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Plant Sciences Major to receive Potato Growers Scholarship

Morning Ag Clips [2016-06-28]

Cassandra Proctor of Trumansburg, NY, has been named the 2016 Empire State Potato Growers Association Scholarship winner and will receive a $500 scholarship per academic year for up to four consecutive years of agricultural education at a college in New York State.

Cassandra will graduate from Charles O. Dickerson High School in Trumansburg in June. She plans to begin her pursuit of a degree in plant sciences at Cornell University in the fall. Her career goal is to earn a PhD in plant genetics and to research ways to improve plant yield and suitability for impoverished areas.

As a high school senior, she served as an FFA Co-Treasurer, and participated in the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga New Visions in Life Sciences Program that allowed her to intern in the Boyce Thompson Institute plant genetics research lab at Cornell University.

Cassandra was selected to attend the Global Youth Institute hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation in Iowa in 2015. This summer Cassie will travel to the Phillipines on an eight-week Borlaug Ruan International Internship at the International Rice Research Institute.

Read the whole article.

Cassandra Proctor (Photo: Boyce Thompson Institute)

Cassandra Proctor (Photo: Boyce Thompson Institute)

New state pollinator protection plan announced

Dean Kathryn Boor speaks at Cornell’s Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies in Varna, New York, June 24, at an event to announce recommendations outlined in the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan. (Patrick Shanahan/University Photography)

Dean Kathryn Boor speaks at Cornell’s Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies in Varna, New York, June 24, at an event to announce recommendations outlined in the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan. (Patrick Shanahan/University Photography)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-06-27]

State officials and Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell’s College of the Agriculture and Life Sciences, announced recommendations of the New York State Pollinator Task Force at Cornell’s Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies in Varna, New York, June 24.

The 2016-17 state budget includes $500,000 to help implement practices and conduct research outlined in a New York State Pollinator Protection Plan developed by the task force and its advisers.

“Pollinators are critical to food production worldwide, and as a consequence they contribute in a very important way to our state’s, our national and our global economies,” Boor said. “Apples, squash, pumpkins, pears, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries all are among the pollinator-dependent crops that annually generate more than $500 million for New York state’s agricultural economy.”

At the same time, according to research, managed honeybees and native pollinators are in serious decline.

Read the whole article.

A digger bee forages on blueberry flowers. Previous research has shown that bees pass parasites and pathogens to each other when they forage on wildflowers, but the details of exactly how disease is spread through diverse communities of bees is unclear. (Photo: Scott McArt)

A digger bee forages on blueberry flowers. Previous research has shown that bees pass parasites and pathogens to each other when they forage on wildflowers, but the details of exactly how disease is spread through diverse communities of bees is unclear. (Photo: Scott McArt)

See also: Scientists to examine spread of disease in bees with NIH grant Cornell Chronicle [2016-06-27]

A team led by Cornell researchers has received a five-year, $2.2 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop an approach to better understand how pathogens that infect bees and other pollinators are spread.

In New York state alone, 13 percent of bee species are experiencing declining ranges and populations. Nationwide, beekeepers are losing close to half of their honeybee colonies every year, in part due to disease.

Scientists have identified key viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens that cause bee diseases and lead to declining populations. This decline is a major concern as pollinators – especially wild and managed bees – are critical to native ecosystems and agricultural crops, providing the equivalent of billions of dollars in pollination annually.

Read the whole article.

Cornell Fruit Field Day, July 20, Geneva, N.Y.

fruit compositeFrom Art Agnello, Dept. of Entomology, NYSAES:

Mark your calendars for the Cornell Fruit Field Day, to be held in Geneva on Wednesday, July 20.  The 2016 version of this triennial event will feature ongoing research in berries, hops, grapes, and tree fruit, and is being organized by Cornell University, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station, CALS Fruit Program Work Team and Cornell Cooperative Extension.  All interested persons are invited to learn about the fruit research under way at Cornell University.  Attendees will be able to select from tours of different fruit commodities.  Details of the program presentations are still being finalized, but the event will feature a number of topics, including:


