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Grad program

Seminar video: Cover crop and weed management in a living mulch system for vegetables

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar Cover crop and weed management in a living mulch system for vegetables with Vinay Bhaskar, Graduate Field of Horticulture, it is available online.


More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

Horticulture honor society inducts 29 new members

pax key

Phi Alpha Xi key

From Mark Bridgen, Professor and Pi Alpha Xi advisor:

Pi Alpha Xi (PAX), the national honor society for horticulture, inducted 29 new members at a March 6, 2017 ceremony held in the H. H. Whetzel Room in the Plant Science Building on the Cornell University campus.

This set a record for the number of inductees in a single year since the chapter was revived at Cornell in 2013.  Only the best students in the plant sciences are invited to join this national honor society.

Pi Alpha Xi was founded in 1923 at Cornell University and Cornell is the Alpha Chapter. Originally, it was the national honor society for floriculture, landscape horticulture and ornamental horticulture. In recent years it has changed and now honors excellence in all aspects of horticulture.

Since its founding, PAX has grown to 36 chapters at baccalaureate-granting institutions. Its mission is to promote scholarship, fellowship, professional leadership, and the enrichment of human life through plants. PAX was very active at Cornell University for many years, peaking in the 1970s. But the chapter went dormant for several years until its revival in 2013.

2017 PAX inductees

2017 PAX inductees

PAX members graduating in May -- Lauren Fessler, Jeremy Pardo, and Karl Kunze -- received their honor cords.

PAX members graduating in May — Lauren Fessler, Jeremy Pardo, and Karl Kunze — received their honor cords.

PAX faculty advisors Mark Bridgen, Neil Mattson, Betsy Lamb and Tom Weiler.

PAX faculty advisors Mark Bridgen, Neil Mattson, Betsy Lamb and Tom Weiler. Lamb was a 2017 inductee.

2017 PAX inductees:

  • Cairo Archer
  • Jessica Barbini
  • Hauk Boyes
  • Nana Britwum
  • Yuqi Chen
  • Myles Collinson
  • Allison Coomber
  • Kellie Damann
  • Aliza Doyle
  • Emily Follett
  • Hannah Fuller
  • Garrett Giles
  • Catherine Hanss
  • Sarah Hetrick
  • Bailee Hopkins-Hensley
  • Elizabeth Lamb
  • Margaret Lovier
  • Sarah Marino
  • Kady Maser
  • Roxana Padilla
  • Jonathan Price
  • Nina Sannes
  • Tommi Schieder
  • Samantha Schultz
  • Cynthia Sias
  • George Stack
  • Amanda Sudilovsky
  • Benjamin Sword
  • James Winans
  • Xuying Zheng

Seminar video: Chilean Plant Biodiversity

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar Chilean Plant Biodiversity with Mark Bridgen, professor, Horticulture Section, and students from PLHRT 4950 (Plant Biodiversity), it  is available online.


Learn more about the group’s trip at the Biodiversity in Chile blog.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

SoHo art opening February 22, Big Red Barn

From Hannah Swegarden:

The Society of Horticulture Grad Students (SoHo) is proud to present their horticultural research through an artistic lens at the Big Red Barn.

From the flowers above ground to the mycorrhizae systems deep below ground, the beauty of horticulture is everywhere. This collection of pieces showcases the diversity of horticultural research at Cornell University and seeks to highlight SoHo’s deep appreciation for the intricate connection between people and plants. We hope you’re able to join us for the show’s opening at the Big Red Barn, opening February 22, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM!

Free wine and cheese will be served.


Student team works with Colombian coffee growers


From Juana Muñoz Ucros and Marie Zwetsloot, Graduate Field of Horticulture, Bauerle Lab

Tucked away in the western arm of the mighty Colombian Andes lies the Cauca coffee-growing region. A stunning mixture of Afrocolombians, indigenous people and Spanish descendants fuses together around the culture of artisanal coffee growing.

Without machinery and with very few inputs — but enormous amounts of creativity — these farmers optimize yield in plots usually less than 2 acres. And even in the face of unpredictable weather, they manage to put children through college, pay off their loans, and experiment with organic farming.

In January, we led a student learning and research trip to Cauca as part of the Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) program of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD). We made use of a previously established relationship with a cooperative of coffee farmers, Federación Campesina de Cauca (FCC), by Miguel Gomez and his graduate students in Applied Economics and Management.

Our group consisted of students from different disciplines and included Shanti Kumar and Jenny Lee from International Agriculture and Rural Development, Sam Bosco from Horticulture, Lizzy Sweitzer Cornell Institute of Public Affairs, and Whit Knickerbocker from Agronomy and Agribusiness Management.

During our visit, the team visited both organic and conventional coffee farms with the aim to better understand the economic, social and environmental challenges and opportunities that households from these different food production systems face. We interviewed the farmers about their management practices and took soil samples to evaluate pH and active carbon content of the soil. As an outcome, we left the FCC with a low-cost alternative to expensive lab soil tests that can inform them of soil health status and better direct their limited resources.

