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Eastern Broccoli Project on track to meet $100M goal

Thomas Bjorkman, professor of horticulture poses with an heirloom style broccoli that he is researching to understand the multitude of broccoli genes available for breeding purposes.

Thomas Bjorkman, professor of horticulture poses with an heirloom style broccoli that he is researching to understand the multitude of broccoli genes available for breeding purposes. Photo: Allison Usavage/Cornell University

By Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell Chronicle [2019-10-17]:

The Eastern Broccoli Project began in 2010 with the goal of growing a $100 million broccoli industry in the Eastern U.S. in 10 years. Currently, the industry is valued at around $90 million and, with two remaining years of funding, Cornell researchers say they are on schedule to meet their goal.

“I think we’re going to hit it,” said Thomas Björkman, Cornell professor of horticulture and the project’s principal investigator.

Between 2012 and 2017, the number of New York state broccoli farms increased from 290 to 535, and the number of Eastern Seaboard broccoli farms doubled. Yet about 85% of the broccoli consumed annually on the East Coast is shipped from California and Mexico, even with widespread enthusiasm for locally grown foods.

One challenge of growing broccoli in the East is that the plant was originally cultivated as a winter vegetable in Mediterranean climates, so trying to grow it in the Eastern U.S. summer – when summer nights exceed 65 degrees Fahrenheit – ends up confusing the plant’s developmental cues.

At such temperatures, the flower buds and heads often grow unevenly, and while perfectly edible, do not look the same as West Coast broccoli. “It’s not at all marketable; you would never see it in a store,” Björkman said.

This year, two new papers clarify issues that should further help to grow the Eastern broccoli industry.

The first paper, a marketing study, “Produce Buyer Quality Requirements to Form an Eastern Broccoli Industry,” was published in the Journal of Food Distribution Research in March.

In the study, the authors – including Philip Coles (MS ’15), professor of practice in the College of Business and Economics at Lehigh University; Miguel Gómez, associate professor at Cornell’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; and Björkman – surveyed a group of influential wholesale buyers (those who buy on behalf of supermarkets and are the gatekeepers of quality standards, as opposed to consumers) to gauge whether a growing appetite for local foods might outweigh the fact that Eastern broccoli looks a little different from Western broccoli, which is the industry standard. Though Eastern-adapted varieties are still of high quality, they can have a lighter color or larger flower buds than West Coast varieties.

At the same time, sales of local foods increased from $5 billion to $12 billion between 2008 and 2014, according to Packaged Facts, a food industry research firm.

Read the whole article.

Video: ‘Plant Drop’ Cornell – 1,000 plants in 20 minutes

If you missed last week’s ‘Plant Drop’ outside Appel Commons (or just want to relive it) view this timelapse video of the event.

Organizers gave away 1,000 plants donated by Peace Tree Farms to get new students to engage with the wealth of opportunities at Cornell to learn about and enjoy plants by including a tag in each pot leading students to a webpage detailing opportunities to get involved.

Plant Drop co-sponsors:

Special thanks to Collegiate Plant Initiative for support.

‘Plant Drop’ preview

Lloyd Travern with van full of plants headed for Cornell 'Plant Drop'

In this Facebook video, Lloyd Traven, co-owner of Peace Tree Farm provides a preview of the 1,000 plants headed to Appel Commons for the ‘Plant Drop’ giveaway this afternoon (October 3) at 4:30 p.m. The goal of the drop is to get new students to engage with the wealth of opportunities at Cornell to learn about and enjoy plants. More ‘Plant Drop’ information.

Seminar video: The Garden Pea Returns to its Place as a Model Plant,

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, The Garden Pea Returns to its Place as a Model Plant,  with Peter Davies, Plant Biology and Horticulture Sections, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

‘Plant Drop’ coming October 3

Plant drop at the University of Florida draws crowd of students.

Last fall a plant drop at the University of Florida distributed 1,000 in less than three minutes.

Free houseplants!  What better way to get new students to engage with the wealth of opportunities at Cornell to learn about and enjoy plants.

On October 3 beginning at 4:30 p.m. in Appel Commons, organizers will give away 1,000 spider plants, Chinese money plants, or pilea aquamarines – first come, first served.