  • Spotted wing drosophila research update in berry crops
  • Hummingbird use, monitoring network
  • Use of exclusion netting for managing spotted wing drosophila in fall raspberries
  • Monitoring spotted wing drosophila for management decisions in summer raspberry and blueberry
  • Behavioral control of spotted wing drosophila using repellents and attract & kill stations
  • Effect of habitat diversity on ecosystem services for strawberries
  • High tunnel production of black and red raspberries
  • Day-neutral strawberries/low tunnel production

 Tree Fruits

  • Apple breeding and genetic studies
  • Research updates on fire blight, apple scab, mildew
  • Bitter pit in Honeycrisp
  • 3D camera canopy imaging
  • Ambrosia beetle management trials
  • Malus selections for potential use in cider production
  • Precision spraying in orchards
  • Role of insects in spreading fire blight in apples
  • Bacterial canker of sweet cherries
  • Rootstocks & training systems for sweet cherry
  • NC-140 rootstock trials on Honeycrisp and Snap Dragon
  • Pear rootstocks & training systems

 Grapes & Hops

  • Sour rot of grapes
  • VitisGen grape breeding project
  • Precision spraying in grapes
  • Managing the spread of leafroll virus in Vinifera grape using insecticides and vine removal
  • Early leaf removal on Riesling
  • Overview of NYSAES hops planting
  • Powdery and downy mildew management in hops
  • Hops weed mgt; mite biocontrol
  • Update on malting barley research


  • FSMA Produce Safety Rule

Field Day details

The event will take place at the NYSAES Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm South, 1097 County Road No. 4, 1 mile west of Pre-emption Rd. in Geneva, NY.

Arrive at 8:00 AM to get settled in. Tours begin promptly at 8:30 AM and are scheduled in the morning from 8:30 to 11:30 and in the afternoon from 1:30 to 5:00. Lunch will be served at the exhibit tent area between 11:30-12:30.

Visit sponsors anytime from 11:30-1:30

Learn about products and services from:

  • Agro Liquid
  • Arysta Life Science
  • Dow AgroSciences
  • Dupont
  • Farm Credit East, ACA
  • Finger Lakes Trellis Supply
  • LaGasse Works, Inc.
  • Lakeview Vineyard Equipment
  • NY Apple Sales
  • OESCO, Inc
  • Red Jacket Orchards
  • Superior Wind Machine Service
  • Valent USA Corp.
  • Wafler Farms
  • Tastings from War Horse Brewing

To participate as a sponsor, see the registration website or contact Shelly Cowles (315-787-2274;

Register now!

Admission fee is $50/person ($40 for additional attendees from the same farm or business), which covers tours, lunch and educational materials. Pre-registration is required. Walk-in registration may be available for a $10 surcharge on the day of the event.  Register on the Cornell Fruit Field Day Event registration page,

Strawless strawberries? Cornell research explores the possibility

Charlotte Leape ‘18 holds up a Honeoye strawberry variety harvested from the research fields of Marvin Pritts. The honeoye strawberry breed was first released by Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1979. Photo: Matt Hayes / Cornell

Charlotte Leape ‘18 holds up a Honeoye strawberry variety harvested from the research fields of Marvin Pritts. The honeoye strawberry breed was first released by Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1979. Photo: Matt Hayes / Cornell

CALS Notes article by Gwen Aviles ’17, a student writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Marvin Pritts wants to know just what happens when the straw is taken out of strawberry growing.

Pritts, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, and his team of summer interns are exploring how inputs into the soil affect the quality of the strawberries produced.

Adding straw to the field seems like it should be beneficial to growth: after all, straw provides the soil with the organic matter plants need to thrive. The practice has long been utilized in strawberry growing operations: “Growers use the straw as protection for the berries and put the straw between the rows of plants so they can be easily harvested,” Pritts explained. But he wanted to know just how this practice impacts strawberry growth.

Last season Pritts and graduate student Maria Gannett, M.S. ’16 incorporated varying levels of straw, grass clippings, and wood chips — all differing in carbon/nitrogen ratios — into different plots of soil to test how plants reacted as the amendments decomposed.

