iBook covers

With the grass finally starting to green up in the Northeast, two new iBooks from Cornell University will help you turn your lawn into an environmental asset — as well as a beautiful place to relax and play.

Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to An Attractive Environmental Asset  – This iBook features seven short how-to videos, photo galleries, interactive images and concise, easy-to-understand steps to cultivate a healthy lawn, including how to mow your lawn less and enjoy it more. It also details more advanced techniques, including best feeding strategies and how to cope with weeds, pests, diseases and soil compaction.

Turfgrass Species and Variety Guidelines for NYS  – Thinking about starting a new lawn or renovating an old one? This iBook will help you choose the grass species and varieties best adapted to your growing conditions, lawn care plan and expectations.

The Cornell Turfgrass Program, the Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program, and the New York State IPM Program all contributed to these iBooks.

Professional turf managers will also benefit from these recently launched Cornell websites:

Turfgrass and Landscape Weed ID – The first step when managing weeds is to know what weeds you have. This mobile-friendly site makes it simple to identify common New York weeds based on easily observed traits and provides simple solutions for control.

Managing Safe Sports Fields – Everything sports turf managers, coaches, administrators and players need to create safe playing fields, from managing soils and choosing grasses to mowing and fertilizing strategies and pest management. Interactive management schedules provide timely advice.

Best Management Practices for New York State Golf Courses – Research-based, voluntary BMP guidelines are designed to protect and preserve our water resources that enhance open space using current advances in golf turf management.

And if that’s not enough, turf specialist Frank Rossi, associate professor in the Horticulture Section, is restarting his weekly Cornell Turfgrass ShortCUTT podcast. In each podcast, Rossi takes a look at how the weather is affecting grass growth and management, and provides weekly news and advice for professionals in the lawn, golf and sports turf industry in New York State and surrounding areas.

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healthy-soilx400

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 soilhealth@cornell.edu.

 

 

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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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Chris Watkins

Chris Watkins

Christopher Watkins, Horticulture Section Professor and Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, has been named a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS).

Fellow is the highest honor that ASHS bestows on its members and recognizes truly outstanding contributions to the science, profession, or industry of horticulture.

More than 475 members have been accorded this honor in the years since the first Fellows were elected in 1965.

Newly elected Fellows will be honored at the Awards Ceremony in August at the Society’s 112th Annual Conference in New Orleans.

Congratulations Chris.

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group in woods and mushrooms on logFrom Steve Gabriel, Agroforestry Specialist, Cornell Small Farms Program:

Camp Mushroom #2
Sunday, June 7 from 10:00am to 4:00pm
Cornell Campus & MacDaniels Nut Grove
COST: $50 includes handouts and instruction

Due to the popular demand for our two-day Camp Mushroom (which is sold out for April session), we are offering an additional, one-day class which will cover the same cultivation methods as the original.

The main difference is we won’t be serving meals (bring your own lunch) or having the course at the Arnot Forest. We also will not be able to offer logs to take home. (Sorry.)

Participants will be trained in three methods of mushroom cultivation; shiitake on bolts, lions mane/oyster on totems, and stropharia in woodchip beds. In addition, laying yard and management considerations and economics of growing mushrooms as a small farm enterprise will be covered.

Anyone who wants to get into mushroom growing as a serious pursuit should not miss out on this opportunity to learn from experienced growers and researchers who will present for this event.

Register here. (You will need to do a separate form for each person)

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working with healing plants in Belize

Photo: Jason Koski, University Photography

Via the Cornell Chronicle [2015-03-26]

A new course, Identifying Healing Plants Used in Maya Culture in Southern Belize, is one of 25 faculty projects awarded grants designed to internationalize undergraduate teaching, learning and research at Cornell. Internationalizing the Cornell Curriculum (ICC) awards are administered by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and by Cornell Abroad. They are intended to expose undergraduate students to different cultures, languages and meaningful international experiences.

The healing plants course will take groups of students and faculty to the Toledo District of Belize to study medicinal plants and preserve this centuries-old knowledge for future generations. The course was proposed jointly by faculty members from the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and of Arts and Sciences, Marcia Eames-Sheavly, Stacey Langwick and Kevin Nixon.

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If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Flower Power: Teaching college students the art and science of the beauty and perfection of flowers , with Heiner Lieth, Department of Plant Science, University of California-Davis, it’s available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

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farming the woods coverThursday, March 26, 2015
Durland Alternatives Library
127 Anabel Taylor Hall
2 to 4 p.m.
Free and open to public

Steve Gabriel,  extension agroforestry specialist for the Cornell Small Farms Program and co-author of Farming the Woods, will be giving a short presentation followed by discussion at the Durland Alternatives Library.

This is part of a weekly event series called The Alternatives Cafe–connecting library materials to local interests. The cafe is a weekly opportunity for discussion, collaboration, and education. Coffee, tea, and light refreshments are available.

 More information.

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Lori Brewer

Last Friday, Horticulture Section Senior Extension Associate Lori Brewer joined a one-hour TwitterChat on gardening hosted by the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Brewer was part of a panel of experts from participating BHL member and affiliate institutions — including Smithsonian Gardens, Smithsonian Libraries, National Museum of Natural History, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Chicago Botanic Garden — who answered gardeners’ questions.

“We fired off 22 tweets in the hour, out of about 150 the entire group sent out,” says John Carberry, managing editor and social media officer for CALS Communications. “Our tweets Friday reached more than 20,000 people, and they’re still being retweeted.

“It was a bit crazy, but it definitely spread the word.,” he adds.

Check out the BHL Storify of the TwitterChat to get a feel for what transpired.

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