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Leonard Topoleski, vegetable crop expert, dies at 83

Leonard Topoleski

Leonard Topoleski

CALS News [2019-02-21]:

Leonard D. Topoleski, professor emeritus of vegetable crops and horticulture, died Feb. 8 in Sayre, Pennsylvania. He was 83.

Topoleski conducted research on vegetable crops, served as an extension agent and left a legacy as a popular teacher and student adviser.

“He was an enthusiastic teacher of our undergraduate beginning horticulture course and, over his career, inspired many students with his love of plants,” said Chris Wien, M.S. ’67, Ph.D. ’71, professor emeritus of horticulture.

Born in 1935 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Topoleski earned a bachelor’s (1957) and a master’s degree (1959) in horticulture from Penn State University and a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics (1962) from Purdue University. That same year, he joined Cornell’s faculty in the then-Department of Vegetable Crops where he worked until his retirement in 2001.

Topoleski’s research involved understanding incompatibility issues that arise when breeding different tomato species. He received training in the use of electron microscopy and became the department expert on using the technique for plant science research.

He also researched greenhouse vegetable production, evaluating new growing systems and fertility management, assessing new varieties and providing basic greenhouse tomato production information to new growers.

But his biggest impact may have been as a teacher.

“Professor Topoleski was revered by his students for his hands-on and engaging approach,” said Frank Rossi, professor and extension turf grass specialist in the School of Integrative Plant Science. “Students would be responsible for growing and studying the growth of plants from seed to harvest each semester, a tradition I know my colleagues and I have attempted to maintain in our coursework today.”

Topoleski’s general horticulture course (Hort 102) exposed hundreds of Cornell undergraduates to the world of fruits, vegetables and landscape plants for the first time. He also was an undergraduate adviser for more than 30 students per year.

As a 4-H vegetable crops extension specialist, he trained agents, wrote highly regarded extension publications and guides, and developed new programs.

“He was well-known and appreciated by 4-H and home gardeners all over the state,” said Elmer Ewing, professor emeritus of horticulture, adding that Topoleski was also a strong supporter of Cornell sports.

“A big man, with a booming voice and extrovert personality, he was a memorable figure in our department,” Wien said.

Topoleski is survived by his wife of 61 years, Janice, along with three children, five grandchildren and a sister.

A memorial event will be announced at a later date.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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

Seminar video: Roots and rhizosphere interactions of temperate forest tree species in a changing climate

If you missed Tuesday’s Graduate Field of Horticulture exit seminar, Roots and rhizosphere interactions of temperate forest tree species in a changing climate with Marie Zwetsloot, PhD candidate, it is available online.


More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

8,000 bulbs planted in 11 minutes

bulb planter and class

Students in Bill Miller’s Annual and Perennial Plant Identification and Use class (PLHRT 3000) got a lesson in efficient bulb planting October 30. Using a tractor-drawn bulb planter imported from The Netherlands that slices open the sod, drops in the bulbs and then replaces the sod over them, they planted more than 8,000 bulbs in less than 11 minutes.

That’s a strip more than 200 feet long and 3 feet wide along the edge of Caldwell Field near the McConville Barn. The “naturalized” planting of daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, scilla, muscari and chionodoxa bulbs will push up through the turf before the grass begins to grow in spring.

Based on the class’s experiences planting bulbs by hand earlier this semester, Miller estimates that it would have taken the students more than a week to accomplish this task using hand tools. He tested out the planter last fall planting 30,000 bulbs into sod strips totaling more than 2,000 feet at the Cornell Botanic Gardens (view video) and the NYSIP Foundation Seed Barn.

“This machine greatly reduces the labor required to establish naturalized bulb plantings,” says Miller, a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and director of Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program, who was aided by CUAES field assistant Jonathan Mosher.

“Some people might be concerned about the lack of precise placement of the bulbs,” notes Miller. “But actually most bulbs are forgiving about how deep they are planted, despite what you might see on the labels. They also do fine if not planted right side up.”

