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CAU tours Bluegrass Lane

Members of the Cornell’s Adult University course “Coffee, Cloves, and Chocolate: How Plants Have Shaped Human History,” taught by Don Rakow, took a field trip Friday to the Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility adjacent to campus where research technician Kendra Hutchins gave them a tour of annual flower and foliage plant trials and other plantings. Earlier in the week, the class toured Gimme! Coffee’s roasting facility near Trumansburg.

Research technician Kendra Hutchins explains annual flower trials to Don Rakow's CAU class.

Research technician Kendra Hutchins explains annual flower trials to Don Rakow’s CAU class.

Turf field day at Bluegrass Lane

More than 40 golf course superintendents and other turf professionals spent the morning on Thursday learning about the latest turfgrass research taking place at the Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility adjacent to the Robert Trent Jones golf course northeast of campus.

Among the highlights:

Horticulture graduate student Grant Thompson explains his research using 13C carbon dioxide to label grasses, which he will clip and return to lawns to study the fate of carbon in different urban soils.

Grant Thompson explains researuc

Associate professor Frank Rossi explains how overseeding overused athletic fields can help maintain safe playing conditions.

Rossi explains overseeding

Rossi discusses a new collaboration with Consumer Reports to evaluate robotic lawn mowers.

Rossi and robotic mower

Robotic mowers at work:

Wolfe, Smart receive Academic Venture Fund awards from the Atkinson Center

David Wolfe and Larry Smart are among the recipients of $1.2 million from Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF)’s Academic Venture Fund. The program funded 11 new projects selected from 37 proposals.

David Wolfe

David Wolfe

“We make seed grants to multidisciplinary teams with exciting ideas that address sustainability problems and opportunities. The process is very competitive and usually brings together faculty who have not previously worked together,” says Frank DiSalvo, Atkinson Center director and the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science.

Wolfe is part of the Ecological Calendars for Climate Change project. A time-tested tool for climate adaptation—ecological calendars—helped generations of indigenous and rural societies anticipate seasonal patterns for farming, herding, hunting, and fishing. These calendars rely on natural cues, such as the arrival of birds and nascence of flowers. This transdisciplinary team will use ecological calendars to guide communities as they adapt to climate change. Working in partnership with Great Plains Native Americans and rural communities near Oneida Lake, the researchers will identify key climate vulnerabilities, document existing ecological calendars, and revitalize or develop new calendars for local use by combining folk knowledge with cutting-edge climate forecasting. Other investigators in the project are Karim-Aly Kassam, Natural Resources/American Indian Program; Christopher Dunn, Cornell Plantations; Art DeGaetano, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Amanda Rodewald, Lab of Ornithology.

Larry Smart

Larry Smart

Smart is part of the Cornell Climate Plan Reflections project. Cornell has embraced a carbon-neutral campus by 2035. Establishing forests on campus lands and transitioning to biofuels are options for reducing carbon emissions, but the carbon calculation is not straightforward. Forests and biofuel crops could reduce the land’s surface reflectivity, or “albedo”—an important but complex climate feature—and the warming effect may counterbalance the biofuels’ benefits. The researchers will develop an accounting tool to assess the net climate benefits of land management plans with more accurate climate projections. By revealing the trade-offs in land-use decisions, this much-needed tool has the potential for broad application beyond Cornell. Other investigators in the project are Timothy Fahey, Natural Resources; Natalie Mahowald, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Christine Goodale, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology;  and Peter Hess, Biological and Environmental Engineering.

More information:

Planting season at Bluegrass Lane

It’s a busy time of year at the Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Facility adjacent to campus …


Christian Lesage, Sam McClung and Amber VanDyken plant annual flower and foliage plant trials that will be on display at the Cornell Floriculture Field Day August 11.

done's eye view of sod planting

Drone’s-eye view of newly laid sod ready for turf trials.


Horticulture professor Mark Bridgen, director of the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, planted more than 1,200 hybrid Glossy Abelias (Abelia x grandiflora) with lots of help from (left to right) Plant Breeding and Genetics graduate student Nor Kamal Ariff Nor Hisham Shah, visiting interns from the Universidad de Chile Pablo Tapia Figueroa, Constanza Rivas, and Agustina Hidalgo, and summer intern from North Carolina State University Kristin Neill.

