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Crusader for environmental golf course management earns Excellence in IPM award

Bob Portmess was a mechanical engineer and former executive with Cox Communications who just happened to be an avid golfer.

That last item is key. Twelve years ago, Portmess walked into turf guru Frank Rossi’s office at Cornell University. He knew exactly what he wanted: to work, he said, “with the people who produce the finest golf playing surfaces in the world.”

Two years later, Portmess had received his Masters of Professional Studies in turfgrass management by synthesizing the practical knowledge that Rossi and colleague Jennifer Grant, now director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM), had amassed over seven years of experimental work at the world-renowned Bethpage Golf Course, also a New York State Park.

And a year after that, Portmess had developed an “IPM Handbook” of best management practices for sustainable turf, informed in part by his engineering background. This handbook, now translated into Spanish, served as a resource for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s seminar that Portmess co-instructed at several International Golf Shows. It continues to guide management of New York’s 29 state park golf courses as well as golf courses around the country that want to cut back on inputs while maintaining top quality turf.

Portmess’s passion for teaching turned out to be as consuming as his passion for golf. “Whether it was frequent light topdressing, root pruning, over-seeding, better ways to aerify the soil, or careful use of water—Bob taught them all,” says Larry Specchio, superintendent at Chenango Valley State Park Golf Course. Each tactic Speechio notes is a core IPM method.

“I find myself almost daily wanting to pick up my phone and call him; he was more than just a consultant to me,” Speechio says. “No one has a had a more positive impact on my career than Bob.”

Rossi couldn’t have predicted it at that time, of course, but that meeting in 2006 turned out to be one of the most important partnerships of his career.

“For that, I owe Bob more than simply a nomination for an award he is more than worthy of, but rather my own continued commitment to the work that he started,” Rossi says.

Sadly, Portmess passed away before he could see the full impact of his work. “Losing Bob Portmess was a tragedy” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of New York State Parks. “But his legacy lives on in the sustainable management of our golf courses.”

Melinda Portmess, Portmess’s widow, received the Excellence of IPM award at a ceremony at Green Lakes State Park in Syracuse on August 10th.

Learn more about IPM at NYSIPM.cornell.edu.

Joseph Sieczka, potato specialist, dies at 79

Joseph Sieczka

Joseph Sieczka

Cornell Chronicle [2018-08-09]:

Joseph Sieczka, professor emeritus of horticulture, an expert on potatoes, died July 29 at his home in Mattituck, New York. He was 79.

He also worked as a Cooperative Extension agent in western New York and served as coordinator of Cornell’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, New York, for more than two decades.

Though he conducted research on vegetable crops, he focused on potatoes. Over the course of his career, he managed widely acclaimed potato extension programs, and his work on potato cultivation led to reduced grower costs and lower nitrate impacts on groundwater. Sieczka’s applied potato research included strategies for weed control and determining optimal applications of fertilizer. And he helped develop new potato varieties, including some that are resistant to golden nematodes, a major potato pest.

“Joe was extremely knowledgeable in all things ‘potato’ and had an encyclopedic memory,” said Donald Halseth, professor emeritus of horticulture. “He knew things about more potato varieties than anyone I have known.”

“From a personal point of view, I always valued the uncommon amount of ‘common sense’ that Joe showed when I would ask for his advice, which I did very often,” said Elmer Ewing, professor emeritus of horticulture. “He had sound judgment on important issues and was able to see the broad picture.”

Read the whole article.

Bluegrass Lane Open House August 11

flyer

Click image for flyer

Come and see:

  • Annual and perennial plant trials.
  • Pollinator garden.
  • Grafted tomatoes.
  • Planting media trials.
  • Containers planted by the Botanic Gardens’ amazing gardeners!
  • Staff will be available to answer questions..

Saturday, August 11
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Center
232 Bluegrass Lane, Ithaca, NY
Off Warren Rd., near Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, follow signs for parking. Map.

This event is open to the public; bring your friends and family!

If you have questions or need special accommodations please contact Tara Reed tln2@cornell.edu or 607-592-5620.

‘Cornell AgriTech’ reflects influence in food, ag innovation

Cornell Chronicle, CALS News [2018-08-01]

larry smart with industrial hemp in greenhouse

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences announced Aug. 1 the renaming of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) to Cornell AgriTech.

Agriculture and food are multibillion-dollar industries in New York, and the name change underscores the value Cornell AgriTech brings to improving the health of the people, environment and economy of the state and beyond. Based in Geneva, New York, Cornell AgriTech is home to more than 300 faculty, scientists, staff and graduate students at the leading edge of food science, entomology and plant sciences research.

“Cornell AgriTech is an essential part of Cornell CALS and supports our mission of discovery that grows the agricultural economy in New York and makes food more nutritious, safer and better tasting for everyone,” said Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS. “Cornell AgriTech is a global leader in food and agriculture research and innovation, as our scientists generate the breakthroughs and develop the technologies that improve the crops in our fields and the food on our plates.”

Read the whole article.

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