Skip to main content

menu

Archives

Aaron-Wightman-Arnot-Research-Sugarbush-maple

Aaron Wightman, operations manager at the Arnot Research Sugarbush, tours an area of Arnot Forest that has been managed to allow new tree growth.
Jason Koski / Cornell University

In an ecosystem, diversity means stability. When assessing the health of a natural space, one looks for diversity of species, diversity of ages within those species, balance between living and non living resources, and diversity between plant and animals. More and more research points to diversity in agricultural landscapes as a tool to create productive and sustainable food systems. This idea of promoting natural diversity within agricultural systems is demonstrated in Audobond Vermonts’s “Bird-Friendly Maple Project”. The project, which has been running since 2014, looks at new ways to manage sugar-bushes, or forests raised to produce maple products. It turns out that birds and maple production depend on the same thing: a healthy, diversified forest.

For birds, a monoculture of maple trees doesn’t provide habitats for tree specific bird species. A maple monoculture lacking a conifer component is unlikely to have species like blue-headed vireo, blackburnian warbler and sharp-shinned hawk. Besides habitats, Maple monocultures are missing food sources critical for migrating birds. Without fruiting trees and shrubs birds lack the fuel necessary to migrate long distances.

While it makes sense that bird species would thrive in a more diverse woodland, understanding how diversity promotes maple production is perhaps less intuitive. A University of Vermont Study found that sugarbushes with 25% non-maple trees experienced shorter and less intense insect outbreaks. Diversity is a key component of integrated pest management in any agro-ecological system. Varied habitats encourage beneficial species, natural enemies of pests, and offer general stability within the ecosystem.  

Just as increased species diversity creates stability in sugar-bushes, increased stakeholder diversity creates positive change in the food system. Increasing the number and diversity of stakeholders is a tactic often used to bring about change.

“Conservation of anything — birds, habitat, anything — requires an all-hands-on-deck approach,” conservation biologist Steve Hagenbuch, who heads up Audubon Vermont’s Bird-Friendly Maple Project, told the Cornell Chronicle. “We can’t rely on protected areas, or even the goodwill of people interested in wildlife. We need to integrate [bird conservation] into our businesses, create financial incentives and encourage people to think about the role that their land management has in conservation.”

With this thought in mind, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is partnering with the Cornell Maple Program to develop bird-friendly sugar-bush management strategies. The collaboration will echo Audobond Vermonts’s project, with hopes to bring about both crop and bird health and sustainability. Bringing together the two large Cornell organizations multiplies the positive effects of each and will hopefully create a lasting positive impact on both bird populations and maple production in the area.

Read more about this exciting project in the spring 2019 issue of Living Bird magazine, produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Cross-sectioned and whole kiwiberry

Cross-sectioned and whole kiwiberry (Actinidia arguta).
Hiperpinguino / Wikimedia

Kiwiberries could be the next big horticultural crop for producers in the Northeast, according to researchers. Kiwiberries are a perennial vine which produce grape-sized, smooth-skinned fruit, that look and taste like their tropical namesake. The fruit has a complex flavor profile and is easy to consume making it especially desirable in regions where they are not commonly sold. Kiwiberries combine a tropical flavor with cold hardiness making it ideal for markets in the Northeast.

Kiwiberries have a long history of being grown in the New England, first as ornamentals and more recently, in backyards for personal consumption. In the past decade these efforts have been scaled up to commercial production on a few field experiments in New England . These tests prove the viability of the kiwiberry as a field-scale horticultural product.

To further encourage production of kiwiberries in the Northeast, the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has published an extensive growing guide and roadmap. The guide, developed by Iago Hale, UNH associate professor of specialty crop improvement, and UNH graduate student Will Hastings, is a culmination of over 5 years of research and observation. The plant breeding program responsible for the guide hopes that it will be a valuable resource which will allow kiwiberries to become a mainstream horticultural product in the Northeast.

“Based on their adaptation to the region, their great flavor, and their suitability for direct marketing, kiwiberries show promise as a high-value horticultural crop,” Hale said in a press release.

Besides agricultural research in commercial scale production, kiwiberries have also been consumer tested. The potential for growth in this sector is high, based on the established valuation of local produce and prevalence of direct-marketing of horticultural products. Kiwiberries are also desirable for their nutrient rich makeup and scarcity.