Each 6-inch pot will have a plant tag leading students to a webpage detailing opportunities to get involved, including majoring in plants sciences, joining Hortus Forum (Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club), or supporting efforts at Cornell’s student-run farm Dilmun Hill,.

The event is co-sponsored by Cornell Botanic Gardens, CALS School of Integrative Plant Science, and Dilmun Hill Student Farm, with the support of the Collegiate Plant Initiative. Peace Tree Farm – co-owned by Alex Traven ’13 and a former Dilmun Hill farm manager – donated the plants.

Questions? Contact student organizer Jeannie Yamazaki: jay57@cornell.edu.

Maria Gannett awarded three-year FFAR fellowship

Maria Gannett

ReposteMaria Gannett

Reposted from the SIPS blog, Discovery that Connects:

Maria Gannett, PhD student in the Field of Horticulture advised by Jenny Kao-Kniffin and Toni DiTommaso, has been awarded a graduate fellowship from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR). The fellowship grants $150,000 over three years, with roughly half of the funding provided by an industry partner. Gannett’s thesis research is focused on manipulation of soil microbes to enhance growth of crop plants relative to weed competitors. Her industry partner, American Vanguard Company (AMVAC), develops precision application technologies and is interested in incorporating research findings on soil biological functioning.

FFAR was established as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. The Fellows Program was created to provide professional development and career guidance to the next generation of food and agriculture scientists and is led by the Academic Programs Office at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. In addition to a $2.7 million commitment from FFAR, funding for the program is matched by a consortium of industry leaders. By providing early career support to graduate students, the fellowship cultivates supportive relationships between graduate students and industry peers to equip students with the skills needed to facilitate their transition to the workforce and prepare future leaders for food and agriculture. Fellows are co-mentored over the course of the 3-year program by university and industry representatives, and engage with their peers in professional development programming both virtually and at the annual one-week residential sessions.

As described in her FFAR profile, Gannett’s interest in weed control grew during her time in the Peace Corps where she observed the challenges of weed management in rural Senegal. In other parts of the world, heavy reliance on chemical herbicides such as glyphosate is leading to an increase in herbicide-resistant weeds. However, greater understanding of the interactions of soil chemistry, the soil microbiome, and the relative nutritional needs of plants, has the potential to reveal new strategies for weed suppression through targeted manipulation of these variables.

Gannett values this opportunity as the industry collaboration enables her to pursue fundamental research with real applications in farming systems and the program encourages innovation by gathering diverse stakeholders together. “This fellowship is especially unique in that it emphasizes professional skill development with our cohort. I’m really honored to be part of the program and hope I can share some of the skills I learn with the SIPS community.”

Read more about FFAR

Read more about Maria Gannett and her research

Seminar video: Nature Prescription Programs

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Nature Prescription Programs,  with Robert Zarr, Park Rx America, and Don Rakow, associate professor in the Horticulture Section, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Michael Rosato: Creating a more sustainable and affordable future for New York growers

Mike Rosato and others harvesting snap peas in research plots at Cornell AgriTech

Michael Rosato, a graduate student studying under the guidance of Steve Reiners, professor and chair of the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, is evaluating the soil sulfur levels on vegetable farms across New York State and conducting sulfur fertilizer trails that have economically important crops for growers. Above, Rosato, center, harvests snap peas at Cornell AgriTech with summer field workers, Christine Driscoll, Kim Day and Luke Czadzeck. Photo by Justin James Muir

CALS News [2019-08-23]:

Michael Rosato is a graduate student studying under the guidance of Steve Reiners, professor and chair of the horticulture section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

What drew you to the program with Steve Reiners?

I first worked in Steve Reiner’s program at the beginning of my undergraduate years as a summer technician. Steve always took the time to answer questions and helped me explore the world of horticulture. Beyond being a true mentor, seeing how his worked helped growers—both with sustainability and success—was a big reason why I wanted to work with him.

What’s the focus of your research?

Historically, sulfur has been abundant in soils mainly due to widespread pollution and the use of manure. In the 1970s, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act led to a gradual but drastic reduction in atmospheric sulfur, and thus, less sulfur was deposited in U.S. soils.