The only plots that showed negative growth were the ones with straw in their soil.

Read the whole article.

Larry Robertson, USDA plant geneticist, dies

Larry RobertsonFrom Gan-Yuan Zhong, Research Leader, USDA-ARS Grape Genetics Research Unit and Plant Genetic Resources Unit:

With deep sorrow I would like to let you know that Dr. Larry D. Robertson passed away the morning of June 21, 2016 at Matthew House hospice in Auburn, NY.  Larry was 64 years old.

He served as Geneticist/Vegetable Curator at USDA-ARS, Plant Genetic Resources Unit from 1998 to present, and was also Adjunct Professor, Horticulture Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University.

He closely collaborated with many researchers from Cornell University and other institutions in training and demonstrations of vegetable seed production to small-scale farmers through multi-institutional projects funded by Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)-Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative, OREI-Organic Seed Partnership, and the Initiative for Future Agricultural and Food Systems (IFAFS)-Public Seed Initiative.

He received his Ph.D. in 1980 from Iowa State University and spent his early career from 1980 to 1998 working overseas as a post-doc at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India and then as a germplasm curator/faba bean breeder at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Aleppo, Syria.

Larry had been undergoing cancer treatment for many years and showed us every day how to remain hopeful and strive for the benefit of others no matter how challenging the circumstances were.  He is survived by his wife Velvet and three sons Zebedee, Shane and Keegan, one brother, one sister and both of his parents.  A funeral service will be held at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Seneca Falls on Friday June 24 at 2 p.m.  Additional details will follow.  Please keep Larry and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Video: Minisymposium tribute to Peter Davies

Peter Davies, now and then. (Photo: Matt Hayes, CALS Communications)

Peter Davies, now and then. (Photo: Matt Hayes, CALS Communications)

If you missed Friday’s minisymposium in honor of Peter Davies’ 46 years of research and teaching in the Plant Sciences at Cornell highlighting the changes that have taken place in plant hormone biology over the last 40 years and how Davies contributed to progress in the field, it’s available online.

The symposium featured three talks:

  • Hormones and Plant Development – Jim Reid, Distinguished Professor, University of Tasmania
  • Global Aspects of Plant Biotechnology – Sarah Evanega, Director, Cornell Alliance for Science
  • Plant Politics – Ron Herring, Professor, Department of Government, Cornell University

Read more about the symposium in CALS Notes.

Celebrate James Boodley’s life and career June 18

From Jeanne Boodley-Buchanan:

Join us for a celebration of the life and career Dr. James W. Boodley, Professor Emeritus, Horticulture.

Saturday, June 18, 2016, 2 PM (rain or shine)
Minn’s Garden, Cornell University
267 Tower Road (in Front of the Plant Science Building)

There will be brief memorial and bench dedication with light refreshments served afterwards.

Boodley bench

Jim died February 12 in Kent, Ohio. See Cornell Chronicle: James Boodley, co-inventor of Cornell potting mix, dies at 88.

Atkinson Center funds SIPS researchers in diverse initiatives

From Discovery that Connects (SIPS blog):

Four interdisciplinary projects involving SIPS researchers are included among the 2016 Academic Venture Fund Awards from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Boosting Maize Yields Sustainably

2016 AVF maizeFarming systems that use ecological principles—rather than expensive chemicals—are helping African farmers raise more food sustainably. One method protects maize from destructive moths with two partner crops: a legume that repels the hungry moths and a grass that attracts them for a tasty meal. This “push-pull” approach improves soil fertility and can triple yields, but some farms have seen much smaller gains. This team will find out why. Their answers about how surrounding landscapes and soil affect results will help more smallholder farmers benefit from sustainable practices that are helping their neighbors.

