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Cornell Scientist’s Quest: Perfect Broccoli (NY Times)

Thomas Björkman

Thomas Björkman

Thomas Björkman is featured in this July 9 New York Times article. Here’s an excerpt:

Broccoli hates too much heat, which is why 90 percent of it sold in the United States comes from temperate California, which is often bathed by fog. The heads are fine if you live there, but for the rest of us they require a long truck ride (four or five days to the East Coast) and then some waiting time in a warehouse, tarnishing the appeal of a vegetable that health experts can’t praise enough.

But Mr. Bjorkman and a team of fellow researchers are out to change all that. They’ve created a new version of the plant that can thrive in hot, steamy summers like those in New York, South Carolina or Iowa, and that is easy and inexpensive enough to grow in large volumes.

And they didn’t stop there: This crucifer is also crisp, subtly sweet and utterly tender when eaten fresh-picked, which could lift the pedestrian broccoli into the ranks of the vegetable elite. Think Asian-style salads of shaved stems, Mr. Bjorkman suggests, or an ultra-crisp tempura with broccoli that doesn’t need parboiling.

“If you’ve had really fresh broccoli, you know it’s an entirely different thing,” he said. “And if the health-policy goal is to vastly increase the consumption of broccoli, then we need a ready supply, at an attractive price.”

Read the whole article.

In the news

 William Crepet, professor of plant biology, speaks at the 2013 Plant Biology Centennial Celebration. David Burbank photo.


William Crepet, professor of plant biology, speaks at the 2013 Plant Biology Centennial Celebration. David Burbank photo.

Hop yard takes root in Geneva [Cornell Chronicle 2013-07-08] – A new crop is brewing at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva. A one-acre hop yard was established June 30 as a research planting to bolster the hops revival in New York. And in other beer news, see also: Interest brews in reviving malted barley crop.

100 years of plant biology is celebrated [Cornell Chronicle 2013-07-03] – The two-day celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Department of Plant Biology featured lectures on the early history of botany instruction at Cornell which dates back to 1868; on the years of Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock’s work in the department; on a discussion on plant biology’s role into the next century and a brief look at the state of the art research in the department today. Dr. Marcus McFerren, B.S. ’95, Ph.D. ’00, M.D. ’06, delivered the keynote, “A Journey Through Plant Biology: Botanical Medicine and All Its Warts.”In addition, graduate students in the field of plant biology gave tours of Cornell’s facilities to the more than 100 guests and alumni attending the celebration.

Allison Morrill Chatrchyan

Allison Morrill Chatrchyan

Agriculture and climate change meet at new institute [Cornell Chronicle 2013-06-28] – For farmers, a warming climate challenges fundamental decisions they have always made based on the certainty of the weather – such as when to plant various crops, which varieties to choose or what investments in cooling or irrigation infrastructure would make the most economic sense. They will soon have a resource to help them navigate the changes: the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture. Allison Morrill Chatrchyan becomes its first director Sept. 1. “The institute grew out of a very real need to help farmers adapt to the marked changes in our climate that are already underway,” said Mike Hoffmann, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. “Many current agricultural practices are based on long-standing assumptions about temperature and the length of the growing season that are no longer true.”

Mine seed banks to feed tomorrow’s world [Cornell Chronicle 2013-07-05] – With fewer than a dozen flowering plants accounting for 80 percent of humanity’s caloric intake out of 300,000 species, people need to tap unused plants to feed the world in the near future, claims Cornell plant geneticist Susan McCouch in the Comment feature of the July 4 issue of Nature.

Kudos

Hiromi (Romi) Tasaki, Alan Taylor, Semagn Kolech

Hiromi (Romi) Tasaki, Alan Taylor, Semagn Kolech

Some recent recognitions:

PhD candidate Hiromi (Romi) Tasaki and Alan Taylor won the excellence in presentation award at the International Seed Testing Association Seed Symposium in Antalya, Turkey, for their poster Seed Encapsulation and Its Effect on Seedling Performance.

PhD candidate Semagn Kolech was awarded the best poster at the Ninth Triennial African Potato Association (APA) conference Naivasha, Kenya. For more about Kolech’s work, see Potato may help feed Ethiopia in era of climate change.

CALS expertise on exhibit

Matt Spencer, an industrial designer working for Jeff Koons, stands beside the sculpture Hulk (Wheelbarrow) at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City, Photo by Chris Wien

Matt Spencer, an industrial designer working for Jeff Koons, stands beside the sculpture Hulk (Wheelbarrow) at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City, Photo by Chris Wien

From CALS Notes 2013-07-01:

When you are one of the world’s most well-known contemporary artists, trying to figure out how to incorporate living plants into an 8-foot-tall mirror-polished, stainless steel sculpture of Venus, who you gonna call? Cornell, apparently.

Neil Mattson and Chris Wien were the lucky horticulturists who fielded the fateful phone call from Jeff Koons’s staff last year, and it has led to an interesting collaboration that has benefited both art and science.

Koons, a New York City-based artist known for his larger-than-life sculptural depictions of everyday objects such as 14-foot balloon animals, was seeking advice about which flowers to select and how to care for them in sub-optimal indoor gallery conditions for the duration of exhibits that often last several weeks.

Read the whole story.

Agriculture and climate change meet at new institute

Allison Morrill Chatrchyan

Allison Morrill Chatrchyan

From Cornell Chronicle article by Amanda Garris 2013-06-28:

For farmers, a warming climate challenges fundamental decisions they have always made based on the certainty of the weather – such as when to plant various crops, which varieties to choose or what investments in cooling or irrigation infrastructure would make the most economic sense. They will soon have a resource to help them navigate the changes: the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture. Allison Morrill Chatrchyan becomes its first director Sept. 1.

“The institute grew out of a very real need to help farmers adapt to the marked changes in our climate that are already underway,” said Mike Hoffmann, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. “Many current agricultural practices are based on long-standing assumptions about temperature and the length of the growing season that are no longer true.”

Read the whole article.

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