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Extension and outreach

Zachary Stansell: paving the way for a New York broccoli industry

Photo credit: Justin James Muir


By Erin Flynn, CALS News [2019-01-24]:

Zachary Stansell, a fourth-year doctoral student in the field of horticulture, is studying under the guidance of Thomas Bjorkman, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

We spoke to Stansell about his research and what he sees for the future of the broccoli industry.

The Eastern Broccoli Project is working to establish the scientific basis for a local, reliable source of broccoli production on the east coast. What are some of the hurdles and the opportunities to making this a reality?

Currently, reliable broccoli production on the east coast is constrained by a number of biological hurdles. For example, temperature sensitivity related damage often occurs. Modern broccoli types have also undergone a genetic bottleneck.

I believe that my work with this delicious super food—and, dare I say, favorite food—will enhance production and access to affordable, high-quality, locally produced broccoli. My work is addressing broccoli production issues by disentangling the genetic networks that regulate its adaptation to heat stress. I’m also taking a census of the current state of modern broccoli compared to large pools of genetic diversities contained in older “heirloom” types. This work will help us develop optimal broccoli types for New York state, while preserving the crucial genetic diversity needed to adapt to challenges such as climate change.

What is your most memorable student experience?

The relationships and community I’ve experienced at Cornell and Cornell AgriTech have been my meaningful life experiences.

Professor Björkman has been a consistent mentor, supporting and challenging me to create strong, inference-based research. I’m consistently impressed by the openness, inclusiveness and willingness of the Cornell AgriTech community to help graduate students.

What inspires you as a student at Cornell AgriTech?

As corny as it may sound, opportunities to give back inspire me. I feel immensely grateful to the people who have invested time, care, curiosity and resources into my development. I’m beginning to have an ability to give that back. For example, I am planning a demonstration garden to help Master Gardeners train community gardeners across New York state. I’m also collaborating with undergrad summer scholars to collect field data, write the code to analyze it, and make actual discoveries. Developing tools and methods to help quantify horticultural quality in other crops is also a passion of mine.

How do you think graduate student research benefits New York state agriculture?

My own experience here has allowed me to listen to and learn from nearly every stakeholder group in the New York state agricultural community. I’ve learned to communicate with people working on topics ranging from heat-stress mechanisms in model organisms, to farm workers transplanting cabbage, to venture capital funded agriculture entrepreneurs. I believe that sort of informational cross-linking created by graduate students serves to strengthen and integrate the network that Cornell AgriTech provides to New York state agriculture.

Seminar videos: What Darwin missed and LEDs

If you missed the last two Horticulture Section seminars, they are available online:

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Online organic gardening, garden design courses start March 15

Registration is now open for two online courses offered by the Horticulture Section in Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science:

Raised bed vegetable gardenOrganic Gardening is designed to help new gardeners get started and help experienced gardeners broaden their understanding of organic techniques for all kinds of gardens.

Starting with a strong foundation in soil health and its impact on plant health, the course then explores tried-and-true and cutting-edge techniques for all different kinds of garden plants including food plants, trees and shrubs and lawn.

Participants read assigned essays and book excerpts, participate in online group discussions with other students, complete reflective writing/design work and take part in some hands-on activities. 
Most students spend about 5 hours each week with the content, though there are always ample resources and opportunity to do more.

View more information and full course syllabus for Organic Gardening.

garden_designx300Introduction to Garden Design will help you apply basic garden design techniques to your own garden. We teach an approach to gardening that is based on the principle of right plant, right place. In other words, we will consider the needs of the plant in addition to the needs of the gardener.

You’ll learn garden site analysis and apply the concepts to your personal space, gain proficiency in garden design principles and lay out a rough site plan overview of your garden design.

You will write and reflect on the process as you learn with the instructor taking an active role in this creative endeavor by providing feedback on your assignments and journal entries.

View more information and full course syllabus for Introduction to Garden Design.

Questions about either course? View FAQ or contact, Fiona Doherty: fcd9@cornell.edu.

So You Want To Grow Hemp

Larry Smart examining hemp plants in the greenhouse at Cornell AgriTech.

Larry Smart examining hemp plants in the greenhouse at Cornell AgriTech.

From Science Friday podcast [2018-12-07:]

Good news could be coming soon for anyone interested in hemp, the THC-free, no-high strain of cannabis whose use ranges from fibers to food to pharmaceuticals. If the 2018 Farm Bill passes Congress in its current form, growing hemp would be legal and products derived from hemp would be removed from their current legal gray area.

Universities and private research teams have been busy studying hemp pests, genetics, and other cultivation questions since Congress legalized the research in 2014. Cornell horticulture professor Larry Smart explains why a plant that hasn’t been grown legally in the U.S. for nearly a century will require a monumental effort from scientists to catch up to crops like soybean and tomatoes.

Listen.

Seminar video: Cover crops for enhancing soil health in vegetable production

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, Cover crops for enhancing soil health in vegetable production with Thomas Björkman, Horticulture Section, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Seminar video: The Challenges of Farming in New York City

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, The Challenges of Farming in New York City with Yolanda Gonzalez and Sam Anderson, Cornell Cooperative Extension, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Toward Sustainability Foundation grant deadline is Dec. 3

Hannah Swegarden was one of the investigators for the 2018 TSF-funded project, Connecting Consumer Acceptability and Farm Productivity to Improve Collard Varieties for East African Growers.

Hannah Swegarden was one of the investigators for the 2018 TSF-funded project, Connecting Consumer Acceptability and Farm Productivity to Improve Collard Varieties for East African Growers.

For more nearly 20 years, CALS has bolstered its sustainability research with a steady stream of gifts from the Toward Sustainability Foundation (TSF), a Massachusetts-based organization founded by an anonymous, eco-minded Cornell alumna.