Investigators: Katja Poveda, Entomology; Andre Kessler, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Laurie Drinkwater, Horticulture; Magdeline Laba, Soil and Crop Sciences

Big Pool, Little Pool

2016 AVF poolFlooding in urban areas is a growing problem, as the world’s cities expand and storms become more intense and variable. Piscinões (big pools) are São Paulo’s primary strategy for reducing flooding. While often effective for flood control, these single-purpose basins also divide neighborhoods, concentrate pollutants, and require costly maintenance. With officials and experts in São Paulo, this team will create landscape-based design guidelines for piscinões that can work at large and small scales to enhance human communities and urban ecosystems. These multifunctional pools offer a new model for urban living with water.

Investigators: Brian Davis, Landscape Architecture; Raymond Craib, History; Tammo Steenhuis, Biological and Environmental Engineering; Thomas Whitlow, Horticulture

Crop Disease and Climate Change

2016 AVF rustSome plant pathogens spread through the air—and the effects on staple food crops can be devastating. Climate change could mean more frequent plant epidemics, as extreme weather may move pathogens more easily across continents. This project brings together experts in atmospheric science, plant pathology, and computational sustainability to model how climate change, weather events, and changing agricultural landscapes will influence the future long-distance transport of fungi affecting global food security, such as wheat stem rust fungus. The team will coordinate with Cornell’s Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat program and international disease management programs to safeguard the world’s wheat.

Investigators: Natalie Mahowald, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Gary Bergstrom, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology; William Fry, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology; Christopher Myers, Physics

Conservation Incentive Programs for Latin America

2016 conservationSome biodiversity hotspots in Latin America have lost more than half of their forests to agricultural development. Several nations are considering market-based conservation solutions to forest restoration. Programs that reward environ-mentally sustainable practices—growing coffee and other crops beneath trees, for example—can support struggling rural communities, restore degraded land, slow forest loss, and help countries meet international carbon commitments. Working with Rainforest Alliance and industry partners in Nicaragua, the researchers will develop a portfolio of practical incentive programs to help Nicaragua meet its international pledge to restore 2.8 million hectares of degraded lands.

Investigators: Amanda Rodewald, Lab of Ornithology/Natural Resources; Mark Milstein, Johnson School; Viviana Ruiz Gutierrez, Lab of Ornithology; Miguel Gómez, Applied Economics and Management; Stephen DeGloria, Soil and Crop Sciences

Liberty Hyde Bailey Lecture video: Genomics and the Future of Agriculture

If you missed Friday’s  Liberty Hyde Bailey Lecture, Genomics and the Future of Agriculture, it’s available online.

The lecture and panel discussion, in honor of professor emeritus Steve Tanksley, winner of the 2016 Japan Prize, featured three former lab members — Greg Martin, Jim Giovannoni, and Susan McCouch — introduced and moderated by Kathryn J. Boor, Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. They celebrated Tanksley’s contributions to plant breeding and genetics and the spirit of genomic discovery in the School of Integrative Plant Science with a panel discussion on genomics and the future of agriculture.

New Wine Scent Garden planted

wine scent garden

A collaboration between Food Science lecturer Kathleen Arnink and Urban Horticulture Institute director Nina Bassuk came to fruition this week when Bassuk and her staff planted a new Wine Scent Garden along the south side of Stocking Hall.

“The garden will be used by Viticulture and Enology students to train themselves to identify odors that are perceived in wines,” says Arnink, who teaches courses such as Introduction to Wines and Vines and Principles and Practices of Growing Grapes and Making Wines.

“This fall, students in the Wines and Vines lab will spend time in the garden exploring and sniffing with labels near the plants to help them learn the correct terminology to use when they smell these odors in wines,” adds Arnink. “I can also cover the labels later to quiz them to see what they’ve learned.”

Some of the common wine aromas represented in the garden include:

  • Rose, found in Muscat grapes and wines
  • Lemon, lime, pineapple and grass, perceived in many white wines
  • Licorice, curry, chocolate and tobacco, common descriptors for red wine odors

Bassuk’s planting list included several mints (Mentha spp.) and scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.), bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), curry plant (Helichrysum italicum), bee balm (Monarda spp.) and more.

The close proximity to classrooms in Stocking Hall is a big plus. “During crush, when students are making wines, it will be handy to say to them, ‘Run out and sniff these plants, and see if you can smell those odors in your Riesling.’”


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