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André Jagendorf, pioneering plant biologist, dies at 90


André Tridon Jagendorf, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor Emeritus in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, died March 13 in Ithaca, New York. He was 90.

Jagendorf is best known for his research that provided direct evidence that chloroplasts synthesize adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through the movement of hydrogen ions across membranes. (ATP is the molecule that supplies the energy to fuel metabolism on the cellular level.) Jagendorf was also a pioneer in many aspects of chloroplast molecular biology, including DNA repair mechanisms.

“By advancing our fundamental understanding of the inner workings of chloroplasts – the basic structures that plants use to convert sunlight into food, fuel and fiber – André provided us with deep insights into fundamental life processes,” says Karl Niklas, who also became a Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in 2000.

Jagendorf attended the renowned Bronx High School of Science before matriculating at Cornell University, where he earned a B.S. in plant physiology in 1948. He completed his Ph.D. in biophysics at Yale University in 1951, and was a Merck Fellow at UCLA before joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins University in 1953. He returned to Cornell as Professor of Plant Physiology 1966, and was named Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in 1981. He continued daily laboratory work until just a few weeks before his death.

Jagendorf was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1980. Among other honors, he received the Charles F. Kettering Award and Charles Reid Barnes Life Membership Award from the American Society of Plant Physiologists, in addition to serving as the organization’s president. In 2007 he was named one of the first fellows of the American Society of Plant Biology, and in 2012 he received the Rebeiz Foundation for Basic Research Life Time Achievement Award for his contributions to the understanding of ATP biosynthesis. He also served as chair of the former Division of Biological Sciences Section of Plant Biology at Cornell from 1990 to 1992.

Over the course of his career, Jagendorf collaborated with scores of other researchers and mentored many young scientists. In his retrospective paper Chance, luck and photosynthesis research: An inside story published in 1998, Jagendorf acknowledged “… the major contributions of graduate students and postdocs, and help from friends and colleagues. Without them I would have had no career at all.”

– tribute written by Craig Cramer

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Sellew Family endows Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship for SIPS Graduate Students

Mark Sellew

The School of Integrative Plant Science is pleased to announce establishment of a current use fund of $50,000 annually payable for five years from Mark ‘78 and Lisa ‘79 Sellew to provide support for graduate students who are excelling at mentoring undergraduates.

One of the great opportunities available to CALS undergraduates is the chance to conduct independent research projects in world-leading labs, typically under the wing of a graduate student.  The Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship has been created with the mission of shining a light on valuable mentoring activities ongoing within SIPS. This fellowship will promote the professional advancement of graduate student awardees, advertise research opportunities and potential learning relationships to prospective undergrads, as well as provide incentives for systematically improving mentoring throughout the School.

Mark Sellew (Plant Breeding ’78) is the CEO of Prides Corner Farms in Lebanon, Conn. The Sellew family has extensive ties to Cornell with several alumni represented among the generations  including his wife Lisa (Agricultural Economics ’79, MBA ’82) and sons Benjamin (’13) and Jack (’15).  Mark is a current member of the CALS Dean’s Advisory Council and Lisa is a board member of Farm Credit East. Mark and Lisa have previously established an endowed fund in Horticulture at Cornell. The idea of the Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship was developed during Sellew’s April 2016 visit to Cornell during which he met with current SIPS graduate students and attended a graduate class in the Field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology. After subsequent discussions with Alan Collmer, then SIPS Director, the outlines of the fellowship were developed.

Recipients of the Sellew Family Excellence-in-Mentoring Fellowship will be chosen by their respective fields based on demonstrated excellence in mentoring one or more undergraduate students. The Fellowship will be awarded to a student in a different SIPS graduate field for each of five years, with the first award to begin in August 2017 and supporting a student in the Field of Horticulture.  In subsequent years the awardee will be selected (in order) from the Fields of Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology, Plant Biology, Soil and Crop Sciences, and Plant Breeding and Genetics.

