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In the news

Recent Cornell Chronicle articles of interest:

$5 million USDA grant to advance community food systems – “Cornell will receive $1 million of a five-year, $5 million multistate project. … ‘There is tremendous opportunity at this moment to help advance local, sustainable community food systems, and for scholars and academics to better understand how these community food systems work, how they get built and what are the challenges,’ said Scott Peters, the project’s Cornell lead, an associate professor of education who is soon transferring into the horticulture department.”

CU experts confirm emerald ash borer in Buffalo, Rochester – “Cornell researchers have confirmed two new spot infestations of the emerald ash borer in New York state: one in South Buffalo, in Erie County for the first time, and the other in Rochester, in Monroe County, where the ash tree-destroying beetle was first seen in 2010. … ”

State’s first hops specialist on tap to promote New York beer production – “Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Madison County has recruited Steve Miller, New York’s first hop specialist, to lead a statewide effort to expand local production of hops, one of beer’s key ingredients. … “

They said it: Frank Rossi

Frank RossiFrom Can you be green and have a green lawn? in the Washington Post, June 20, 2011.

“So is it possible to be environmentally sensitive and have a good lawn? Yes, according to Frank Rossi, an associate professor of horticulture at Cornell University, who offers a crib sheet: ‘When people at a cocktail party ask me how to have a great lawn, I tell them to prepare the soil, choose the right grass, mow it high and fertilize it no more than twice a year.'”

In the news

Two Cornell Chronicle articles this week from Amanda Garris:

Susan Brown and artist Jessica Rath

Susan Brown and artist Jessica Rath

Photo exhibit features Cornell genetics-generated apple architecture in silhouette – Los Angeles artist Jessica Rath creates photographic works from the diverse arboreal architecture of Susan Brown‘s apple crosses. View slideshow of Rath’s work Apple Shadow. Garris’s article is also featured in the summer issue of Ezra Magazine.

Project launches the nutrient-dense juneberry as new fruit crop for the Northeast – Ontario County CCE agricultural specialist Jim Ochterski believes the time is right for a juneberry renaissance. Ochterski is leading an effort to work with local farmers, chefs and consumers to see if the fruit will take root in central New York’s fields and menus.

Potato Field Day July 7

From Don Halseth.

Cornell Potato Field Day

Thursday, July 7, 2011
9 a.m to 4 p.m.
Thompson Vegetable Research Farm, Freeville, NY
Sponsored by the Empire State Potato Growers, Inc.

This potato field day is held every other summer to give individuals associated with the New York State potato industry an opportunity to hear about and see firsthand numerous potato research programs being conducted by Cornell University faculty. We will have registration, coffee & fruit juices at 9 a.m. at the Thompson Lab of the Cornell Vegetable Crops Research Farm. (View Google map.)

At 9:30 a.m. we will take a field tour (we will carpool, to save money we will not rent a bus) of plant breeding plots to see how new varieties are developed – the 12-15 year process from tiny seeds to a new variety. Learn how breeders decide what’s worth keeping, and what isn’t – feel free to let Walter De Jong (Cornell’s potato breeder) know what you would like to have improved!

After lunch we will have presentations on various pests, diseases and problems facing the New York State potato industry, plus observe several yield trials with material from eight U.S. and one European potato breeding programs.

Bill Fry will discuss his work on a real-time potato late blight decision support system which can be run on a laptop computer with an internet connection. This computer program incorporates the effects of future weather and future fungicide applications into late blight management. New for this year are “alerts”. One is to warn users of weather in their location that is favorable to late blight. A second is to warn users that late blight has been found sufficiently near them that it could pose a threat.

Keith Perry has a project to identify existing potato varieties (specialty, heirloom, land races) that have fresh market potential for small-scale growers. Many of these have unusual shape, appearance or skin and flesh colors, which have come from the USDA germplasm repository.

Tom Zitter will discuss important take home points on common scab. It is both seedborne and soilborne and can survive indefinitely in “favorable” soils. The scab pathogen is very sensitive to soil moisture, temperature, and alkalinity. The disease can occur on all potato varieties, since no varieties are immune.

