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‘Urban Eden’ students put a price tag on trees for Arbor Day

Nina Bassuk and students tag a tree outside Roberts Hall.

Nina Bassuk and students tag a tree outside Roberts Hall.

What’s a tree worth?

In what has become an annual tradition, students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920) are helping to make people more aware of why trees are worth hugging by hanging bright green “price tags” on trunks around the Ag Quad.

The students entered data about the trees, such as species, diameter and location, into i-Tree — a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service. The application then calculates monetary benefits from reduced stormwater runoff, improved air quality,  carbon dioxide sequestration and energy savings to nearby buildings by blocking wind in winter and providing shade in summer.

“It’s really quite eye-opening for people who think that trees are just nice to look at and don’t have any other value,” said Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who leads the class alongside Zac Rood, lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

There are also benefits that are not easily quantified, such as wildlife habitats and emotional responses, added Bassuk, who is also director of the Urban Horticulture Institute.

Students tagging oaks in front of Mann Library

Tagging an oak on the Ag Quad

Tagging a red oak.

Tagging a Kentucky coffeetree

Tagging Katsura tree outside Mann Library

Raymond Fox ’47, emeritus professor of floriculture, dies at 96

Ray Fox

Ray Fox

Cornell Chronicle [2019-04-10]

Raymond T. Fox ’47, M.S. ’52, Ph.D. ’56, professor emeritus of floriculture and ornamental horticulture and renowned for his elaborate campus floral displays and floriculture expertise, died March 31 in Ithaca, New York. He was 96.

Fox was born Aug. 31, 1922, in Corning, New York, the son of Joseph and Marie Hauer Fuchs. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Fox began his Cornell career as an instructor in the Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture the same year. He subsequently earned his master’s and doctorate, also at Cornell, and was promoted to full professor in 1979, serving until his retirement in 1987.

His late wife Vera ’48, who died in 2009, was also an accomplished horticulturist.

Fox was legendary for tirelessly organizing and leading brigades of volunteers to set up floral displays at campus events, even after his retirement.

In his address at the university’s 129th Commencement in 1997, then-university president Hunter R. Rawlings III paid him tribute: “[This] Commencement represents the 50th year that Professor Fox, with help from an enthusiastic band of volunteers, has coordinated the floral arrangements for Commencement Weekend. For 50 years, his has been truly a labor of love.”

Equally spectacular were Fox’s holiday decorations at Sage Chapel, which often included elaborate, tree-like poinsettia arrangements.

“He was a superb floral designer – both in composition of a single piece as well as grand displays,” said Professor Emeritus Tom Weiler, former chair of the Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture. Fox was a key figure at the now-defunct New York Flower Show and the iconic spring flower display at Macy’s department store in New York City.

Sketch from program from Fox's retirement celebration in 1987.

Sketch from program from Fox’s retirement celebration in 1987.

To appreciate Fox’s contributions requires an understanding of how the floriculture industry has changed since its heyday, Weiler said.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, you never saw ‘in lieu of flowers’ on funeral announcements,” he said. “Elaborate floral arrangements were essential at most every social occasion from weddings and funerals to dances and other public functions.

“The emphasis was on locally produced flowers,” Weiler said. “Cut flowers were a much larger segment of New York’s greenhouse production, and Ray was the center of Cornell’s support of retail florists.”

Fox’s academic pursuits focused on teaching and outreach. He taught popular courses in floral design and retail flower store management. “He bled Cornell red and trained generations of florists,” said Bill Miller, professor of horticulture and director of Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program.

Fox often spoke to florist organizations, garden clubs and county Cornell Cooperative Extension audiences. He authored or co-authored many popular consumer publications, including “The Selection, Care, and Use of Plants in the Home” and “Techniques for Propagation of Plants for Interior Decoration.”

He also devoted time to community service, developing horticulture therapy programs at local senior centers, leading international garden tours and holding leadership positions in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Garden Club.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete and will be announced.

Seminar video: 50 years of breeding the Geneva® series of apple rootstocks

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, 50 years of breeding the Geneva® series of apple rootstocks, with Gennaro Fazio, USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Bauerle explores role of forests in providing water in podcast

“The Need for Trees,” a new episode of the “What Makes Us Human” podcast series  produced by the College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Cornell Broadcast Studios, explores the critical role trees play in the earth’s water cycle. The podcast’s fourth season — “What Does Water Mean to Us Humans?” — showcases the newest thinking across academic disciplines about the relationship between humans and water.

“We pass laws to protect our water sources like lakes and reservoirs, but what many people don’t know is that our access to clean water relies just as heavily on forests,” says Taryn Bauerle, associate professor in the School of Integrative and Plant Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in her podcast.

Bauerle’s overall interests lie in woody root physiological ecology. The majority of her research focuses on growth and physiological responses of plants to water deficits, such as how roots respond to and modify their environment when faced with water stress.

Bauerle (right) orients Plant Sciences major Tommi Schieder ’19 to equipment she used on her internship in Germany to collect data on the passive movement of water that helps trees survive drought stress.

Bauerle (right) orients Plant Sciences major Tommi Schieder ’19 to equipment she used on her internship in Germany in 2017 to collect data on the passive movement of water that helps trees survive drought stress.