Miller hopes that planters like this might catch on with commercial landscapers and municipalities and result in more naturalized bulb plantings.  A benefit of this approach can be less mowing of turf areas due to the need to let the bulb foliage die back naturally.  In such areas, landscapers could substantially reduce carbon emissions from maintenance activity leading to a more sustainable landscape, Miller says.

Update: Geerlings, the Dutch company that makes the planters, does not export them directly. If you want to purchase one, Geerlings will sell a planter to a bulb exporter who will ship it to the U.S. and handle the paperwork.

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 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.

Bridgen receives innovative teaching award

Mark Bridgen

Mark Bridgen, horticulture professor and director, Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, and Farmingdale State College Assistant Professor Nick Menchyk were named winners of an Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) 2018 Innovative Teaching Award. The awards program encourages new faculty to expand their scholarship of teaching and learning by creating projects with more senior faculty from other institutions.

Bridgen and Menchyk will use the $5,000 award to produce short, educational videos about techniques in plant propagation, and to post them on-line for their students to use.  In recent years, it has been recognized that students are more likely to watch on-line videos as a learning tool rather than read books and articles.  By developing short, educational videos that focus on the procedures and techniques of plant propagation, students will have the opportunity to watch the protocols before attempting the exercises during the laboratory.  The videos will also stimulate more interest in the various plant propagation topics.

Those topics will include bud grafting (both T-buds and chip buds), wedge grafting, cactus top grafting, tomato and cucumber seedling grafts, mist system construction, seed sowing, seed stratification, seed scarification, micropropagation, leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, root cuttings, influence of leaves on rooting, rooting media evaluation on propagation, controlling potato morphogenesis in vitro, and air layering.

Ban receives Perrine award

Seung Hyun Ban, horticulture graduate student in Kenong Xu’s lab, is the recipient of the 2018 Perrine Award. David Perrine (Pomology ’22), a prominent orchardist from Centralia, Ill., established the award in memory of his wife, Fanny French Perrine. The award supports research by an undergraduate or graduate student in pomology. Congratulations Paul!

Paul Ban

At the June 15 Geneva awards ceremony, Courtney Weber presented technician Zvonko Jacimovski (left) with a Certificate of Recognition for his 10 years of service.

Zvonko Jacimovski receives award

 

 

Grape vine management work nets Cornell doctoral student three awards

Anne Kearney

Doctoral student Anne Kearney earned a trio of awards for research into a vineyard technique to control vine growth and improve grape composition. Photo by Chris Kitchen.

Innovative research on a vineyard technique to control vine growth and improve grape composition earned a Cornell doctoral student three high-profile awards this year.

Anne Kearney, a doctoral student in viticulture in the field of horticulture, studies palissage, an alternative to hedging grape vine shoots in order to control excessive growth. Palissage consists of either wrapping shoots on the top catch wire or tucking shoots back into the catch wires.  The management technique may be beneficial by reducing vegetative growth of the vine and increase the efficiency of pesticide application.

Her research has earned her a 2018–19 American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) Traditional Scholarship, a 2018–­­19 ASEV Eastern scholarship and a 2018 American Wine Society Educational Foundation scholarship.

Working with associate professor Justine Vanden Heuvel in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, Kearney has been looking at the effects of palissage on vine growth and fruit composition, with an emphasis on the physiological mechanisms behind these responses. It has the potential to be used as a canopy management tool in wine grape vineyards given that it reduces extra vine growth in the fruit zone as well as cluster compactness, according to Kearney.

“Palissage is emerging as a new alternative for winegrowers looking to fine-tune their cluster morphology and microclimate, allowing them to further improve fruit quality,” said Vanden Heuvel. “It’s great to see Anne’s research efforts being rewarded with these scholarships.”

The process has showed promise as way to reduce fruit losses to disease, particularly in tight-clustered cultivars.

Anne Kearney


Palissage is a technique of wrapping shoots on the top catch wire or tucking shoots back into the catch wires in order reduce vegetative growth of the vine and increase the efficiency of pesticide application. Photo by Chris Kitchen.

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