discounts are available for orders of 10 items or more.

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:

New publication: CU-Structural Soil® – A Comprehensive Guide

CU-Structural Soil® installation at Zuccotti Park, New York City

CU-Structural Soil® installation at Zuccotti Park, New York City

CU-Structural Soil® – A Comprehensive Guide is a new 56-page publication that covers the why’s and how’s of using CU-Structural Soil® to support trees, turf and porous pavement, and includes six case studies.

CU-Structural Soil® (also known as CU-Soil®) was developed at by Nina Bassuk, director of Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute, as a way to safely bear pavement loads after compaction and yet still allow root penetration and vigorous tree growth. It was patented and trademarked to insure quality control.

Read more about CU-Soil® at the Urban Horticulture Institute website.



Free iBooks will make your lawn ‘green’

iBook covers

With the grass finally starting to green up in the Northeast, two new iBooks from Cornell University will help you turn your lawn into an environmental asset — as well as a beautiful place to relax and play.

Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to An Attractive Environmental Asset  – This iBook features seven short how-to videos, photo galleries, interactive images and concise, easy-to-understand steps to cultivate a healthy lawn, including how to mow your lawn less and enjoy it more. It also details more advanced techniques, including best feeding strategies and how to cope with weeds, pests, diseases and soil compaction.

Turfgrass Species and Variety Guidelines for NYS  – Thinking about starting a new lawn or renovating an old one? This iBook will help you choose the grass species and varieties best adapted to your growing conditions, lawn care plan and expectations.

The Cornell Turfgrass Program, the Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program, and the New York State IPM Program all contributed to these iBooks.

Professional turf managers will also benefit from these recently launched Cornell websites:

Turfgrass and Landscape Weed ID – The first step when managing weeds is to know what weeds you have. This mobile-friendly site makes it simple to identify common New York weeds based on easily observed traits and provides simple solutions for control.

Managing Safe Sports Fields – Everything sports turf managers, coaches, administrators and players need to create safe playing fields, from managing soils and choosing grasses to mowing and fertilizing strategies and pest management. Interactive management schedules provide timely advice.

Best Management Practices for New York State Golf Courses – Research-based, voluntary BMP guidelines are designed to protect and preserve our water resources that enhance open space using current advances in golf turf management.

And if that’s not enough, turf specialist Frank Rossi, associate professor in the Horticulture Section, is restarting his weekly Cornell Turfgrass ShortCUTT podcast. In each podcast, Rossi takes a look at how the weather is affecting grass growth and management, and provides weekly news and advice for professionals in the lawn, golf and sports turf industry in New York State and surrounding areas.

New publication: Apple IPM for Beginners

apple ipm coverApple IPM for Beginners is a new series of simplified factsheets and scouting guides that make integrated pest management easier for beginners.

Topics include:

  • Choosing Sprays
  • Apple Scab
  • Fire Blight
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Apple Rust Diseases
  • Summer Diseases
  • Plum Curculio
  • Worms in Fruit
  • Aphids and Leafhoppers
  • Mites
  • Trunk Borers

Deborah I. Breth, Cornell Cooperative Extension Lake Ontario Fruit Program edited the publication with contributions from CCE educators, growers and others.

You can download the free online version. Or to order hard copies, download and complete this form

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