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Willow grant could speed development of promising bioenergy crop

Shrub willow planting

Shrub willow planting

From a Cornell Chronicle article by Sarah Thompson, 7/31/2012.

Larry Smart, associate professor, Department of Horticulture, has partnered with Christopher D. Town, professor at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, Md., to study the genetics of superior growth in hybrids of shrub willow, a fast-growing, perennial cool-climate woody plant. …

“We think the results of this research will take years off the cycle time needed to find the best growing shrub willow hybrids and with consistent increases in yield each cycle, we will rapidly advance commercialization of this emerging bioenergy crop,” Smart said. …

“We’re at a key juncture in New York, where we’re deciding whether or not to extract more fossil fuels locally. At the same time, we need to explore renewable energy options that will stimulate the local economy and not contribute to global climate change,” Smart said.

Read the whole article.

Visit Willowpedia – Willow Energy Crop Information Resource at Cornell University.

Cornell Orchards open for the season (limited hours in August)

Apples coming soon

Apples coming soon

From Kristina Engel-Ross, Cornell Orchards,

The season has started, and we are happy to announce that — despite the spring frosts that had a devastating effect on New York fruit crops — we will be able to offer limited amounts of peaches, apples, pears and berries this season.

For the month of August, our retail store will be open every Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting August 2. See website for latest info.

We will have the following fruits available this week:

  • Donut Peaches
  • Starfire Peaches
  • Blackberries

The Cayuga Lake Creamery is working hard on our custom made ice cream flavors for you to enjoy and to cool down on those hot summer days. The following flavors will be available:

  • Cornell Orchards Blackberry and Cream
  • Cornell Orchards Blueberry
  • Cornell Orchards Red Raspberry
  • Cornell Orchards Black Raspberry (limited edition)

We also have our Cornell Orchards Butters and Jams available for you this year again.

  • Cornell Orchards Apple Butter (also sugar free available)
  • Cornell Orchards Peach Jam
  • Cornell Orchards Plum Jam
  • Cornell Orchards Blueberry-Apple Butter
  • Cornell Orchards No Sugar Blueberry-Apple Butter

We will also be offering this season:

  • Cornell Maple syrup
  • Cornell Dairy yogurt and pudding
  • Cornell Orchards T-shirts and cups
  • Cornell sheep blankets
  • and a selection of local products

We are looking forward seeing you at our store.

Cornell Orchards
Rt. 366 (709 Dryden Rd.) across from the Vet School. View Google map.

Visit our website.

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Contest seeks names for two new grapes (Deadline: Aug. 6)

NY95.0301.01 (left) is an organic dark red wine grape with a hint of blueberry flavor. NY76.0844.24 is a cold-hardy white wine grape.

NY95.0301.01 (left) is an organic dark red wine grape with a hint of blueberry flavor. NY76.0844.24 is a cold-hardy white wine grape.

From an article by Stacey Shackford in the Cornell Chronicle [7/30/2012]:

“Cornell scientists are asking the public for names for two new wine grape varieties that will be released from their breeding program in 2013.

“The two latest varieties from grape breeder Bruce Reisch include a cold-hardy white wine grape and an innovative organic dark red. The first conjures up citrusy aromatic characteristics; the second has a hint of blueberry. Their current names — NY76.0844.24 and NY95.0301.01– are far from inspiring.

“Reisch hopes that a contest and social media campaign will help change that. He is accepting name submissions at until Aug. 6.

Read the whole article.

Mann Library seeks plant care student worker

From Michael Cook, Mann Library (

Mann Library has an open position for a plant care student worker. This would be a great chance not only to hone their skills, but to also participate in expanding our collection of plants to further improve the atmosphere in Mann. We can hire as soon as possible, hopefully no later than the start of classes.

Here’s the job description:

Plant Care Student Worker (Student Administrative Assistant II)

Performs weekly care and feeding of plants in all public spaces in Mann Library with minimal supervision, 2 hours per week. Flexible schedule. Must have horticultural experience (greenhouse, nursery, etc.). Students of botany, horticulture or other plant sciences preferred. Pay rate commensurate with level of experience.

Contact me to find out more:

In the news

Cornell University climate scientist: This is just the beginning [Syracuse Post-Standard 7/18/2012] – David Wolfe says that there is a high degree of certainty that we’ll see more weather like this in the future. Wolfe is surprised by speed at which climate is changing but the slow pace of our reaction to it. “I think [policymakers are] more fearful of the policy reaction to climate change than to the climate change itself,” he said. “I think they underestimate the costs of adaptation down the road, but it’s our children who will pay the bills for that.”

storage guide coverNew guide offers organic farmers tips for storing produce [Cornell Chronicle 7/17/2012] With organic produce reaping a growing marketplace share, farmers who can keep their crops fresh longer will benefit from more marketing options. But it takes know-how. The new and free 2012 Production Guide for Storage of Organic Fruits and Vegetables, by Christopher Watkins and Jacqueline Nock and posted online by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, can help.

