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Grant funds high-tech system to improve grapevine pruning

vanden heuval with drone in vineyard

Cornell Chronicle [2020-02-26]:

Researchers from Cornell and Pennsylvania State University are developing a high-tech, portable imaging system that will increase profits and yields by making winter grapevine pruning more efficient.

The research is possible thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania Wine Marketing and Research Program. The award begins this year with $for year 1; the grant will be renewed each year, dependent on progress, for up to three years and $160,000 total.

“We hope to have a thermal and multispectral imaging system that a grower can attach to an all-terrain vehicle, drive through their vineyard, and it will produce a map of live and dead buds that then can be used to guide their pruning practices,” said Justine Vanden Heuvel, the project’s principal investigator and professor of viticulture at Cornell AgriTech.

In the Northeast, cold damage to buds is a major issue for grape growers. Winter and spring warming followed by sudden severe cold can kill buds, as vines lose their cold hardiness after a warming spell. In years with large temperature swings, bud mortality can reach 90%.

“We have to really understand what the mortality level is in different parts of the vineyard to guide the pruning practices, because pruning is one of the viticulturist’s most important roles,” Vanden Heuvel said. “It determines shoot number and then determines the yield as a function of that.”

Read the whole article.

Spending time in nature reduces stress, research finds

Cornell students get outside for some fresh air.

Cornell students get outside for some fresh air.

Cornell Chronicle [2020-02-25]:

New research from an interdisciplinary Cornell team has found that as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting can help college students feel happier and lessen the effects of both physical and mental stress.

The research, published Jan. 14 in Frontiers in Psychology, is part of a larger examination of “nature therapy” and aims to provide an easily-achievable dosage that physicians can prescribe as a preventive measure against high levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues college students face.

“It doesn’t take much time for the positive benefits to kick in — we’re talking 10 minutes outside in a space with nature,” said lead author Gen Meredith, associate director of the Master of Public Health Program and lecturer at the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We firmly believe that every student, no matter what subject or how high their workload, has that much discretionary time each day, or at least a few times per week.”

Meredith and her co-authors reviewed studies that examined the effects of nature on people of college age (no younger than 15, no older than 30) to discover how much time students should be spending outside and what they should be doing while they’re there. They found that 10-50 minutes in natural spaces was the most effective to improve mood, focus and physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate.

“It’s not that there’s a decline after 50 minutes, but rather that the physiological and self-reported psychological benefits tend to plateau after that,” said co-author Donald Rakow, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science.

Read the whole article.

Seminar video: Deploying consumer-driven breeding strategies in leafy Brassicas

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Deploying consumer-driven breeding strategies in leafy Brassicas,  with Hannah Swegarden, PhD candidate, Graduate Field of Horticulture, it is available online.


More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

New variety challenges ‘Jaded’ attitudes to green tomatoes

Jaded mixed in with cherry tomatoes of other shapes and colors.

Jaded green tomatoes add a different hue to cherry tomato medley mixes.


Cornell Chronicle [2020-02-11]:

Most people are jaded about green tomatoes, which are considered unripe and unsavory unless they’re fried. But a new, flavorful and highly productive cherry tomato – that ripens green – promises to be the envy of tomato growers this spring.

The new variety, dubbed Jaded, was developed by Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture at Cornell Agritech, who bred it from four heirloom tomato varieties. The green cherry is on sale now through local organic seed company Fruition Seeds.

With a smooth and tropical flavor, Jaded’s skin becomes translucent like a gooseberry and adopts a golden hue when ripe, signaling it’s ready to pick.

“Challenges [in breeding a green tomato] came in knowing when it was ripe,” Griffiths said, “but also the perception of people to green as a color in tomato, because when people think of sweeter types of products, then green doesn’t necessarily come to mind.”

Griffiths began working with the improvement of heirloom varieties in 2005. At the time most vegetable breeding programs were more focused on varieties with disease resistance and higher yields. Meanwhile, consumers were starting to have more influence in food markets through buying power, as they sought different colors, new flavors and more fun varieties.

Green also adds a different hue to cherry tomato medley mixes.

Read the whole article.

New, more appealing varieties of kale in the works

Phillip Griffiths with several of his new kale varieties showing different colors and textures from green to red and smooth to crinkled.

Phillip Griffiths, a plant breeder and associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University, poses with several of his new kale varieties.

UPI story [2020-02-04]:

Loved by some for its health benefits and disliked by others for its cardboard-like consistency, kale might be heading for a makeover.

After surging in popularity several years ago, sales of the dark green, leafy vegetable are beginning to plateau. One vegetable breeder hopes to change that by creating varieties of kale with new flavors, textures and colors.

“It’s mainstreaming kale, to some extent,” said Phillip Griffiths, an associate professor of horticulture at Cornell Agri-Tech in New York.

“Kale has become one of those health foods, and only certain people eat it,” he said. “But there are a lot of people who eat leafy greens because they want something fresh and healthy.”

To reach those customers, Griffiths is creating a whole line of new kale.

Read the whole article.

Genetic marking discovery could ease plant breeders’ work

bruce reisch with grapevines on a sunny day

Bruce Reisch, professor of horticulure and member of the VitsGen2 team at Cornell AgriTech, assesses powdery mildew on chardonnay vines. Photo: Allison Usavage/Cornell University

Cornell Chronicle/CALS News [2020-01-21]

Plant breeders are always striving to develop new varieties that satisfy growers, producers and consumers.

To do this, breeders use genetic markers to bring desirable traits from wild species into their cultivated cousins. Transferring those markers across species has been difficult at best, but a team of grapevine breeders, geneticists and bioinformatic specialists at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York, has come up with a powerful new method.

