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Experiment Station goes green

In an April 20 Cornell Chronicle article, Amanda Garris explains the many ways the New York Agricultural Experiment Station is ‘going green’ — from simple energy-saving steps in buildings to employing an electric car and pickup truck around the Geneva campus to construction this year of a wind turbine at the Experiment Station’s Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory satellite in Portland, N.Y.

Larry SmartGarris also cites two projects led by Department of Horticulture faculty in Geneva, Larry Smart (right):

“On the Geneva campus, shrub willow is being tested as a renewable energy source. By next winter, two Field Research Unit buildings will be equipped with New York-made biomass boilers that will burn shrub willow wood chips, replacing natural gas with a renewable energy source that can be grown right on campus.

“The willow will be harvested from horticulture associate professor Larry Smart’s research and demonstration fields. The boilers are expected to consume the equivalent of five to six acres of willow per year, so a total of 15-20 acres of willow is being planted to allow three years for regrowth between harvests. The plantings will showcase willow’s yield capacity and sustainable management practices for the new willow varieties bred in Smart’s program.

“‘In addition to heating two buildings, the project demonstrates the feasibility of producing on-farm renewable heat from shrub willow, which can be grown on marginal land not suitable for other crops,’ explained Smart.”

Alan TaylorAnd Alan Taylor (right):

“Switchgrass — a vigorous native prairie grass — also is a promising feedstock crop for ethanol production. However, a big hurdle in farming it is establishing a strong plant stand, which requires seeds that germinate quickly and keeping weedy competitors at bay. To that end, horticulture professor Alan Taylor is working on seed treatments and coatings that protect germinating switchgrass plants from a selective herbicide, as well as more fundamental research on why some seeds germinate quickly and others sleep in.

“‘Once we understand the secrets of what makes the seeds tick, we can work on developing a seed treatment that will give farmers greater success in their plantings,’ said Taylor.”

See also Larry Smart’s Willowpedia website.

Rossi receives ‘Excellence in IPM’ award

Frank RossiAt our April 25 department seminar, Don Rutz, director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, and Jennifer Grant, assistant director, will present associate professor and turf specialist Frank Rossi with an Excellence in IPM award.

Says Grant, “Frank is not afraid to challenge the status quo by asking questions such as ’does a golf course putting green need to be green?’ or ‘does grass need any nutrients applied other than nitrogen?’”

One example of Rossi’s IPM work has been the “Reduced risk golf course management project” at Bethpage State Park, which is still going strong after 10 years of testing new practices and products under real world conditions. Bethpage serves as a model for golf courses throughout the Northeast. A publication that grew out of the project, “Reducing Chemical Use on Golf Course Turf: Redefining IPM,” is being used to train staff at other golf courses.

Also cited as an effective method of outreach is Rossi’s weekly ShortCUTT newsletter and podcast.

Letters of support from the turf industry call Rossi “an advocate for alternative approaches to pest management and plant health” and someone who provides “a solid footing for practitioners to be confident in using an IPM approach.”

Visit the NYSIPM Program website for more information about the award.

Visit the Cornell Turfgrass Program website to see more resources Rossi has contributed to.

Garden-based learning in Belize: Special seminar May 2

Click image for .pdf poster

Click image for .pdf poster

From Marcia Eames-Sheavly:

Monday, May 2nd, 2011
Mann 102

Please join us for a special seminar given by students from HORT/IARD 3200: Garden‐Based Learning in Belize.

Come find out how school gardens are helping to improve education and food security in rural Mayan communities of southern Belize.

Cornell students will speak about their experiences participating in this unique garden‐based learning course and will provide reflections from their service‐learning trip to Toledo, Belize.

Students have completed final projects and video documentation inspired by the trip. We invite you to join us as they share their work.

Traditional Belizean foods will also be available to taste.

Senior profile: Lauren Seccurra

Lauren Securra at work in the herb garden at Cornell Plantations

Lauren Securra at work in the herb garden at Cornell Plantations

First in a series of profiles celebrating the Class of 2011.

Major: Plant sciences with a concentration in horticulture

Hometown: Sherrill, N.Y.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I came to Cornell to major in Landscape Architecture. There are smaller schools with landscape architecture programs, but they didn’t offer all the other courses to explore outside the major. And there are so many other opportunities for learning here – lectures, concerts, libraries, and people from all over the world. Coming from a small high school, I saw Cornell’s diversity as a great opportunity to meet many people from all over the world.

What was your main extracurricular activity? Why was it important to you?

I learned a lot about leadership and teamwork as a member of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity. I served on the executive board and worked on conference planning and event hosting, and now I have a supportive network of friends all over the country.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most?

I had so many great professors who helped along the way – too many to mention. If you’re struggling with something, they’re willing to help. I had good support here.

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

My sophomore year, I took Creating the Urban Eden – a course where you learn about the woody plants used in landscape design. Then the following summer, I got a lot of hands-on experience as a Botanical Collections intern at Cornell Plantations. From those experiences, I realized that in order to make good landscape design decisions, you have to know a lot about the plants. So I switched my major to Plant Sciences.

Did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

I learned that a balance between art and science is very valuable, especially when making design decisions. I came to realize that I like a balance of the two approaches.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

My summer internships. In 2009 at Cornell Plantations, I got to get my hands dirty working outside in the sunshine and got a good feel for public garden management and education. I could take pride in seeing the gardens really come to life and help beautify our campus.