Seminar video: How the strawberry became America’s most unsustainable fruit

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, How the strawberry became America’s most unsustainable fruit, with Marvin Pritts, professor in the Horticulture Section, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

The sky’s the limit for Cornell’s new Galaxy Suite grape tomato varieties

 Hannah Swegarden, horticulture doctoral student, with a bin of Galaxy Suite tomatoes.

Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell AgriTech, has released a collection of organic grape tomato varieties dubbed The Galaxy Suite. Above, Hannah Swegarden, horticulture doctoral student, with a bin of Galaxy Suite tomatoes. Photo by Matt Hayes

CALS News [2019-03-21]:

New York farmers now have a new way to satisfy consumers’ hunger for something different. Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell AgriTech, has released a collection of organic grape tomato varieties that are pretty, profitable and pack a culinary punch.

The new Galaxy Suite of five grape tomato varieties offers outstanding flavor in novel shapes and colors: the yellow fingerling Starlight, orange grape-shaped Sungrazer, small red grape-shaped Comet, marbled and striped Supernova, and dark purple pear-shaped Midnight Pear. They are available now from High Mowing Organic Seeds.

“These varieties are ideal for organic and conventional growers, or hobby gardeners, and will make a great contribution to the diversity and quality available for small-fruited tomato medleys,” said Griffiths. “They provide high flavor options with good shelf life and aesthetics in high-yielding plants for growers.”

Read the whole story.

Saamaka rice ‘… for our children and our grandchildren.’

From Plant Sciences Major Rosemary Glos ‘20:

rice poster

Poster text: Our mothers and our ancestors planted many beautiful varieties of rice. These are a few, but there are many more. Let’s continue to plant them, take pleasure in them, and keep them for our children and grandchildren.

This poster depicts 20 of the unique rice varieties grown by the Saamaka people of Suriname.

Rice is a staple crop among the Saamaka, a culturally, politically, and economically independent maroon people from the upper Suriname River. Rice cultivation and consumption are intimately linked to Saamaka cultural identity and oral history dating back to their escape from slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Traditional rice cultivation may be under threat from a variety of environmental and cultural factors, including land degradation, rising population, and loss of rice-growing knowledge. Saamaka farmers, all of them women, grow an impressive array of rice varieties on small slash and burn plots.

In July of 2018, Dr. Erika Styger and I traveled to Suriname, where we documented over 50 distinct cultivars, interviewed farmers, and collected seeds for export. Back in Ithaca, we are obtaining genetic data in collaboration with professors Susan McCouch and Chelsea Specht and postdoc Jacob Landis.

We hope to work with Saamaka farmers to improve yields, preserve genetic diversity in situ, and encourage farming systems that replenish the soil and minimize deforestation.

Seminar video: Reusable black tarps suppress weeds and make organic reduced tillage more viable

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Reusable black tarps suppress weeds and make organic reduced tillage more viable with Haley Rylander, Graduate Field of Horticulture, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Small Farms seminar video: Farming While Black

If you missed Thursday’s Cornell Small Farms Program seminar, Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice  with Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Hortus Forum scores big at the Philly Flower Show

Plant Sciences majors Samuel Sterinbach and Alexander Liu and International Agriculture & Rural Development Major Veronika Vogel brought home a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi and earned 37 other ribbons.

Plant Sciences Majors Samuel Sterinbach and Alexander Liu and International Agriculture & Rural Development Major Veronika Vogel brought home a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi and earned 37 other ribbons.

The prize-winning Haworthia cooperi.

The prize-winning Haworthia cooperi.

Some might call it beginner’s luck. But it really has more to do with the top-notch growing skills of the talented horticulturists in Hortus Forum, Cornell’s undergraduate horticulture club.

The club entered 44 plants in various categories at the Philadelphia Flower Show. And they brought home 38 ribbons, including a blue ribbon for their Haworthia cooperi.

“That’s almost unheard of first time out.  I’m very proud of them,” says Mark Bridgen, director of the Long Island Horticulture Research and Extension Center, who helped organize the club’s trip to the show as well as a tour of nearby Longwood Gardens.

“Most people don’t understand how much work it is to grow and enter that many plants,” he adds.  Their entries garnered a lot of good will for Cornell.”

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Flower Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event. Attendance at the week-long extravaganza tops 250,000 people.

“We’re still ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy and gratitude,” says Veronika Vogel ‘21 who along with fellow club members Alexander Liu ’20 and Samuel Sterinbach ’20 organized the  effort. “We were told that it often takes people many years of entering before they win a blue ribbon, and we did it in the first year we participated!”

Club members carefully packed their 43 entries into a minivan to transport them from Ithaca to Philadelphia.

Club members carefully packed their 43 entries into a minivan to transport them from Ithaca to Philadelphia.

Vogel also emphasizes the team effort, crediting Hortus Forum members past and present who contributed to the health and beauty of the plants they exhibited. “Many of the plants we entered (including the prize-winning Haworthia) are years old and have had generations of club members contribute to their care,” she says.

Vogel also adds that their effort also put them on the map with other horticulturists at the show. “Many people were super excited to have us exhibit and we got lots of very positive feedback,” says Vogel, who along with Liu and Sterinbach pulled off several late night shifts to select, enter, groom, pack and transport the plants.

“The students really are to be commended,” says Bridgen.  “I can’t wait to see how they do next year.”

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