Bridgen’s study aims to identify which varieties of the fragrant-flowering shrub normally grown in warmer climes can survive Ithaca’s Zone 5 winters.


New Hybrid Grapes Help Grow Wine Industry in Cold US Regions

Bruce Reisch

Bruce Reisch

AP via ABC News [2015-06-07]:

The Marquette grapevines clinging to a steep, rocky hillside in the southeastern Adirondacks are among a host of new grape varieties that have enabled a boutique wine industry to take root in areas of the Northeast and Midwest that were previously inhospitable.

There were about 2,000 wineries in the U.S. in 2000; today, there are more than 8,000, according to the industry publication Wines and Vines.

“Across the country we’ve seen a huge expansion in wine and grape production and wine-related tourism,” said Bruce Reisch, who leads Cornell University’s wine and grape research and development program in New York’s Finger Lakes.

And the new influx of tourism dollars can be traced to, among other places, Cornell and the University of Minnesota, which have developed these hybrid grapes that withstand brutal winters and disease — and provide the quality and consistency needed to produce fine wine in places like Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio.

Read the whole article.

Leap of faith proves pollination can be honeybee free

Bryan Danforth inspects apple blossoms and native pollinators at the Cornell Orchards. (Jason Koski/University Photography)

Bryan Danforth inspects apple blossoms and native pollinators at the Cornell Orchards. (Jason Koski/University Photography)

Cornell Chronicle [2015-06-03]:

As the state’s land-grant institution, Cornell University was born to explore science for the public good – a mission that can sometimes require a leap of faith.

Just such a leap is paying off now at Cornell Orchards in Ithaca, as researchers and managers from the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and the Department of Entomology celebrate a solid spring pollination season for the site’s apple trees. While crisp apples and fresh cider are no strangers to fans of the 37-acre research and outreach site, this year’s crop provides an extra bonus for New York apple growers: proof that pollination can be done commercial honeybee free.

“This is a food security issue,” said entomology professor Bryan Danforth. “We need to know if growers can continue to produce food in the absence of honeybees.”

Read the whole article.

Also in the Chronicle: Pesticides harm wild bees, pollination in N.Y. orchard crops

Video: Entomology professor Bryan Danforth discusses the decision this year to let wild bees pollinate Cornell’s apple orchards, steering away from the practice of renting hives of European honeybees.

In the news

A round-up of recent news of horticultural interest:

Kenong Xu (Photo: Robyn Wishna/Cornell University)

Kenong Xu (Photo: Robyn Wishna/Cornell University)

Why Arctic Apples Were Approved By USDA [Growing Produce 2015-04-29] – Kenong Xu, assistant professor, Horticulture Section, discusses the journey genetically modified non-browning Arctic Apples took in order to get the go-ahead from USDA to be grown and sold in the U.S.

Backyard plants can pose dangers to humans, animals [Ithaca Journal 2015-05-22] – “We don’t want to be scaring people that everything out there is there to eat them, but it’s good to be aware if you have these plants around, especially if you have young children or you have pets. They do have poisonous properties, and one should be aware of them,” says Tony DiTommaso, weed ecologist, Soil and Crop Sciences Section. “That doesn’t mean they don’t have a place or a role in your backyard or as a wildflower.”

SoDel Concepts donates meal for students, professors working on Botanic Gardens [Cape Gazette 2015-05-22] – Don Rakow, associate professor, Horticulture Section, and Erica Anderson, Karen St. Clair, Emily Detrick, and Benjamin Storms, graduate students in the public garden leadership program presented recommendations for Delaware Botanic Gardens’ children’s garden and for a plant collection policy to ensure a diverse yet meaningful collection. DBG President Susan Ryan praised “… the contributions that Cornell University, Dr. Don Rakow and his inspiring students are making to the Delaware Botanic Gardens.”

Chef + Plant Breeder: The Future of Flavor [Culinary Point of View 2015-04-09] – Interview with Michael Mazourek, assistant professor, Plant Breeding  and Genetics Section and Chef Dan Barber exploring how they have spent the past 10 years working together to develop new organic crop varieties that emphasize flavor.

New spacious greenhouses support research

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

Mattson named to GPN’s ’40 Under 40′ list

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.


NYFVI awards $1.5M to 21 projects

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.