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What I did on winter break

Marvin Pritts, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences, is spending winter break in India, where he is assisting students in the Agriculture Systems Group in the class Agriculture in Developing Nations (IARD 6020 ) along with K.V. Raman in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section.

“There are also groups exploring rural infrastructure, adding value to crops and textiles,” says Pritts. “So it’s quite a complex logistical operation as we all do different activities during the day.” Pritts’s elephant ride came at a working farm sponsored by the Indian government to take care of elephants and provide them with meaningful work.

You can view more images on Pritt’s Facebook page.

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Container combos featured in GrowerTalks

combosx400Cornell research on combining edibles, herbs and ornamentals in patio containers is featured in and article in the January 2016 issue of GrowerTalks magazine, a trade magazine serving the greenhouse and garden center industry, starting on page 90.

The article was authored by technician Kendra Hutchins, horticulture faculty Bill Miller and Neil Mattson, and Cheni Filos MS ’14, production line manager at PanAmerican Seed.

More information about the trial and additional pictures are available on the Bluegrass Lane Annual Flower Trial website.

Mattson was also featured in a recent article in the Ithaca Journal, Is the future of vegetable farming indoors? Some of Mattson’s research is helping ornamental growers make use of their greenhouses in the late spring and summer after gardeners and landscapers have bought up the inventory. “Growing vegetable crops during those unused times of the year is a good way to have revenue during times when they otherwise wouldn’t have revenue,” Mattson said.

Soil Health Program featured in USDA video

A new video from the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program features Cornell’s Soil Health Program, based in the Soil and Crop Sciences Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences.

“We’re still very much in a rapid growth phase in terms of doing the soil health assessment,” Harold van Es, professor in Soil and Crop Sciences who was instrumental in the development of the test, says in the video. “We currently get about 2,000 samples per year submitted to our lab. That has been steadily growing as there’s more interest the assessment framework and the test. All in all, we’ve reached many thousands of farmers and consultants.”

The video also features Donn Branton, a cooperating farmer in Le Roy, N.Y., who has worked with van Es and the Cornell Soil Health Team, and Bianca Moebius-Clune, former coordinator of the Cornell Soil Health Program who is now director of USDA-NRCS’s Soil Health Division.

Special kudos to Jenn Thomas-Murphy, an Extension support specialist in the Soil and Crop Sciences Section, who shot and edited the video.

See also: Innovative Assessment Helps Farmers in the Northeast Improve Soil Health at the SARE website.

Plant Science murals restored

Danielle at work

If you were concerned about the fate of the murals on the first floor of Plant Science Building damaged during construction of the new teaching labs, don’t fret. The original artist, Danielle Hodgins ’08, has returned to restore them.

Hodgins first brightened up the hallway with a rainbow of painted plants as a senior project in Spring 2008. Since then, she has completed a BFA at Syracuse University and is now working on an MFA at the University of Houston.

You may also remember her 2006 project for the Art of Horticulture course: Misty Sue, a larger-than-life sod cow outside of Morrison Hall, a favorite photo spot for animal science majors at graduation that year.

PBS documentary looks at Cornell’s broccoli research

bjorkman on pbsHorticulture professor Thomas Björkman is breeding new varieties of broccoli that thrive in the eastern climate. His research as part of the Eastern Broccoli Project could mean fresher, better tasting broccoli grown in New York and other eastern states, reducing the demand for the vegetable grown and shipped from California.

This web exclusive to the PBS documentary In Defense of Food takes a look at Björkman’s research and his effort to create a year-round supply of high-quality, Eastern-grown broccoli.

Contribute to the Robin Bellinder Graduate Student Fund

Robin Bellinder

Robin Bellinder

From Steve Reiners, Horticulture Section chair:

On November 13, 2015, we received the sad news that our friend and colleague, Robin Bellinder, professor of Horticulture at Cornell University for 31 years and an international expert in weed control in vegetable crops, died unexpectedly. She was 70 years old. Robin died of a pulmonary embolism after a brief hospitalization and stay in a physical rehabilitation clinic for an unrelated spinal injury.

