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New micro water sensor can aid growers

By Krishna Ramanujan

Crop growers, wine grape and other fruit growers, food processors and even concrete makers all benefit from water sensors for accurate, steady and numerous moisture readings. But current sensors are large, may cost thousands of dollars and often must be read manually.

Now, Cornell researchers have developed a microfluidic water sensor within a fingertip-sized silicon chip that is a hundred times more sensitive than current devices. The researchers are now completing soil tests and will soon test their design in plants, embedding their “lab on a chip” in the stems of grape vines, for example. They hope to mass produce the sensors for as little as $5 each. For the rest of the story, click here.

Cornell Apple Lab

Cornell University faculty leader in the apple breeding program, Dr. Susan Brown, stands in an apple orchard at the Cornell University Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm in Geneva, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

The Ithaca Journal captures the Geneva apple harvest – To see  the full gallery, click here

Fun on the Farm 2013

Kaitlyn Combs decorates a pumpkin at Fun on the Farm

This year’s Fun on the Farm event was held on Saturday, September 20th. The Station’s display featured apple tasting, pumpkin decorating, viewing Entomology’s insect collection and learning about plant diseases. Congratulations to Jace Hoad of Phelps for his guess of 560 seeds in the “Guess the Pumpkin Seed Contest”.  The actual number of seeds was 543. To see more pictures click here.

SAGES Farm Tour


September 14, 2013

Although most station members work closely with agricultural products, we may often forget that our research has a direct impact on the farmers and their harvests in our community.  Eager to re-connect with our agricultural roots, sixteen station members participated in a tour of three local farms this past Saturday, organized by SAGES (the Student Association of the Geneva Experiment Station). 

The first stop on the tour was Hansen Farms in Stanley, NY, where Eric Hansen talked about his family’s farm.  A third-generation farmer, Eric explained how their 2,700 acres are divided among crops like wheat, corn, soybean, and cabbage.  Station members were interested to hear about how the cabbage is hand-picked, why it is so well-suited for the upstate NY climate, and what disease problems the farm has been combating this year with so much rain.  The massive cold-storage rooms were very impressive, helping to keep the cabbage in good condition prior to shipping.  Areas of food safety were also pointed out, and participants heard first-hand how the Hansen farmers strive to comply with Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and benefit from the extension work of our station colleagues.

Next on the tour was Pedersen Farms in Seneca Castle, NY, owned by Rick and Laura Pedersen.  Laura took the group to two different sites, one where large pumpkins were being brought in and a second where the hop yard is located.  Being a mixed commodity farm and also certified organic with certain crops, there is a lot of different work to be done in each season.  Both fresh and dried hops are supplied by Pedersen Farms to multiple local breweries, becoming morepopular with the recently passed NY Farm brewery law.

   Just down the road from Pedersen Farms is Hemdale Farms, which was the final stop on the tour.  Owned by Dale Hemminger, this farm is widely known for having robotic milking stations, and our tour guide Casey showed us all parts of the operation.   With thirteen robots, all cows on the farm are milked with this technology, which had everyone ooo-ing and ahh-ing when watching the robots in action.  Thanks to the automation, record-keeping has become much more stream-lined and measuring activity of the cows in the machines has helped monitor the herd’s health.  Part of the feed is from waste products of crops grown on the farm’s acreage, adding a “green” effort.  The highlight of the day was when the group saw a baby calf just one hour old being washed and carried to the calf pen – just another part of a farmer’s job!

The whole tour group, ranging from graduate students and family members to emeritus professors, expressed how engaging and informative it was to see the farm operations first-hand and to ask the farmers specific questions.  SAGES would like to thank Eric, Rick & Laura, and Dale & Casey for sharing their time and expertise with the station community.

New Solar Array at CLEREL Lab

The Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Lab boasts a new harvester–not for grapes or hops–but for solar energy. On Sept. 18, two arrays with a total of 136 photovoltaic modules were installed next to the hop yard. The system is expected to generate approximately 41,000kWh annually, roughly 30% of the electrical energy used by the lab.

Tasting Wine Cultivars by Region

Researchers in Northeast evaluate wines from the multi-state NE 1020 project
by Linda Jones McKee
Geneva, N.Y.—Thirty-three winemakers, growers and industry researchers eschewed time in the vineyard or lab Aug. 15 in favor of attending a wine tasting in Geneva. The “Cultivar by Region” tasting provided the first opportunity to taste and compare wines made from grape cultivars grown at various sites in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut as part of the NE 1020 project, a comprehensive study that involves researchers in 24 states from California to Vermont.

