Archive for the “Research” Category

Greg Inzinna, greenhouse grower with the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, is tending cassava plants in the new greenhouses. This breeding project aims to improve agricultural productivity and food security in Africa.

From Anja Timm (, Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES):

Cornell researchers now have a new, state-of-the-art greenhouse facility available to house tall crops important to New York State growers, such as corn, trellised peas, alfalfa and biofuel grasses.

Part of the Guterman Greenhouse Range east of the School of Veterinary Medicine, the 8,000-square-foot facility is also home to research projects with international impact, such as the cassava breeding project.

Precision environmental controls, 16-foot double-pane glass side walls, and shade- and insulation-curtains in all eight compartments create a highly energy-efficient research environment.

CUAES manages 179,000 square feet of greenhouse space on and around the Cornell Campus, making it the largest non-commercial greenhouse facility in New York. They house 200 to 300 research projects at any given time. The facilities are supported by a dedicated greenhouse team that is committed to sustainable practices and continues to implement new ways to reduce energy use and waste.

Right: Greg Inzinna, greenhouse grower with the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, is tending cassava plants in the new greenhouses. This breeding project aims to improve agricultural productivity and food security in Africa.

young plants in greenhouse

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Neil Mattson, Associate Professor in the Horticulture Section, has been honored in GPN Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2015 list. GPN (Greenhouse Product News) is the leading business publication for horticulture professionals.

Class members were nominated by their horticulture/floriculture industry peers based on personal and professional accomplishments. Mattson is one of 40 trailblazers under the age of 40 who exemplifies superior leadership, creativity, innovative thinking and accomplishments in and outside the horticulture field.

“The 40 individuals in this year’s class represent all facets of horticulture, but they all have one thing in common,” says GPN Editorial Director Tim Hodson. “They are the pioneers for the future of our industry.”

Mattson’s GPN profile notes that he has authored or co-authored 27 peer-reviewed papers, 38 articles in trade journals, 30 newsletters and book chapters and delivered 160 extension presentations. His research program focuses on the influence of environmental factors and cultural practices on the physiology, development and biochemical characteristics of greenhouse crops.


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Jim Bittner, Chair of the Board of Directors of NYFVI and owner of Bittner-Singer Orchards.

Jim Bittner, Chair of the Board of Directors of NYFVI and owner of Bittner-Singer Orchards.

The New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI) announced that it is funding 21 projects at a total of $1,539,324 in 2015.  Grant recipients seek to build and share practical knowledge that directly improves the economic viability of New York’s farmers.  “Our increased funding from New York State allowed us to support more projects, and a wider range of projects.” said Jim Bittner, Chair of the Board of Directors of NYFVI and owner of Bittner-Singer Orchards.

In order to ensure grants address on-the-ground priorities, all proposals were evaluated by NYFVI’s extensive farmer review network. The Institute’s volunteer board or directors, comprised of ten farmers from across the state, made the final funding decisions.

Many of the projects are of horticultural interest, including:

  • Cornell Onion Thrips Management Program (COTMP) Saves Money and Reduces Insecticide Resistance
  • Managing an Emerging Threat: Ambrosia Beetle Black Stem Borer Control in Apple Nurseries
  • Sustainable Management of Root Weevil Populations for Improved Profitability on Eastern NY Berry Farms
  • Low Tunnel Strawberries: A Cost-Effective Approach to Extending the Growing Season for NY Berries.
  • Increasing the Efficacy and Economic Viability of Trap and Kill Systems for Invasive Pests
  • Assessing the Impact of Pesticides on Honey Bee Health
  • Using Cover Crops to Improve Soil Heath and Vine Productivity in Concord Vineyards
  • Equipping Apple Growers to Quantify the Role of Native Bees in Pollination
  • Integrating Spatial Maps to use Variable Rate Technology in Mechanized Concord Vineyards
  • Engaging Growers for NY Production of Chinese Medicinal Herbs
  • Marketing Plans to Help NYC Greenmarket Farmers Build Sales
  • Greenhouse Assistance Directory

View project summaries.
Full news release.