Pilot program aims to cure ‘plant blindness’ among high school students [Cornell Chronicle 7/11/2012] A Cornell pilot program, Plantations Environmental Education Program for Sustainability (PEEPS), aims to give high school students an appreciation for plants.

Berry growers partner with Cornell to evaluate new varieties

Courtney Weber (in hat) conducts taste testing with horticulture graduate students.

Courtney Weber (in hat) conducts taste testing with horticulture graduate students.

Story by Amanda Garris, Cornell Chronicle, 7/5/2012:

“Through a new agreement between the New York State Berry Growers Association (NYSBGA) and the Cornell berry breeding program, raspberry and strawberry growers across the state will evaluate elite selections from the university in their own fields. …

“‘The industry was looking for a way to provide stable support for Cornell berry research and variety development,’ said Dale Ila Riggs, NYSBGA president and co-owner of The Berry Patch in Stephentown, N.Y. ‘When we learned that hands in the field are one of the biggest limiting factors in evaluating new berry varieties, we offered to be those hands.’ …

“‘Growers will give us feedback on how the flavor, yield, color and disease resistance compare to other varieties they are growing,’ said Courtney Weber, associate professor of horticulture based at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. ‘The most important question for me is whether they’d want to plant more.'”

Read the whole story.

Greenhouse Team Earns IPM Award for Helping Other Growers

From Mary Woodsen, NYS IPM Program. More info, contact: Elizabeth Lamb

GENEVA, NY: Susan and Tom Palomaki knew that greenhouses provide perfect moisture and warmth, not just for plants, but for pests. But in 2005 when they bought Lucas Greenhouses in Fairport, NY, with over a million plants under one roof, they didn’t want to be tied to the weekly spray routines commonly used to combat greenhouse pests.

The Palomaki’s first priority—finding a better, gentler way to cope with pests. Which led to their first permanent new hire—Debbie Palumbo-Sanders.

Palumbo-Sanders’s background in plant pathology and plant science, coupled with her enthusiasm and curiosity, made her a natural for the job. Plus: she knew the core principles of integrated pest management (IPM) and was eager to learn more. Now the Lucas Greenhouses team has received an Excellence in IPM award for their leadership in promoting IPM to greenhouse growers statewide as well as to their customers.

Among the IPM tactics well-suited to greenhouses is biocontrol. Because greenhouse conditions are ideal for them, too, these predatory insects or pathogens can really wallop pests. But although IPM growers can cut way back on the time and money spent spraying greenhouses, says NYS IPM educator Brian Eshenaur, working with tiny, sometimes microscopic living critters involves a learning curve.

Lucas Greenhouses has become a major player in the mentoring circuit. They help the large wholesale growers who supply them—and even other retailers—get a handle on the sometimes-tricky tactics it takes to succeed at biocontrol.

“We definitely see the ripple effect,” says Tom Palomaki. “Suppliers are sending us cuttings they’ve grown using biocontrols.” Which means many other retailers are getting the same high-quality, low-impact cuttings too.

“That’s what’s so wonderful about these folks,” says Eshenaur. “They go out of their way to help other growers learn how to keep those biocontrols healthy and productive.”

And if you’re a Lucas customer, Eshenaur says, you can’t miss the colorful banners hanging in the center aisle, explaining what IPM is and why it’s so important for plants and people too. “When garden clubs come through for tours we can just see the light bulbs come on,” says Palomaki.

“Some growers are hesitant to explain about biocontrols because then their customers know there are bugs, good and bad, at that greenhouse,” Eshenaur says. “But when I’m out there what I see is healthy, vigorous plants. It’s a case of what you see is what you get, in the very best sense.”

The Lucas team receives their award on July 24, 2012 at Cornell University’s Floriculture Field Day. To learn more about IPM, visit the NYS IPM Program website.

In the news

A prototype water stress sensor on a US nickel. The prototype is larger than the final size which is approximated by the black lines. Credit: Alan Lakso

A prototype water stress sensor on a US nickel. The prototype is larger than the final size which is approximated by the black lines. Credit: Alan Lakso

Nanotech Goes Country: MEMS Chips To Measure Water Stress Down On The Farm [ 6/30/2012] – Alan Lakso, Department of Horticulture, and colleague Abe Stroock, a Cornell Microfluidics engineer, have jointly developed an electronic MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) device to measure water stress potential. MEMS technology promises a reasonably-priced, continuous water stress measurement by monitoring plants directly, with a range some 100 times that of a classic tensiometer.

Link discovered between tomato ripening, color and taste [Cornell Chronicle 6/28/2012] – Research by Cuong Nguyen, a Cornell graduate student in the field of plant breeding, with colleagues at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and other institutions “provides a strategy to recapture quality characteristics that had been unknowingly bred out of modern cultivated tomatoes.” (See also New York Times article: Flavor Is Price of Scarlet Hue of Tomatoes, Study Finds.)

Analyst has been at seed facility for more than half of its 100-year history [Cornell Chronicle 7/2/2012] – The New York State Seed Testing Laboratory (NYSSTL) at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station celebrates a century of service to farmers across the state.

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