Full of pride and also of knowledge, the coffee producers showed the team around their farms and explained their philosophy and techniques. Even though communicating in Spanish wasn’t always easy, the producers were very patient in explaining their perspectives and sharing their experiences. Coffee farming is a tough living; stories of fluctuating coffee prices, health issues due to pesticide exposure and climate change were part of almost every conversation. The prospect of a peace deal finally put into action brings a smile to the farmer’s faces, but their reality is still one of political turmoil, government neglect, and ever present coffee leaf rust.

Besides the remarkable views of the endless mountains, one of the things that stood out was the hospitality and openness of the farmers. We were not allowed to leave the farm without having had at least one cup of sugary coffee, and a sampler of the tropical fruits grown by the family.

Seeing all of this with your own eyes makes you think hard about the coffee we drink every day.

To visit the project’s blog, follow this link:

Dreer blog: Raquel Kallas pursues viticulture in Oz

Kallas measuring midday water potential during a 40-degree C (104 F) heatwave last week.

Kallas measuring midday water potential during a 40-degree C (104 F) heatwave last week.

2016 Dreer Award recipient Raquel Kallas (MS Horticulture ’16) is pursuing her interest in viticulture in Australia with the help of a familiar face to many: Vinay Pagay (PhD Horticulture ’14), now viticulture researcher and educator based at the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide.

“His lab is on the cutting-edge of vineyard technologies that will allow us to better understand and manage the effects of climate change on vines and wine quality,” says Kallas. While a student at Cornell, Pagay helped develop a microfluidic water sensor within a fingertip-sized silicon chip that is a hundred times more sensitive than current devices.

Kallas’s collaborations with Pagay are funded through the Frederick Dreer Award. The Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science offers this wonderful opportunity once a year that allows one or more students to spend 4 months to up to a year abroad pursuing horticulture interests. Deadline for application this cycle is March 6, 2017.

If you’d like to keep up with Kallas’s travels, visit her Dreer blog, Grapes of Raq.

What I did on break

Many in the Cornell horticulture community embarked on expeditions of note over the break:

Mark Bridgen and Betsy Lamb led students in Special Topics in Horticulture: Plant Biodiversity (PLHRT 4940) on a trip to Chile for hands-on study and exploration of wild and native plants, commercial breeding programs, and botanical gardens and arboreta to supplement their classroom experiences last fall. See more pictures from the trip on their class blog.

Exploring native plants in Valle Nevado.

Exploring native plants in Valle Nevado.

Bryan Duff
and 13 undergraduates traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they spent all day every day for a week embedded in an elementary school that is turning to project-based learning to boost student motivation and performance. Bryan and the students taught the children to use video-making equipment and then guided them in making music videos for songs celebrating Black History Month.

Students try their hand at video (left). Duff interviews students waiting for class (right).

Students try their hand at video (left). Duff interviews students waiting for class (right).

Marvin Pritts
traveled to Myanmar with other faculty and students in IARD 6020 – International Agriculture in Developing Nations.

Temple-studded landscape.

Temple-studded landscape.

Click on thumbnails below to see more scenes from Myanmar:

New course teaches cutting-edge food production

To better prepare Cornell students to thrive in the growing  hydroponic industry, associate professor Neil Mattson initiated a course last fall, Hydroponic Food Crop Production and Management, to teach the principles and practices of commercial food crop production in controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Read more in the Cornell Chronicle [2017-01-19].

Class travels to Chile to study biodiversity

Alstroemeria in Valle Nevado, Chile

Alstroemeria in Valle Nevado, Chile

Today, students in Special Topics in Horticulture: Plant Biodiversity (PLHRT 4940) arrive in Chile. For the next 10 days, they will follow-up on their classroom experiences last semester learning about how biodiversity is perceived, valued, measured, monitored, and protected with hands-on study and exploration of wild and native plants, commercial breeding programs, and botanical gardens and arboreta.

“The biodiversity of Chile is rich and precious, and its plants are valued highly throughout the world,” notes Mark Bridgen, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, who is leading the trip. “Of the 5,100 species of flora and fauna found in Chile, more than 2,500 are endemic – that is, found nowhere else on Earth.”

In fact, Bridgen has developed two ornamental cultivars of the native Chilean Inca Lily (Alstroemeria): ‘Tangerine Tango’ and ‘Mauve Majesty’.

If you’d like to follow the class’s adventures, visit and/or subscribe to the class blog, Biodiversity in Chile. The site is already populated with profiles of fascinating plants — including the alien-looking Yareta (Azorella compacta) from the high desert and the national tree of Chile Araucaria araucanabetter known as the Monkey Puzzle Tree — and posts on other biodiversity topics.

View additional pictures from Chile on Mark Bridgen’s Facebook page.

Swegarden takes top honors at rutabaga curling competition


Photo courtesy Edna Brown Photography

It’s only fitting that kale aficionado Hannah Swegarden, PhD student in the Graduate Field of Horticulture, took top honors in the Almost 20th Anniversary Ithaca Farmers Market  Rutabaga (a related Brassica) Curl December 17.

Swegarden faced stiff competition from runner-up ‘God’ (left, aka Michael Glos, technician in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section representing Kingbird Farm).

More curling event images at Edna Brown Photography.

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