Initially funded through the Viticultural Consortium via the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the project began Oct. 1, 2004, and will continue until Sept. 30, 2017. The purpose of NE 1020 (NE 1020 is the number assigned by the USDA to the project when the grant was first submitted) is to evaluate the performance not only of the major global cultivars, the Vitis vinifera, but also of new or previously neglected wine grape cultivars in the different wine grape growing regions across the United States. The ultimate goal is to provide information to grape growers and wineries that will aid them in making planting decisions and will ultimately improve the entire industry’s competitiveness in the world market.

To read more, click here

Cleaning out? Remember the Archives

Station Club records as well as photos and blueprints recently rediscovered during a cleaning out project in Jordan Hall.

Just as a reminder…. when Spring (or Autumn) cleaning, think twice before tossing out all those old files.  The Cornell University Archives Rare and Manuscripts Collection (RMC) may be interested in preserving some of those materials.  Photos, blueprints, notebooks, correspondence, any records which document work, events or people here at the Experiment Station could potentially find a place in the NYSAES Collection.  RMC preserves faculty papers (example: Roger Way, Robert Shallenberger ) as well as material relevant to particular industries (like winemaking). 

Your work here is important and preserving a record of it will only happen if documentation is saved from the shredder.  Not sure if the papers you have are worthy of archiving?  Contact RMC directly or Mike here at the Lee Library with questions.  I am happy to take a look and assist with transfer. 

It isn’t only old documents that turn up. Pictured here is a wood burning “branding iron” for marking desks and large pieces of wooden equipment as NYSAES property.

You can also access this post from Lee Library’s facebook page!

Have you checked out the latest issue of periodiCALS yet? If not, here’s your chance! This special, online-only edition of the college magazine turns the spotlight on some amazing CALS undergrads who spent their summers away from campus making a real difference in the world.

And not to toot our own horns or anything, but did we mention that periodiCALS was recently named best college magazine by the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association (NAADA)? Seems we’re not the only ones impressed by the people, places, and programs of CALS!

Congratulations to Tony Shelton

Each year the Entomological Foundation presents an award to a collaborative team which successfully contributes to pest control efforts using Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

This year’s Integrated Pest Management Team Award will be presented to the Risk Assessment of Bt Plants on Beneficial Non-target Arthropods (NTA) IPM Team, including professor of entomology Tony Shelton.

The NTA IPM’s focus is environmental risk assessment of Bt crops, which are genetically engineered to protect themselves from insects. The team is credited with developing a science-based framework for assessing the potential risks of Bt proteins on beneficial insects— non-target arthropods (NTAs)—which will increase the environmental safety of Bt crops and other novel transgenic crops in the future.

The team’s accomplishments include a proposal for selecting surrogate species for studies of toxicity in the lab, criteria for robust and reliable laboratory study design, and lab and field studies on the effects of Bt crops on a broad community of insect species. These studies and the team’s analysis of data sets from lab and field studies around the world have shown that Bt crops in use now do not cause any unexpected detrimental effects on beneficial predators or parasitoids. Their analysis also showed that reductions in insecticide applications made possible by Bt-transgenic varieties have clear benefits on arthropod abundance in general and natural enemies in particular.

Shelton shares the award with team members Jörg Romeis (Agroscope, Switzerland), Steven E. Naranjo (USDA-ARS), Richard L. Hellmich (USDA-ARS), Morven A. McLean (Center for Environmental Risk Assessment, USA), Alan Raybould (Syngenta, UK), Marco P. Candolfi (Innovative Environmental Services, Switzerland), Jian J. Duan (USDA-ARS), Joseph E. Huesing (USAID/BFS), and Raymond J. Layton (Pioneer Hi-Bred, USA).

The award will be presented at the meeting of the Entomological Society of America in Austin, Texas, in November.

Congratulations, Paola!

By Craig Kramer

Paola Barba, Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Field of Plant Breeding in Bruce Reisch‘s lab, has received the 2013 Munger/Murphy Award for excellence.

The award from the Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics recognizes graduate students for outstanding performance in the areas of scientific achievement, contributions to teaching or departmental activities, service to the community or profession, and other relevant areas.

Barba’s research focuses on analyzing powdery mildew resistance derived from Vitis rupestris, a little studied source of resistance, notes Reisch. She worked closely with the Computational Biology Service Unit as well as the Buckler lab to bring the Genotyping By Sequencing approach to heterozygous perennial crops like the grapevine.

Her research “is a quantum leap for research on grapevines,” he adds. “Paola has also worked to identify major loci controlling Phomopsis resistance in Vitis (first report of such resistance) and has continued to study a variety of traits segregating in several interrelated populations.

“She is an independent and insightful researcher.”

Congratulations, Paola!

Amy Andersen Hired as Administrative Assistant for the Director’s Office

Please join us in welcoming Amy Andersen to a new role at the Experiment Station! Amy was recently hired as the administrative assistant for the director’s office, where she will provide key senior level executive and organizational support.

