Students from the Plants and People course (BioPl 2470) traveled to the Geneva campus on September 12, accompanied by teaching assistant Camila Martinez, post-doctoral associate Nathan Jud, and instructor Maria Gandolfo. The trip, organized by Steve Reiners, Professor and Chair of the Horticulture Section, provided an opportunity for students to visit hemp plots, apple orchards, and vineyards in and around the Geneva campus.
Chris Smart (Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section) introduced the class to the novel investigations that Cornell researchers are conducting on industrial hemp. Students learned about hemp plant features such as reproduction, differential content of tetrahydrocannabinol, and the uses of commercial hemp such as fibers, oils, and seeds.
Moving on to the apple orchards, Susan Brown (Horticulture Section) introduced the Cornell apple breeding program and how she approaches creation of new apple varieties. A display on different apple varieties was accompanied by discussion of the influence of weather and major insect pests on apple crops. Students had the opportunity to sample a new unnamed variety and were invited to suggest names.
While visiting the vineyards, Bruce Reisch (Horticulture Section) explained in detail the difference between wine and table grapes, breeding techniques, and how he is using genetics and genomics to improve grapevines. Different grapes were sampled, including the famous “Concord” variety which is commonly used for jelly, juice, and candy making.
The trip was particularly interesting for the Plants and People students, as the course explores the economics, sustainability, and agricultural value of plants to people, and addresses the role of plants as sources of food, medicine, fiber, and shelter.