Helen Griffiths has conducted field trials in 2009 and 2010 to identify chip and tablestock varieties with resistance to pink rot (Phytophthora erythroseptica). In 2011 the field plot inoculated with the causal organism of pink rot will be planted to Caliente mustards to study its potential as a bio-fumigant for controlling the pink rot, common scab and powdery scab.

Stewart Gray will provide an update on PVY, focusing primarily on the tuber necrotic strain that is becoming more prevalent in NY seed and perhaps on commercial farms.

Don Halseth will guide a visit of replicated yield trials and new observational plots with 50+ varieties and 600+ breeding lines from 8 US and one European potato breeding programs. White, yellow, red, blue, purple and russet lines for tablestock and round whites for chipping will be observed.

This event is free and is sponsored by the Empire State Potato Growers, Inc. We would appreciate individuals letting Don Halseth know if they can make it by leaving a message at 607-255-5460 or an e-mail at as that helps plan for lunch and refreshments. If a grower’s plans change at the last minute and they can make it unannounced, they are very welcome to come.

Directions to the Thompson Vegetable Crops Research Farm

View Google map.

Freeville, NY – which lies 10 miles east of Ithaca, NY: From the west, take Rt 13 east out of Ithaca towards Dryden. One mile past the large NYSEG building (on your right) take Rt 366 to the left through the hamlet of Etna and into Freeville. On the east side of Freeville there will be a four-way stop with Rt 38 (left [north] to Groton 6 miles and right [south] to Dryden 3 miles). Continue straight ahead (east) at this intersection on Fall Creek Road for 0.7 miles. The Thompson Lab will be the brown metal building on the left at the first intersection. From the east take Rt 13 out of Cortland to Dryden and then Rt 38 into Freeville. Turn right (east) at the four-way stop in Freeville onto Fall Creek Road and arrive at farm in 0.7 mi. Please call 607-844-8281 if you need additional directions.
(address of the Freeville Farm: 133 Fall Creek Road, Freeville, NY 13068)

Flower open house July 16-17 at Bluegrass Lane

annual flowers at Bluegrass LaneFrom Melissa Kitchen:

Looking for something fun to do the weekend of July 16 and 17? Come to the Flower Open House at Bluegrass Lane, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.!

We have 1000+ annuals and perennials, so be sure to bring your camera. The gardens are not typically open to the public, so take this opportunity to see this hidden treasure. Feel free to share this freely with friends. Everyone is welcome.

To preview the gardens, find us online at and also on Facebook.

View google map.

They said it: Nina Bassuk

Nina BassukNina Bassuk, director of the Urban Horticulture Institute, on using shrubs in perennial borders in Chronogram Magazine:

“In the perennial border, you can use shrubs to cheat. For instance, a Goldmound spirea fills space with bright foliage all season yet doesn’t require as much attention as the perennials needed to fill the same space. A burgundy-leaf Diablo ninebark has a pleasing vase shape and provides a beautiful foliage backdrop for herbaceous plants. When either shrub comes into bloom (pink flowers on the Goldmound, white flowers on the Diablo), it’s a bonus.”

Gardeners: Don’t risk tomatoes due to late blight on potatoes

Is it worth risking your home-grown tomatoes to grow a few potatoes in your vegetable garden? That’s the question Meg McGrath, plant pathologist at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center asks in her article, Late blight: Playing ‘Russian Roulette’ in your garden with potatoes.

Both crops can be quickly killed by the disease, which was particularly devastating in 2009. But the pathogen requires a living host to overwinter, which could be volunteer potatoes in your garden or potatoes you’ve saved from last year. Even purchased seed potatoes aren’t risk-free, says McGrath.

If you do grow potatoes, be particularly vigilant for signs of the disease. (See pictures below and at McGraths’ photo gallery.) And be prepared to act quickly to prevent the spread of the pathogen, which is carried long distances by wind. Remove infected plants and put them in plastic garbage bags and leave them in the sun to ‘cook’ the plants and hasten death of the pathogen.

Read McGrath’s whole article and visit her photo gallery of late blight on potatoes and tomatoes for images to help you identify the disease and links to other late blight resources, including link to a new national tracking system for the disease.