In 2010, I worked on the flower trials at Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Center just off campus. In addition to growing the flowers, we helped host a conference and field day, made floral arrangements, and attended a floriculture conference.

Any advice for freshmen?

Get to know all the great things the area has to offer: The Dairy Bar, The Commons, Cayuga Lake, the Farmers Market and the festivals – especially the Apple Festival in the fall.

What are your plans for next year and beyond?

I’m still looking for a job. I’m hoping for something where I can put my skills and interests in public gardens, flowers and event planning to work. Meantime, I’ve lined up a great internship in the Disney Professional Horticulture Internship Program. It should be a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

Greenhouse management students tour businesses

From Bill Miller:

In a three-day whirlwind tour earlier this spring, the 27 students in Bill Miller’s Greenhouse Management class (Hort 3100) toured 11 businesses in Rochester, Buffalo and the St. Catherines area in Ontario.

The group was treated to visits to a number of Cornell alums, including the Moore Family in Henrietta (Gro-Moore Farms), The Call and Riners families near Batavia (Triple-P farms) and the Zittel family in Eden NY (Amos Zittel and Sons).

After crossing in to Canada, the next two days were a treat of advanced technology and large operations including cucumbers, bedding plants, plugs, pot plants, cut flowers and a greenhouse manufacturing company. All in all, a great trip with lots to see for the students, faculty and staff on the trip.

Bill Millers greenhouse management class on Western N.Y./Canada tour.

Bill Millers greenhouse management class on Western N.Y./Canada tour.

North American viburnums: Weak on defense

Viburnum leaf beetle larvae feeding on leaf.

Viburnum leaf beetle larvae feeding on leaf.

From an April 11 article in the Cornell Chronicle by Krishna Ramanujan, Poor plant defenses promote invasive beetle’s success, not lack of predators.

While most researchers attribute invasive species’ success to a lack of natural predators in their new territory, Cornell researchers offer proof for a less popular explanation: Invasive species fare so well because host species lack an evolutionary history with — and defenses against — the new invaders.

Their study examined the relationship between the viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni), which originated in Europe and was first discovered in North America in 1924, and viburnums, common woody shrubs found in gardens and forests, with native species in North America, South America, Asia and Europe. There were at least three events, millions of years ago, where Eurasian viburnums colonized North America. During each of those events, a single colonization diversified into several North American species, but without a predatory beetle putting adaptive pressures on them.

Meanwhile, European viburnums continued to evolve with such beetles and developed a defense strategy: The female beetle lays her eggs in twigs in summer, but they don’t hatch until the following spring. During that time, the twig tissue of European viburnums grows over the eggs and crushes them. In North American species, this defense is greatly reduced.

Read the whole article.

Viburnum eggs hatch and larvae start feeding in late April or early may in most of New York. Visit the Viburnum Leaf Beetle Citizen Science website for more information about how to identify and manage this pest.

Turf webinar May 23

Gazing in the Grass – A Timely Update for Turf Management Professionals

A program featuring Dept. of Horticulture turf specialists Frank Rossi and Marty Petrovic designed to update landscape and golf course turf management professionals about the steps necessary to keep the condition of the turf that you manage healthy and vigorous throughout the 2011 growing season.

Date: Monday May 23, 2011 from 5:15 PM – 7:45 PM
Location: Your Local Cornell Cooperative Extension Office

NYS DEC Applicator Credits: 1.5 in categories 3a, 3b, 10 & 25. Also GCSAA Credits.

More info.

Seminar video: Permaculture & Public Gardens

What’s green about a chicken? Find out what a chicken can teach us and so much more in this April 13, 2011 talk by 2010 Dreer Award recipient Erin Marteal, who traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and Trinidad exploring the relationship between permaculture and public gardens. What is permaculture? And where does it belong within the contemporary context of public gardens, landscapes and environmental education? These questions will be discussed against a backdrop of colorful photos from around the world.

Read more on Erin’s blog Permaculture in Public Gardens.

Turfgrass podcasts resume

Frank RossiWith the grass greening up, Frank Rossi has resumed his free weekly podcast for lawn-, sports- and golf-turf professionals.  Each episode reviews the week’s weather and it’s implications on turf management, pest and disease alerts, and practical solutions to timely problems.

Podcasts are supplemented by blog posts with links to additional information.  You can subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed, sign-up for email to receive email to alert of new posts, or subscribe via iTunes.

Sod sofa ‘recycled’

'Urban Eden' students recycle sod sofa

'Urban Eden' students recycle sod sofa

On April 12, students from LA/HORT 4910/12 (Creating the Urban Eden) taught by Nina Bassuk and Peter Trowbridge tore down the sod sofa built last fall by students in Marcia Eames-Sheavly‘s HORT 2010 (Art of Horticulture) class.

But there are no hard feelings. It was all part of the original plan, says Eames-Sheavly.

The Urban Eden students are using the compost that formed the base of the sofa to improve the soil outside Roberts Hall, where they will install a new planting later this semester. As with other recent projects the class has tackled around campus, the Roberts Hall planting is designed to comply with standards for the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

This spring’s plans also include changes to the adjacent plaza, a parcel outside Kennedy Hall, a rooftop garden at Mallott Hall, and new plantings at Hedrick Hall in Geneva.

View construction of sod sofa.

Finished sod sofa outside Roberts Hall on Cornell University's Ag Quad.

Finished sod sofa outside Roberts Hall on Cornell University's Ag Quad.

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