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bioenergy-coverx400Images from Larry Smart‘s shrub willow bioenergy crop research program are featured on the June issue of the Journal BioEnergy Research.

Smart and grad student Eric Fabio are among the co-authors of the article Untapped Potential: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Bioenergy Production from Marginal Lands in the Northeast USA in the issue.

Find out more about Smart’s research program at his Willowpedia website.

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Researchers Provide Information Farmers Need to Improve Production, Quality of Crops
[Time-Warner Cable News 2015-05-11]

GENEVA, N.Y. — Out on a field at the New York State Agriculture Experiment Station, professor Larry Smart is growing shrub willow. Every two or three years, the stems are harvested and turned into wood chips. Those chips heat two buildings at the center. …

“Our mission is to apply cutting edge science to improve agriculture in New York State, in the Northeast, across the U.S. and even across the world if we can,” said Smart.

Susan Brown is also featured. She says:

“Our vegetable growers will say when people enjoy a carrot or cabbage; they don’t realize the research that goes into it. You know that bumper sticker that says if you have food, thank a farmer? Thank a researcher as well,” said Brown.

Read the whole article/view video.

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Nina Bassuk, founder of Cornell University’s Urban Horticulture Institute, was awarded the 2015 Frederick Law Olmsted Award from the Arbor Day Foundation.  (See April 6 post.) Bassuk is a professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS).

While Nina couldn’t be there in person to accept the award, the Foundation did profile her in this video:

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Measure to know!

How healthy is your soil? There’s only one way to find out:  Test it!

For farmers, gardeners, landscape managers and researchers who want to go beyond merely testing the nutrient levels of their soils, the Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health from Cornell University is just what you need.

Soil health management practices can regenerate soil structure, reduce weather-related risks and increase productive capacity in the long term. “There’s a growing recognition of the importance of improving soil health,” says Aaron Ristow, Cornell Soil Health Program Coordinator. “The Soil Health Assessment can help you determine specific soil constraints and point you to the practices that will help you overcome them”.

This year, the lab is offering expanded choices of the Soil Health Assessment that range from the Basic package to the Comprehensive Analysis of Soil Health – the gold standard of soil health testing.

Packages provide standardized, field-specific information on agronomically important constraints in biological and physical processes in addition to the typical nutrient analysis. The Standard and Comprehensive packages include tests of soil respiration, available water capacity, active carbon levels and soil aggregate stability, among others.

“Add-on” testing such as heavy metals, soluble salts and others are also available.

The assessment comes with a detailed report explaining the results and recommending both short- and long-term management strategies specific to the field’s constraints.  The assessment’s indicators and management strategies for improving soil health are also detailed in the Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual, available free online.

For more information and to submit your soil for an assessment visit the Cornell Soil Health website or email the lab at



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nina-bassukx960Nina Bassuk, founder of Cornell University’s Urban Horticulture Institute, is the recipient of a 2015 Arbor Day Award in honor of her outstanding contribution to tree planting, conservation and stewardship, the Arbor Day Foundation announced today. She is a professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS).

Now in her 34th year at Cornell, Bassuk will receive the Foundation’s Frederick Law Olmsted Award, which recognizes an outstanding individual who has had a positive impact on the environment due to lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation at a state or regional level.

Bassuk’s accomplishments include the development of bare root transplanting technology and CU-Structural Soil™ — a patented mix for urban environments engineered to provide rooting area for street trees while supporting pavement, decreasing tree mortality. Owing to her efforts, thousands of trees have been planted around the world in conditions that would not have otherwise supported trees.

Bassuk is also widely known for her innovative teaching, and recently received a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowship for her efforts. Her two-course series Creating the Urban Eden not only incorporates plant walks around campus but also a cutting-edge Woody Plants Database website. Students in the course also design and install landscapes around campus. “She helps and challenges students to develop their own methods of learning,” one of them wrote.