Or visit our previous post Late blight update.

late blight on potato

Dilmun Hill farmstand opens Friday

Update from Alex [6/7/2011]:
Regular summer farmstand schedule: Wednesdays 3 to 5 p.m. outside Mann Library on the Ag Quad. (Inside Mann if it’s raining.)

Dilmun Hill Student FarmFrom Alex Traven, Dilmun Hill Market Garden Manager.

That most wonderful time of the year has arrived!

Dilmun Hill, Cornell’s student-run organic farm is having its first farm-stand of the season on Friday, June 3! Come find our table on the Ag Quad in front of Mann Library (inside if raining) from 3:30 to 5:30.

We will have lots of fresh lettuce and greens, as well as tomato plants ready for your home garden! See you there!

Follow Dilmun Hill on Facebook.

In the news

Nina Bassuk, left, oversees plantings in front of Hedrick Hall in Geneva as part of a final project by her Creating the Urban Eden class.  Photo by Rob Way.

Nina Bassuk, left, oversees plantings in front of Hedrick Hall in Geneva as part of a final project by her Creating the Urban Eden class. Photo by Rob Way.

Two noteworthy articles by Amanda Garris this week in the Cornell Chronicle:

Class gives Ithaca and Geneva sites a landscape makeover reports on projects this spring by Nina Bassuk and Peter Trowbridge’s Urban Eden class, including Hedrick Hall in Geneva as well as Roberts Hall and a rooftop garden at Malott Hall in Ithaca. “It seems fitting that a top-rated horticultural program should have a top-rated entrance,” said Department of Horticulture Chair Marvin Pritts, who suggested the Hedrick project. “The new landscaping is a visual benefit of the merger between Ithaca’s horticulture department and Geneva’s Department of Horticultural Sciences last summer.” View photo gallery of Hedrick planting party.

Ag station sows science literacy in Geneva schools profiles “a collaboration between Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) and the Geneva City School District that not only sows zucchini and marigolds, but also the seeds of scientific literacy. … With grants from NYSAES, Ag in the Classroom, and the Wyckoff Education Foundation, McCarthy and Cornell associate professors Christine Smart (plant pathology) and Stephen Reiners (horticulture) launched a hands-on science program to teach elementary school students about plant science.

Sustainability awards announced

The Department of Horticulture is involved in two of the 10 interdisciplinary projects chosen for spring 2011 academic venture fund awards from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF).

Ecologically-Sustainable Disease Management for Emerging Bioenergy Crops
Promising biofuels feedstocks, such as willow and switchgrass, are being identified for the eastern United States. Sustainable disease management must be developed for plant pathogens that could threaten maximized yields. This research is intended to set the foundation on which scientists in mycology, plant pathology and breeding, and feedstock production and evaluation can ensure predictable futures for crops for which foliar pathogens are the most likely emergent threats.
Investigators: George Hudler (PLPA), Gary Bergstrom (PLPA), Kathie Hodge (PLPA), Lawrence Smart (HORT)
Funding: $70,664
Duration: 15 months

School Gardens: Improving NY State Youth Ecological Literacy, Diet, and Physical Activity
School gardens have received considerable attention as a vehicle to promote sustainability, however there are few well-designed, large-scale research studies examining the efficacy of school gardens in terms of STEM learning outcomes, diet, physical activity, and connection to nature. We will organize a workshop of experts and stakeholders related to school gardens, enabling us to build an interdisciplinary network within NYS. We will also pilot-test and fine-tune instruments, and develop infrastructure to position us as a competitive team for a large, externally-funded study.
Investigators: Nancy Wells (DEA), Brian Wansink (AEM), Jennifer Wilkins (NS), Marcia Eames-Sheavly (HORT), Gretchen Ferenz Fox (CCE)
Funding: $48,127
Duration: 6 months

The awards were announced May 29 and total $705,318. Initiated in 2008, the academic venture fund is designed to stimulate original, cross-disciplinary research at Cornell in sustainability science, particularly work with the potential to involve external partners such as industry, government, foundations and nongovernmental organizations.

More info:

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