At Cornell, Robin’s research program focused on weed management for vegetable crops. One of few women in her field at that time, she became a national and international leader. She published research results widely in peer reviewed publications, as well as publications that advised growers about her work’s practical applications. She served as president of the Northeastern Weed Science Society and, in 2005, was named the recipient of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences award for outstanding accomplishments in applied research. She will be remembered as a weed scientist who ardently and tirelessly supported New York vegetable growers. Robin had a deep concern for people, whether farmers in South Asia, for whom she championed the introduction of more efficient weed control practices, or hungry families in New York’s southern tier. She initiated Cornell’s efforts to provide fresh fruits and vegetables from the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. She realized that rather than composting the farm’s edible produce, they could feed hungry area families. Since 2004, as a result of her initiative, Cornell has donated almost 2 million pounds of produce.

Robin will be remembered as an intense, thoughtful, loyal, generous, creative and loving person who tenaciously advocated for the things she believed were important.  Mentoring students and seeing them become leaders around the world provided Robin with great satisfaction.  At the urging of her colleagues, Cornell is proud to announce the establishment of the Robin Bellinder Graduate Student Fund. The fund will be established “to provide financial support for graduate students working on vegetables crops, with a preference given to projects with a weed science emphasis. The fund will be distributed at the discretion of the chair of the horticulture section, and may be used to supplement travel or research expenses for the successful candidates”.

Those interested in supporting the fund should make checks payable to “Cornell University” with “Bellinder Fund, Horticulture” in the memo line. We will be happy to share any notes or messages with Robin’s family. Checks can be sent to:

Chair, Horticulture Section
Cornell University
134 Plant Science Building
Ithaca, NY 14853 USA

Thank you for your support of the Robin Bellinder Graduate Student Fund.

Robin Bellinder (right) with volunteers gleaning potatoes for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier at the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm in 2012.

Robin Bellinder (right) with volunteers gleaning potatoes for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier at the Homer C. Thompson Research Farm in 2012.

Cornell Takes on Climate Change

From TWC Capital District News:

Climate change has become a huge topic of discussion lately, especially following an international agreement on how to combat the problem. But here in New York, Cornell University is taking a different approach. They’ve created the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture to help train and educate farmers on how to adapt to a changing climate and reduce their impact on the environment. Cornell’s Matt Ryan and Neil Mattson joined us to talk about the initiative.

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View video

2015 cut flower trial results

Ranunculus and anemones from the trials.

Ranunculus and anemones from the trials.

Chris Wien (who retired in September) has released his 2015 cut flower cultural practice studies and variety trials report. This year’s research includes:

  • Anemone/Ranunculus presprouting trial
  • Lisianthus spacing and topping trial
  • Sunflower topping trial
  • Sunflower photoperiod experiment
  • Snapdragon overwintering high tunnels
  • Compost trials
  • Ornamental cabbage seedling management trial
  • Ornamental pepper hydration evaluation

Wien also reports on variety trials of:

  • Ageratum
  • Allium
  • Ammi
  • Anemone/Ranunculus
  • Centaurea
  • Eucomis (Pineapple Lily)
  • Marigold
  • Matricaria
  • Scabiosa
  • Statice

To see previous years’ reports, visit Wien’s research page.

‘For the love of soil’ time lapse

If you missed the painting with soils activity organized by the Soil and Crop Sciences Section to celebrate World Soil Week Dec. 10, you can watch a one-minute time-lapse video to see what you missed. Read more about the event in the Cornell Chronicle.

In the news

susan-brown-applesRecent articles of horticultural interest:

A Harvest, Sweet and Plentiful [cornell.edu feature] – Susan Brown, Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Goichman Family Director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, helps create fruits and vegetables that benefit consumers and the state’s agricultural economy.

The Outsize Importance of the Tiny Organic Seed [Modern Farmer 2015-12-15] – As agriculture has become more and more industrialized, flavor and genetic diversity have been sacrificed in favor of efficiency and yield. The result, says Cornell plant breeder Michael Mazourek, is the bland, “one-size-fits-most crops” that dominate today’s culinary landscape.

Vegetables Under Glass: Greenhouses Could Bring Us Better Winter Produce [NPR 2015-12-09] – Even though growing vegetables in greenhouses is usually a bit more expensive than open-air production, Neil Mattson says that indoor farming’s key advantage — the freshness of its produce — may outweigh cost for many consumers.

New York wine varietal debuts [Good Fruit Grower 2015-12-17] – Goose Watch Winery became the first in the nation to offer the new wine varietal Aromella, and it did so just a year after Cornell initially released the grape in 2013.

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