My project has two key elements. First, we are evaluating soil sulfur levels on vegetable farms across New York State, and second, we are also conducting sulfur fertilizer trials that have economically important crops for growers. We are measuring both yield and quality factors across all crops.

In our tomato trial, we are conducting sensory evaluations, as well as testing soluble solids and titratable acids to see if sulfur may be impacting flavor.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered while doing research at Cornell AgriTech?

In our first sensory evaluation, a panel of 100 participants generally rated sulfur-treated tomatoes as more acidic. Their observations were mirrored in our measurements of citric acid in the fruit.

Sulfur is a macro-nutrient that may impact the flavor of vegetables like tomato and onions, but it is often overlooked. If growers can add flavor intensity to their tomatoes by using a sulfur source like gypsum, which is cheap, easily applied and has the option of being organic, it’s a win for the farmer and the consumer.

In what ways do you hope your research will help growers in New York?

By measuring soil sulfur levels state-wide, we hope to get a better idea of how common sulfur deficiencies are. Further, we want to create accurate fertilizer recommendations for growers, so they can produce the highest quality products possible in both an affordable and sustainable way.

How do you think graduate students benefit from doing translational research?

Working on real life issues and seeing your efforts positively impact others’ lives is an important experience for all of us, and it’s truly fulfilling. I think translational research is a place where people can find purpose in helping others in any variety of ways.

Knowing berry pests’ varied diets may help control them

Spotted-wing drosophila on a blueberry

Spotted-wing drosophila cause billions of dollars in damage to fruit crops across Asia, North and South America, and Europe.

Cornell Chronicle [2019-08-06]

With New York state’s $20 million berry industry entering peak season, an invasive fruit fly is thriving.

Female spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii Matsumura) have a special ovipositor (a tube through which a female insect deposits eggs) with a saw-like end that allows them to cut into soft fruits and insert their eggs. The larvae and adults feed on the fruits, causing billions of dollars in damage across Asia, North and South America, and Europe.

But little has been known about how the pests survive before and after the growing season.

A Cornell study, published in May in Ecological Entomology, investigates for the first time what spotted-wing drosophila adults and larvae eat, and where they lay their eggs, when these short-lived fruits are not in season.

“They will lay eggs and successfully develop on less preferred resources and not the typical fruit that we think they prefer,” said Greg Loeb, professor of entomology at Cornell AgriTech and a co-author of the paper. Dara Stockton, a postdoctoral associate in Loeb’s lab, is the paper’s first author.

Read the whole article.

Schumer announces funding for hemp seed bank at Cornell

Larry Smart, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences, examines industrial hemp in a greenhouse.

Larry Smart, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences, examines industrial hemp in a greenhouse.

Cornell Chronicle [2019-08-05]:

The 2018 Farm Bill changed federal policy regarding industrial hemp, including the removal of hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and the consideration of hemp as an agricultural product.

The change created an agricultural opportunity potentially worth billions of dollars, and thanks to a big push from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Cornell will play a major research role as that industry grows.

On Aug. 2, Schumer announced $500,000 in federal funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) to create the nation’s only industrial hemp germplasm repository – a seed bank – co-located at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. This funding, part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Omnibus Spending Package, builds on Schumer’s contributions to the 2018 Farm Bill.

“I fought tooth and nail to secure this federal funding,” said Schumer, the senate minority leader, “while also working to strip back the burdensome federal restrictions that held our farmers and growers back from growing industrial hemp as an agriculture commodity, because I knew the potential this crop had to transform the upstate New York economy.”

Industrial hemp is used to make a wide range of products, including fibers, textiles, paper, construction materials, cosmetics and food.

“The hemp seed bank and the research potential it gives our Cornell and USDA-ARS scientists will be vital resources for New York state farmers,” said Kathryn J. Boor ’80 , the Ronald P. Lynch Dean at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We are grateful to Sen. Schumer for his hard work to secure this federal funding.”

Larry Smart, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences (SIPS), said the hemp repository is a desperately needed resource. The seed bank will enable researchers to identify pest-resistant and disease-resistant genes, giving them the tools to breed new varieties. Getting to the root of crop health, Smart said, is essential for providing better resources to New York hemp growers.

Read the whole article.

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