Student Weekend Arborist Teams organized by Bassuk have inventoried street trees in more than 36 communities around New York to help municipalities better manage their urban forests.

On Arbor Day this year, Bassuk’s students will be hanging tags on trees around campus estimating their worth in terms of energy savings, increased property value, carbon sequestration, and other ecosystem services.

Bassuk is one of 13 individuals, organizations and companies being recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation during the annual Arbor Day Awards. This year’s ceremony will be held at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

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Kevin Panke-Buisse

Kevin Panke-Buisse

Cornell University researchers have discovered that it is possible to alter plant flowering time and other traits by manipulating soil microbial communities, a finding that they ultimately hope will help reduce crop inputs on everything from greenhouse plants to agronomic crops.

“For example, if we can give grass a competitive edge over weeds by enriching the soil with microorganisms that provide benefits only to the grass while suppressing the growth of other plants, it will give us another tool to grow high-quality turf without resorting to chemical weed control,” says weed specialist Jenny Kao-Kniffin, assistant professor in the Horticulture Section of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, one of the study’s authors.

Developing such tools is particularly important with the 2010 passage in New York of the Child Safe Playing Fields Act – and similar laws in other states – that prohibit pesticide applications to playgrounds and athletic fields at schools and daycare facilities, she adds.

The study, Selection on soil microbiomes reveals reproducible impacts on plant function, was published October 28, 2014, in The ISME Journal, and has been in the top ten of articles downloaded at the journal’s website for weeks.

The study’s lead author, Kevin Panke-Buisse, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Field of Horticulture, used a single genotype of Arabidopsis thaliana to develop two different soil microbial communities. He grew the plants for 10 generations, harvesting soil each time from early- and late-flowering plants to inoculate the soil for the next generation.

“By using seeds from the same Arabidopsis genotype – keeping the plant genetics the same from generation to generation within an inbred line – we were able to verify that the differences in flowering time were due to differences in the microbial inoculants alone,” he observes.

When Panke-Buisse then used the resulting inoculants to grow additional Arabidopsis genotypes and a related mustard-family plant (Brassica rapa) — an important agronomic crop — he found that the soil inoculation continued to either delay or accelerate flowering with these different plants.

Analyses showed that the early-flowering soils were dominated by bacteria from families associated with decomposition and nutrient mineralization. The late-flowering soils were dominated by different bacteria families known for promoting plant growth.

“But the greatest differences we saw were in the presence or absence of relatively rare bacteria, suggesting that they could play a big role in controlling flowering time despite being in low abundance,” Panke-Buisse notes.

Later flowering plants also saw a 50 to 100 percent increase in biomass. “If we can harness soil microbes so that we can enhance grass density and shade out competing weeds, it should go a long way to help us reduce herbicide use,” he adds.

Panke-Buisse and Kao-Kniffin plan to further investigate how soil microbes affect other plant traits and apply what they learn to other horticultural systems.


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Cornell berry breeder Courtney WeberReposted from Station Notes, [2015-03-02]

March 2, Cornell University joined a number of its peers nationwide in announcing the official launch of the National Land-grant Impacts website, a centralized online resource that highlights the teaching, research and extension efforts by Land-grant universities.

The website provides access to university or regional-specific impact stories, which document the research and extension programming planned, performed,and implemented by Cornell and other land-grant universities. The website, as a cooperative effort of these institutions, represents a collective voice for the agricultural experiment station and cooperative extension arms of the land-grant universities.

“The Land-Grant Impacts website is a new tool that will better inform the American people and the international community of the significant agricultural research, education and extension impacts taking place at land grant universities across our nation, which offer practical solutions to today’s critical societal challenges,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “This website will help policy makers and the public learn more about this work that is partially supported with NIFA funding.”

Read the whole article.

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