In conjunction with the fellowship award, SIPS is committed to raising the visibility of mentoring within the School and enhancing mentorship training. SIPS will sponsor an annual Graduate Student Excellence-in-Mentoring Forum to enable graduate students engaged in undergraduate mentoring activities to report highlights and discuss problems, best practices, and new ideas for maximizing mentor impact. The Fellowship awardee for the year will make a brief report emphasizing accomplishments of both the awardee and their undergraduate mentee(s).

Collmer comments that mentoring by graduate students in laboratory and field research projects represents one of the most valuable aspects of the Cornell undergraduate experience.  “Regardless of their specific career goals, students find that these experiences provide great practice in project management, goal-oriented creativity, and both independent and collaborative approaches to problem solving.  I think of these projects as a kind of ‘boot camp for the brain’.”  Collmer added, “I have seen many lifelong friendships and professional collaborations develop from such undergraduate/graduate student partnerships. These experiences are important in attracting the next generation of young people to plant sciences and to Cornell.”

Recent publications from the SIPS community – March 16, 2017

Fluctuations of the transcription factor ATML1 generate the pattern of giant cells in the Arabidopsis sepal

Meyer, H.M., Teles, J., Formosa-Jordan, P., Refahi, Y., San-Bento, R., Ingram, G., Jönsson, H., Locke, J.C.W., and Roeder, A.H.K. 2017. eLife 6:e19131.

Genotype x environment interaction analysis of North American shrub willow yield trials confirms superior performance of triploid hybrids

Fabio, E.S., Volk, T.A., Miller, R.O., Serapiglia, M.J., Gauch, H.G., Van Rees, K.C.J., Hangs, R.D., Amichev, B.Y., Kuzovkina, Y.A., Labrecque, M., Johnson, G.A., Ewy, R.G., Kling, G.J., and Smart, L.B. 2017. Gcb Bioenergy 9:445-459.

Evolution of meiotic recombination genes in maize and teosinte

Sidhu, G.K., Warzecha, T., and Pawlowski, W.P. 2017. BMC Genomics 18.

Cultivated Sub-Populations of Soil Microbiomes Retain Early Flowering Plant Trait

Panke-Buisse, K., Lee, S., and Kao-Kniffin, J. 2017. Microb Ecol 73:394-403.

Combining ability and heterosis of elite drought-tolerant maize inbred lines evaluated in diverse environments of lowland tropics

Adebayo, M.A., Menkir, A., Blay, E., Gracen, V., and Danquah, E. 2017. Euphytica 213.

Life stages, demographic rates, and leaf damage for the round-leaved orchids, Platanthera orbiculata (Pursh.) Lindley and P. macrophylla (Goldie) PM Brown in a northern hardwood forest in New Hampshire, USA

Cleavitt, N.L., Berry, E.J., Hautaniemi, J., and Fahey, T.J. 2017. Botany 95:61-71.

Organizing committee lays groundwork for the 2017 SIPS BioBlitz

Have you ever wanted to inventory molluscs in the lakeside woods? Document the plants?  Count all the fungi? Record all the birds? Identify the soil bacteria?  If so, then mark your calendars for the SIPS BioBlitz, to be held at Cayuga Nature Center on September 8-9, 2017.

Pioneered in 1998 in Walden Woods Massachusetts, a BioBlitz is designed as an opportunity for scientists of diverse backgrounds and skills to come together and count as many species as they can in a given area over a 24-hour period.

Next September, the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) will showcase our local biodiversity with the inaugural SIPS BioBlitz, co-sponsored by the Cayuga Nature Center (CNC) and to be held on CNC grounds, seven miles from downtown Ithaca. Scot LaGreca, Curator of the Plant Pathology Herbarium and SIPS BioBlitz Coordinator, is a veteran participant and organizer of BioBlitzes in Massachusetts, Vermont, and the Catskills in New York.

Cornell faculty, staff, students, and their families are invited to participate together with members of the general public.   Fill out the SIPS BioBlitz Interest Form to receive BioBlitz news and indicate your interests.  There will be 16 survey teams covering a wide diversity of organisms including vascular plants, fungi, birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates, and insects [complete list available on the interest form]. Leaders have been designated for each team and will be seeking additional team members from among those who register.  There will also be opportunities for individuals and clubs to lead programs, present educational displays, or just visit CNC on the day of the BioBlitz to watch the fun. LaGreca commented on his first Bioblitz experience, “I saw schoolchildren getting excited about their environment for the first time, and learning the names of some organisms–which experts will tell you is the first crucial step towards developing passion for the natural world”.

