Skip to main content

Research

CALS Celebrates the Tastier Side of Science

Michael Mazourek discusses his plant breeding work with the Honeynut squash during a event Nov. 19 at Stone Barns. Photo by Sirin Samman.

Michael Mazourek discusses his plant breeding work with the Honeynut squash during a event Nov. 19 at Stone Barns. Photo by Sirin Samman.

Via CALS News [2016-11-29]:

Nearly 200 Cornellians were treated to a taste of collaboration between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, and Blue Hill restaurant on Nov. 19.

The event, held at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, showcased farm-to-table cuisine that incorporates ingredients bred by CALS plant breeding and genetics assistant professor Michael Mazourek.

Mazourek is a leading innovator in the movement to breed better tasting vegetables that encourage people to eat more nutritious food. Since 2009, he has been collaborating with Blue Hill chef Dan Barber to create an array of healthy, innovative, and delectable dishes that are served at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the much-lauded farm-to-table restaurant.

The event, which was a joint effort between CALS and the Northeast Corridor Alumni Affairs and Development office, allowed guests to literally enjoy the fruit—and vegetables—of Barber and Mazourek’s labor.

Read the whole article.

Deportation plan will make U.S. food and wine more expensive

Vanden Heuvel

Vanden Heuvel

President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to deport up to three million undocumented immigrants will make U.S-produced food and wine more expensive and less available.

That’s the warning from Justine Vanden Heuvel, associate  professor in the Horticulture Section at Cornell University, and Mary Jo Dudley, director of the Cornell Farmworker Program, in an article in The Conversation, an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community.

“What he doesn’t seem to realize is how integral undocumented workers are to America’s food supply. Our scholarship at Cornell combined with research in other areas of agriculture reveal the significant impact his plans would have on the foods we eat and beverages we consume each and every day,” they write.

“Since these immigrants do much of the heavy lifting in American agriculture, preserving the current workforce and ensuring a continuing supply of laborers is a top priority for producers – and should be for consumers who value the foods and beverages we currently enjoy on our dinner tables,” they add.

The authors cite a report commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation predicting  decreases of 15 to 31 percent in vegetable production and 30 to 61 percent in fruit production if undocumented workers are deported and the border is closed. The study also predicts food price increases of 5 to 6 percent and decreased availability of fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products.

Read the whole article.

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 www.sare.org/Systems. Print copies can be ordered for $20 plus shipping and handling. Discounts are available for orders of 10 items or more.

‘Pings’ and ‘pops’ reveal sunflower stress

Via CALS Instagram:

sunflower and petiole

A sunflower is astonishing for more than just its outward beauty. Associate professor Taryn Bauerle and her students are tracking how drought-stricken sunflower roots send electrical signals to the leaves to close their pores. Bauerle and her students also listen for the “pops” and “pings” that denote hydraulic signals via breaks in the plant’s water column. Research conducted by Bauerle is aimed at addressing critical issues about how plants respond to stress, from the impacts of drought to pressures exerted by herbivore pests. The image is a magnified look at the sunflower’s petiole, the stalk that joins leaf and stem. #sunflowerscience#CornellCALS #nature #sunflower#science #horticulture

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.

Wicked weeds may be agricultural angels

Toni DiTommaso, discusses pesticide-resistant weeds on a field day at Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, New York in July 2015.

Toni DiTommaso, discusses pesticide-resistant weeds on a field day at Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, New York in July 2015.

Cornell Chronicle [2016-11-11]:

Farmers looking to reduce reliance on pesticides, herbicides and other pest management tools may want to heed the advice of Cornell agricultural scientists: Let nature be nature – to a degree.

“Managing crop pests without fully understanding the impacts of tactics – related to resistance and nontarget plants or insects – costs producers money,” said Antonio DiTommaso, professor of soil and crop science and lead author of a new study, “Integrating Insect, Resistance and Floral Resource Management in Weed Control Decision-Making,” in the journal Weed Science (October-December 2016).

“We are taking a renewed look at a holistic, sustainable integrated pest management (IPM) approach,” DiTommaso said.

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.

Skip to toolbar