Their research is detailed in “Haplotyping the Vitis Collinear Core Genome With rhAmpSeq Improves Marker Transferability in a Diverse Genus,” published Jan. 21 in Nature Communications.

The team’s new technique for developing genetic markers improves markers’ transfer rate across grapevine species by leaps and bounds – from 2% to 92%. With it, breeders worldwide can screen their collections and find out immediately which vines have the traits they want – regardless of what varieties they are, where they came from or which species their parents were.

“This new marker development strategy goes well beyond grapes,” said co-author Bruce Reisch, professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and leader of Cornell’s Grapevine Breeding and Genetics Program. “It’s applicable for breeding and genetic studies across different grape breeding programs, plant species and other diverse organisms.”

Read the whole article.

‘Locally grown’ broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers

Thomas Björkman in broccoli field

“Demonstrating that consumers do value ‘locally grown,’ and that the seller gets latitude on price and appearance, are valuable selling points in getting distributors and retailers to take that risk,” Thomas Björkman said.

 

Cornell Chronicle [2019-12-16]:

In blind tests conducted by Cornell researchers, consumers rated a California broccoli tastier and better-looking than a pair of varieties grown in New York.

But the New York broccoli fared much better in a subsequent series of tests. It earned the highest marks for flavor and consumers were willing to pay more for it – on par with the California variety.

What changed?

The second group was told the New York broccoli was “locally grown” in New York state, where the tests were conducted. That information improved consumers’ perceptions of the broccoli and its value compared with the California alternative.

“If you don’t tell the consumers anything, they will penalize the looks and they will even penalize the taste,” said Miguel Gómez, associate professor at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “But as soon as you tell them it’s local, it’s the other way around. They like it better – not only how it looks, but also how it tastes.”

Gómez and co-authors Xiaoli Fan, Ph.D. ’17, assistant professor at the University of Alberta, and Phillip Coles, M.S. ’15, professor of practice at Lehigh University, reported their findings in “Willingness to Pay, Quality Perception, and Local Foods: The Case of Broccoli,” published Oct. 4 in Agricultural and Resource Economics Review.

Thomas Björkman, Cornell professor of horticulture at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York, and principal investigator for the Eastern Broccoli Project, served as project director for the experiments.

Read the whole article.

Yale Climate Connections features Bassuk, sustainable landscapes trail

Peterson Lot near Stocking Hall features porous asphalt and a rain garden to reduce runoff.

Peterson Lot near Stocking Hall features porous asphalt and a rain garden to reduce runoff.

Yale Climate Connections is a nonpartisan, multimedia service providing daily broadcast radio programming and original web-based reporting, commentary, and analysis on the issue of climate change. Last week, they featured Nina Bassuk in an episode entitled. A walking trail shows how Cornell is adapting to extreme weather:

“On their way to class, Cornell University students stroll past a garden planted with bayberry and red-twigged dogwood shrubs. But they may not know that this is a rain garden that helps filter and hold water during heavy storms. Cornell horticulture professor Nina Bassuk says the university has been using techniques for sustainable landscapes for a long time, but people didn’t know that they were special in some way.”

Listen to the whole episode:

Learn more about the sustainable landscapes trail.

Moonbeam adds a big bang of flavor to Galaxy tomatoes

Griffiths picking tomatoes

Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture, picks Moonbeam tomatoes at Cornell AgriTech.

Cornell Chronicle, CALS News [2019-11-06]

Fresh from Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York, the newest grape tomato – Moonbeam – has joined a constellation of tasty, small, heirloom-style tomatoes in the 2020 High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog, released Nov. 1 to home gardeners and commercial growers.

“Moonbeam is a very good eating experience from start to finish … from first bite to aftertaste,” said Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of horticulture at Cornell AgriTech, who started developing Moonbeam in 2006 and made it a selection in 2011.

Moonbeam is considered a white grape tomato, with a citrus flavor. In the High Mowing catalog, it joins five other small tomatoes in the catalog’s Cornell-developed Galaxy Suite collection: Supernova, a marbled mini-Roma; Midnight Pear, a small, dark pigmented, pear-shape fruit; Comet, a plump, red grape tomato; Sungrazer, an orange colored grape tomato; and Starlight, a slender, finger-shaped, yellow grape tomato.

The High Mowing catalog called Moonbeam a “glowing white, translucent grape tomato with oblong frame and delicious, fruity bite. This remarkable tomato has dramatic visual appeal, especially when added to a small tomato mix. Not only are these white grape tomatoes stunningly unique, they are packed with a tasty punch of unbeatable flavor.”

Beyond taste, Moonbeam is a highly productive grape tomato – with outstanding texture and exceptional looks – that is suited for home gardens, commercial fields and high tunnels, said Griffiths. It has a good shelf life and it is less likely to split.

Read the whole article.

Toward Sustainability Foundation grant deadline is Dec. 6

For two decades, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has bolstered its sustainability research with a steady stream of gifts from the Toward Sustainability Foundation (TSF), a Massachusetts-based organization founded by an anonymous, eco-minded Cornell alumna.

Since 1999, TSF provided more than $1.5 million in funding for more than 100 faculty and student projects administered through the Horticulture Section that examine the technological, social, political, and economic elements of sustainable agriculture.

The deadline for proposals for the 2020 round of funding is December 6, 2019.

Read more about TSF grants, download the full Request for Proposals, and view titles and contacts of recent projects.

Entomologist Scott McArt lead session on pollinator-friendly gardens at Bluegrass Lane.

Entomologist Scott McArt leads a session on pollinator-friendly gardens at the Cornell Floriculture Field Day at Bluegrass Lane. McArt was a co-PI for the TSF-funded project, Assessing methods for and benefits of establishing beneficial insect habitat for growers and gardeners.

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