Since 1999, TSF provided more than $1.5 million in funding for more than 100 faculty and student projects that examine the technological, social, political, and economic elements of sustainable agriculture.

The deadline for proposals for the 2019 round of funding is December 3, 2018

Read more about TSF grants, download the full Request for Proposals, and view titles and contacts of recent projects.

Growing the World’s Food in Greenhouses

Neil Mattson

Cornell Research website:

Neil Mattson, School of Integrative Plant Science, Horticulture Section, spent his childhood on a farm with flower and vegetable gardens. “If you know how to grow your own food, you’ll never go hungry,” Mattson recalls his grandmother, who grew up during the Great Depression, saying. “That ethos has carried with me.” And it has carried into his research projects, which aim to better understand controlled environment agriculture (CEA)—the cultivation of crops in controlled environments such as greenhouses, plant factories, or vertical farms.

Mattson is particularly interested in CEA. He says, “It integrates technology and agriculture and enables year-round production of high quality products.” For example, one can produce 20 to 50 times more lettuce per acre in a greenhouse than in a field in California.

Even so, there are challenges and drawbacks to growing crops in controlled environments, including the amount of energy and labor costs required. Given the challenges, one of the main questions driving Mattson’s work is essential: Is it realistic and economically viable to scale up CEA to feed the masses? “I’m trying to understand the pros and cons of this higher tech production system and want to understand its constraints and improve upon the constraints,” Mattson says.

Read the whole article.

 

Botanic Gardens’ Detrick, M.P.S. ’16, connects people and plants

Emily Detrick, a horticulturist at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, uses the Pounder Vegetable Garden to teach students in Marcia Eames-Sheavly's Seed to Supper class.  Simon Wheeler/Brand Communications

Cornell Chronicle [2018-10-04]

With a background in fine arts and experience working in museums and galleries, Emily Detrick, M.P.S. ’16, has always been interested in curation – the documentation and care of collections.

Now a horticulturist at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, Detrick continues to curate collections. But now those collections are beds of live plants, and she spends her days connecting people with them.

“A botanic garden is a museum full of living collections,” Detrick says. “By definition, botanic gardens are public-facing in their orientation, providing a gateway to the natural world, helping people to understand what’s all around them and the importance of plants in our lives.”

Citing the Botanic Gardens’ new mission, Detrick said her role is to inspire people – through cultivation, conservation and education – to “understand, appreciate and nurture plants and the cultures they sustain.”

Read the whole article.

Cornell’s new Sustainable Landscapes Trail opens Oct. 5

Cornell Chronicle [2018-10-02]:

Lace up your walking shoes and head to Cornell’s new Sustainable Landscapes Trail, which will open with a ceremony Friday, Oct. 5, at 2 p.m., at the newly refurbished Peterson parking lot across from Stocking Hall and the Dairy Bar on Tower Road.

In lieu of a ribbon-cutting, officials will offer a celebratory “downpour” of water on the sustainable, permeable asphalt. Afterward, Nina Bassuk, professor of plant science, will lead a tour of the Sustainable Landscapes Trail.

Students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (PLHORT/LA 4910) plant trees and shrubs in the Peterson Lot bioswale.

Students in Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (PLHORT/LA 4910) plant trees and shrubs in the Peterson Lot bioswale.

Stretching from the Libe Slope Meadow to the Botanic Gardens’ Native Lawn, the trail features 20 stops that show how design, construction and the management of campus grounds can enhance and promote healthy landscape ecosystems.

The Peterson green parking lot was constructed this summer as a state-of-the-art example of green infrastructure and is the latest project to join the trail. It was designed by landscape architecture students and Cornell staff to demonstrate an alternative to traditional impervious parking lots and the resulting storm water runoff.

As a cause of water pollution, runoff from impervious roads and parking lots collect oil, sediment and other pollutants – and carries this material into waterways.

Green infrastructure practices will turn this parking lot into a natural landscape by capturing rainwater where it falls, filtering out pollutants and reducing large volumes of runoff, said David Cutter, Cornell’s campus landscape architect.

The Peterson lot’s porous pavement allows storm water to drain into a stone reservoir below the lot’s surface, while CU-Structural Soil along the lot’s central bioswale (a landscape element designed to remove pollution) allows the roots of bushes and trees to succeed under paved surfaces.

The parking lot is expected to be certified by both SITES, an initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council to certify sustainable land design and development, and by Parksmart, a rating system for green parking structures.

Other highlights of the trail include Fernow Hall’s rain garden and green roof; a green roof consists of a shallow layer of light-weight soil and plants that filter runoff. Fernow Hall’s rain garden diverts storm water from paved areas and roofs and channels it into the ground using a well-draining soil that helps to prevent polluted water from flowing directly to streams and lakes.

The trail also includes Mann Library’s entrance garden and green roof, the Ag Quad biodetention basins, which control pollution, and the Tower Road bioswale, which filters polluted water runoff with carefully selected plants growing in engineered soil and it provides a habitat for insects and pollinators.

The trail is a living laboratory for open spaces, natural areas and landscapes with unique sustainability features. On the trail, see the Rice Hall bioswale that undergraduate students built by using a technique called “scoop and dump” during a project in the “Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design and Landscape Establishment,” taught by Bassuk and Peter Trowbridge, professor of landscape architecture.

The Sustainable Landscapes Trail was developed by the Land Team of the President’s Sustainability Campus Committee. It fulfills a goal in Cornell’s Climate Action Plan, by demonstrating best practices in sustainable landscape planning, design and management, according to Sarah Brylinsky, Cornell’s sustainability communications manager.

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