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the process of science and the complexity and beauty of our local ecosystem.  SIPS Interim Director Chris Smart comments, “Partnering with the Cayuga Nature Center for a day of exploring biology and nature is sure to be lots of fun. It’s a great way to learn about biodiversity in a beautiful location, close to home. Our hope is that lots of people will join in and help find and identify as many species as possible – it’s like a treasure hunt.” Who knows – we might even find some new species!

For more information:

Recent publications from the SIPS community – March 9, 2017

Dynamics of microbial community composition and soil organic carbon mineralization in soil following addition of pyrogenic and fresh organic matter.

Whitman, T., Pepe-Ranney, C., Enders, A., Koechli, C., Campbell, A., Buckley, D.H., and Lehmann, J. 2016. Isme J 10:2918-2930.

Zinc and selenium accumulation and their effect on iron bioavailability in common bean seeds.

de Figueiredo, M.A., Boldrin, P.F., Hart, J.J., de Andrade, M.J.B., Guilherme, L.R.G., Glahn, R.P., and Li, L. 2017. Plant Physiol Bioch 111:193-202.

Changes in Morphological, Biochemical and Physiological Traits in Strawberry in the Northeastern United States During One Hundred Years of Breeding.

Harbut, R.M., Pritts, M.P., and Cheng, L.L. 2016.  J Am Pomol Soc 70:194-206.

George Hudler reflects on 40 years of life lessons in Plant Pathology

George Hudler (photo credit: Robert Barker)

Locally famous for his creation of the ever popular “Magical Mushrooms and Mischievous Molds” course, George Hudler, recently appointed Emeritus Professor in the SIPS Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, reflected Wednesday on his career in plant pathology.

Entitled “40 years in 40 minutes”, Hudler’s talk began with a description of his training in forest pathology at the University of Minnesota and Colorado State University. Life lessons from these early years included learning the significance of good mentorship and the value of teaching from personal experience.

Arriving at Cornell in 1976, Hudler’s research and extension program focused on a series of tree diseases, addressing needs within the state as they arose. Among these were Scleroderris canker, dogwood anthracnose, tar spot of Norway maple, and bleeding canker of European beech.  Life lessons from his time at Cornell included the merits of being humble about your abilities, that not all diseases need to be treated, and that ecosystems can display surprising resiliency.

Hudler chose not discuss his twenty years of teaching “Magical Mushrooms and Mischievous Molds” claiming that the course warrants its own story. Instead, he closed with a passionate call to the younger generation to reach out to non-scientists with compassion and humility and to better communicate the value and process of science during this time of rapidly declining public confidence.

Read more:

Hudler in his element (Photo credit: Kent Loeffler)

Ann Bybee-Finley receives 2017 Future Leader in Science Award

Ann Bybee-Finley, a second year graduate student at the SIPS Section of Soil and Crop Sciences, has been awarded a 2017 Future Leader in Science award from American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).  Bybee-Finley is one of 18 graduate students receiving the award in recognition of their interest and engagement in science advocacy. Award winners receive a trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the annual ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Congressional Visits Day on March 14, where they will meet with their members of Congress and advocate for food, agriculture and natural resources research.

Bybee-Finley works under the direction of Dr. Matthew Ryan in the Sustainable Cropping Systems Lab on improvement of cropping systems resilience for Northeastern dairy producers. She received her B.S. in Biochemistry (2011) and B.A. (2011) in International Development from West Virginia University and her M.S. in Agronomy (2016) from Cornell University.

