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Kumar receives Atkinson Center award

Shanthanu Krishna Kumar

Shanthanu Krishna Kumar

Shanthanu Krishna Kumar, a Ph.D. student in Greg Peck‘s lab, received a 2020 Sustainable Biodiversity Fund award from the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

Shanthanu’s research goals involve enhancing biodiversity in cider apple production by increasing the concentration of polyphenols and micronutrients which were more plentiful in older cider apple cultivars.

With support from Sustainable Biodiversity Fund, Shanthanu plans to identify genetic markers for polyphenolic compounds which will speed development of new cultivars for the burgeoning cider market.

The Sustainable Biodiversity Fund  supports innovative research by Cornell graduate students and postdoctoral researchers on the most pressing questions in protecting biodiversity.

Weekly turf webinars in response to COVID-19

In response to COVID-19 emergency, the Cornell turfgrass team is taking its outreach online with webinars via Zoom for turfgrass professionals:

The topic for all 3 webinars this week will be: “Best Management Practices for COVID-19, and what lies ahead in the essential care of plants.” We are hoping to keep these relatively short, around 15 mins, and then open up for questions at the end. The link will stay the same every week. No need to register, and of course no registration fee. We are recording and posting webinar videos to YouTube after the live session as we understand many people won’t be able to attend the live webinar every week.

Find links to these recordings on the Cornell Turfgrass Webinars page.

Kao-Kniffin Lab featured in Cornell Research

kao kniffin and lab staff with soil samples

The work of Jenny Kao-Kniffin and her team is featured in an article on the Cornell Research website, Ecosystems of Plant Roots and Soils.

Kao-Kniffin’s groundbreaking studies look at the effect of manipulating the bacteria, fungi, and soil that surround plant roots, and how that manipulation can help control weeds and increase crop yields.

“I think this way of modifying the ecosystem by altering microbiome functions has a lot of potential in the future. We need to get away from this routine of relying on genetically modified crops and their paired herbicides,” she says.

Read the whole article.

Seminar video: New Developments in Municipal Arboriculture

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, New Developments in Municipal Arboriculture,  with Jeanne Grace, Ithaca City Forester, it is available online.


More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Seminar video: Invaders on our doorstep: Spotted lanternfly biology and management

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Invaders on our doorstep: Spotted lanternfly biology and management,  with Betsy Lamb, NYS Integrated Pest Management Program, it is available online.


More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Additional information from Betsy:

Based on some questions in the seminar, I looked for additional information on spotted lanternfly.  The information on native range seems to vary quite a bit, including where it was found and when, and the temperature range .  I’ve included some references here for anyone interested in learning more.

University of Florida Entomology and Nematology page on spotted lanternfly

From Lifecycle section of Wikipedia entry on spotted lanternfly:

Some researchers believe that a severe cold interval is required for the eggs to develop past a certain point, however this has not yet been confirmed.[11] Testing has been done to determine how overwintering affects the eggs of the species. The minimum temperature that will kill eggs was estimated by South Korean researchers to be between −12.7 and −3.4°C (9.1 and 25.9°F) on the basis of mean daily temperatures during their winter of 2009/2010.[15] This estimate contrasts with eggs having survived the much colder winter 2013/14 temperatures in Pennsylvania, United States.[16] Another study done in South Korea suggested that -25°C is about the temperature in which no eggs are hatched, while 15°C still had limited hatching, depending upon how long they were chilled and where they were kept.[17]

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.

Online organic gardening course starts April 1

Registration is now open for Organic Gardening one of the online courses offered by the Horticulture Section in Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science.

Raised bed vegetable gardenOrganic Gardening is designed to help new gardeners get started and help experienced gardeners broaden their understanding of organic techniques for all kinds of gardens.

Starting with a strong foundation in soil health and its impact on plant health, the course then explores tried-and-true and cutting-edge techniques for all different kinds of garden plants including food plants, trees and shrubs and lawn.

Participants read assigned essays and book excerpts, participate in online group discussions with other students, complete reflective writing/design work and take part in some hands-on activities. Most students spend about 5 hours each week with the content, though there are always ample resources and opportunity to do more.

View more information and full course syllabus for Organic Gardening.

Questions about either course? View FAQ or contact, Chrys Gardener: cab69@cornell.edu

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.

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