Many of you already know Amy as the chair’s assistant in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, where she worked for 15 years, keeping the department on an even keel through three department chairs and the department merger. A highly-regarded “go to” person, the department relied on her for help with administrative hurdles, from preparing tenure packages to solving visiting scientists’ visa issues.  Her colleagues also give her much credit for the growth and success of the Geneva Summer Scholars program, which just celebrated its fifth year.

Amy’s work ethic and contributions have been recognized by the Station and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). In 2010, Amy was named the NYSAES Employee of the Year, and in 2012 she was awarded a CALS Core Value Award for the high standard of her work and her unfailing cheerfulness in assisting any and all who need her help to accomplish their mission.

“We are very proud and thrilled to have someone of Amy’s caliber and professionalism as our administrative assistant,” said Tom Burr, Station Director. “Her passion for the Station along with her excellent experience will make her a valuable resource in this position.”

You can reach Amy at, 315-787-2211, and 122 Jordan Hall.

Welcome to Cornell, Kyle Wickings!

The Department of Entomology warmly welcomes Dr. Kyle Wickings, assistant professor of soil arthropod ecology, to Cornell University. Kyle’s responsibilities will be to carry out an innovative research and extension program on the ecology and management of soil arthropods and develop strategies to mitigate significant economic problems caused by soil arthropods in turfgrass and other commodities.  Kyle is looking forward to building bridges between scientists, extension specialists, producers, and other stakeholders to develop creative and effective solutions in turfgrass soil arthropod management.

Kyle received his B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Buffalo and his Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Georgia. Kyle was a postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University and recently completed a postdoctoral research associate position at the University of New Hampshire.

Kyle’s hobbies include fishing, hiking and music. Kyle, his wife, Heather, and daughter, Liberty, are excited to be back in the upstate New York area near their families and look forward to being a part of the Station community.

Kyle may be reached at; 315-787-2337; and in 326 Barton Laboratory.

Cornell University Elves Summer Backpack Program comes to Geneva

The Cornell University Elves Summer Backpack Program provides new backpacks filled with school supplies for needy children in our local communities.  The program was initiated in 2007 to ensure all children (K-6) attend the first day of school with a new backpack and school supplies.  This was the first year that the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station Community participated in the program.  In all, 34 new backpacks were purchased, filled with school supplies, and donated to North Street School for distribution.  This considerable donation illustrates the overwhelming generosity of the station community.  Thank you for your donations and contribution to a successful inaugural year of the Backpack Program in Geneva!

(Additional information regarding the Cornell University Elves Summer Backpack Program can be found at:

Filled with supllies

Geneva summer scholars study bees, tempeh, hummus

By Amanda Garris

Jessica Petersen
Alexandra Gresov ’14 collects bees from a hive placed in a pumpkin patch to determine pollination patterns, as part of a research project she conducted at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station this summer.

It’s a question that has perplexed pumpkin producers for years: Why aren’t patches supplemented with beehives to aid pollination producing more pumpkins?

Aspiring Cornell entomologist Alexandra Gresov ’14 may have found the answer, after spending her summer catching hundreds of bees on their way back to their hives and determining their foraging fidelity by examining the pollen they had collected.

She discovered the bees were commuting outside the pumpkin patch for pollen; in fact, quantities of pumpkin pollen were actually lower than any other pollen type for both honeybees and bumblebees. Corn was most common on honeybees, and pea-type plants (such as beans, clover and trefoil) were most common on the bumblebees.

Gresov, a biology major and president of the Cornell Beekeeping Club who worked with entomology professor Brian Nault and postdoctoral research associate Jessica Petersen, managed to get stung only three times. She said the project is just the first step in figuring out what drives pollination behavior and what is trumping proximity.

To Read More, Click Here


SnapDragon and RubyFrost are new apple varieties

By Amanda Garris

Kevin Maloney
SnapDragon, above, and RubyFrost have been a decade in the making, and how they’ve gone to market is a first for the Cornell apple-breeding program and the New York apple industry.

GENEVA, N.Y. — Cornell has announced two new apple varieties developed in partnership with the New York Apple Growers (NYAG). They are SnapDragon and RubyFrost, and they have undergone a year of rigorous consumer testing as NY1 and NY2.

The new names were revealed Aug. 1 by Jeff Crist, vice chairman of the NYAG board of directors, at a field day at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, where Cornell breeder Susan Brown developed the varieties.

“SnapDragon is a great name for this apple because consumers found its crispy texture and sweet flavor so appealing,” said Mark Russell, an apple grower and NYAG member. He anticipates it will be a popular apple for snacking, especially for children.

To Read More, click here

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