Bybee-Finley’s research mission is to help farmers find solutions to their agronomic issues.  One of the very well known issues farmers face is climate change; another is the conflict of being the interface of environmental stewardship and subversive agricultural policy.  Dairy farmers are left with limited options when faced with shortages of feed regularly grown on the farm.  One solution is to cull the herd, the other is to import costly grain. Her research in the Sustainable Cropping Systems lab is providing extension agents, crop consultants, and farmers with more information on summer annual forage crops as an alternative to corn or soybean.  This work involves comparison of different combinations of sorghum sudangrass, pearl millet, cowpea, and sunn hemp.  In partnership with farmers, she is studying the potential economic benefits of intercropping systems as well as the effects of agricultural policy on farmer decision-making.

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Birth announcement: The Plant Transformation Facility delivers first transgenic maize

The CALS Plant Transformation Facility (PTF) is pleased to announce a new delivery! After a few months in the PTF NICU (Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit), the first transgenic B104 maize plants are ready for life outside their incubators. These plants were made to support the research of Plant Biology’s Michael Scanlon into the function of the maize shoot apical meristem. The release of the first transgenic maize follows recent PTF deliveries of its first transgenic Nipponbare rice in December 2016 and Kitaake rice in January 2017.

The PTF makes transgenic and gene edited plants to support the research of Cornell and external scientists. Beyond maize and rice, the facility will begin transforming wheat (Bobwhite) and apple (Gala) in spring 2017, and will hold a CRISPR/Cas9 workshop in April. Please contact PTF Director Matthew Willmann (, 607-254-1466) if you have need of our services. For more information go to the CALS Plant Transformation Facility web site.

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Recent publications from the SIPS community – March 2, 2017

Interactions between ethylene, gibberellin and abscisic acid in regulating submergence induced petiole elongation in Nelumbo nucifera

Jin, Q.J., Wang, Y.X., Li, X., Wu, S., Wang, Y.J., Luo, J.Y., Mattson, N., and Xu, Y.C. 2017.  Aquat Bot 137:9-15.

A General Method for Targeted Quantitative Cross-Linking Mass Spectrometry.

Chavez, J.D., Eng, J.K., Schweppe, D.K., Cilia, M., Rivera, K., Zhong, X.F., Wu, X., Allen, T., Khurgel, M., Kumar, A., Lampropoulos, A., Larsson, M., Maity, S., Morozov, Y., Pathmasiri, W., Perez-Neut, M., Pineyro-Ruiz, C., Polina, E., Post, S., Rider, M., Tokmina-Roszyk, D., Tyson, K., Sant’Ana, D.V.P., and Bruce, J.E. 2016.  Plos One 11.

Phenolic content, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of six varieties of white sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum L.).

Lin, X.H., Zhou, L., Li, T., Brennan, C., Fu, X., and Liu, R.H. 2017.  Rsc Adv 7:5751-5758.

Vatamaniuk receives funding to boost micronutrients in wheat

Olena Vatamaniuk

Micronutrients such as iron, copper, and zinc are required for crop growth, fertility, and grain yield. They are also essential components of the human diet. However, bread wheat has inherently low concentrations of these micronutrients. Olena Vatamaniuk in the SIPS Section of Soil and Crop Sciences and Olga Terek at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv have been awarded a $90,000 grant from CRDF Global to develop innovative breeding strategies with the goal of boosting yield and mineral content of bread wheat. In addition to being a globally important crop, wheat is also a major source of calories and revenue in Ukraine.

Using a multi-faceted approach spanning  molecular genetics, functional genomics approaches, soils tests, and the state-of-the-art synchrotron x-ray technologies, Ukrainian and U.S. investigators will evaluate wheat responses to mineral availability, using wheat genotypes from the State Register of Plant Varieties Suitable for Dissemination in Ukraine.  Mark Sorrells (Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics), Murray McBride (Section of Soil and Crop Sciences), Zhangjun Fei (USDA-ARS, Boyce Thompson Institute), and Arthur Woll and Rong Huang (Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source) are also project participants.

As described on their website, CRDF Global is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes international scientific and technical collaboration through grants, technical resources, training, and services. Based in Arlington, VA, CRDF Global works with more than 40 countries in the Middle East, north Africa, Eurasia, and Asia and specializes in bringing isolated scientific communities into the scientific mainstream through a variety of science engagement and capacity -building programs.

Magdalen Lindeberg

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