Read more about the kiwiberry and explore the growing guide.

Biosecurity has proven to be the most effective way to protect the nation’s poultry, property, and people.

By Anna Birn

The Defend the Flock program provides resources to ensure that all growers have the information they need to keep flocks safe from infectious diseases.
Courtesy of APHIS.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has expanded its Defend the Flock program to educate all poultry growers about best practices in biosecurity.

Considering the devastating impact of the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in 2014-2015, as well as the recent outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease, the timing is right for everyone in the poultry community to work together to protect the health of our nation’s flocks.

The Defend the Flock campaign to promote biosecurity combines and updates two previous campaigns that were each targeted at a specific segment of the poultry population. This comprehensive public education program provides new resources to ensure that all growers have the information they need to keep flocks safe from infectious diseases.

APHIS is introducing the expanded program to combat the increasing risk of serious disease outbreaks. Biosecurity, which encompasses structural and operating practices to block diseases and the pathogens that carry them, has proven to be the most effective way to protect the nation’s poultry, property, and people.

“While each of the previous campaigns were successful, by combining them and emphasizing shared responsibility, USDA will improve its ability to promote biosecurity and protect avian health across the country,” said Dr. Jack Shere, USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer and a poultry veterinarian himself.

Having experienced several poultry health issues over the last couple of years, the poultry community knows how important biosecurity is to protecting the nation’s flocks.

“We’ve seen great strides in biosecurity since 2015, but biosecurity is an every day, every time effort,” said Dr. Shere. “To sustain good practices takes awareness, training and reminders – which this campaign is poised to do. Let’s all work together to defend our nation’s flocks.”

According to Dr. Shere, the program taps into the sense of responsibility all poultry growers share.

“The health of our nation’s poultry is a responsibility that must be embraced by all growers – from operators of large commercial enterprises to owners of small backyard flocks. This program will rally commercial growers and backyard enthusiasts to adopt best practices in biosecurity and keep our flocks safe from infectious diseases.”

The Defend the Flock program includes checklists, videos, and other resources that reflect the knowledge, insights, and experience of USDA, veterinarians, poultry owners, growers, scientists, and other experts. All Defend the Flock materials are available at no charge 24/7 at the Defend the Flock Resource Center.

For more information on the program, visit usda.aphis.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock.

Anna Birn is a junior studying Agricultural Science with a minor in Community Food Systems. She works as a student assistant at the Cornell Small Farms Program, supporting its communications and outreach efforts.

Hannah Swegarden, horticulture doctoral student, with a bin of Galaxy Suite tomatoes bred by Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of plant breeding and genetics.
Matt Hayes / Cornell CALS

A recent study of consumer demands found that New York State residents want more products that are local, organic, and possess high quality, diverse flavors. In response to this feedback, plant breeder Phillip Griffiths, associate professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell AgriTech, developed a new line of grape tomatoes. After being thoroughly consumer and field tested, the Galaxy Suite is available for growers to start planting.

The suite consists of five diverse varieties of grape tomatoes, each with unique characteristics. The range of shapes and colors available in the suite juxtapose the classic idea of a plain, bland grape tomato. From the yellow oblong Starlights to the marbled Supernovas, each variety in the suite is carefully crafted to offer a novel culinary experience. The diversity of these new varieties was no accident. Griffiths’ program focuses on creating diverse quality traits in fresh vegetables.

The suite was designed to satisfy consumer demands, while keeping growers needs in mind. The tomatoes are highly productive without sacrificing quality. They do well in high tunnels and greenhouses, which are common horticultural growing systems in NYS. All of the varieties in the suite are ideal for organic growers with Wegmans already performing field tests on their organic farm.

By harnessing diversity, Griffiths created products that could connect more NY farmers to profitable niche markets in New York City.

“This effort is coming to fruition at the same time these markets are expanding,” Griffiths said of his hopes for the Galaxy Suite in an interview with CALS News . “It has helped us link with consumers, farm-to-market growers and people who are ultimately just interested in great food.”

Read the full article on the CALS website.

Alex Vaziri ’22, left, and Faima Quadir ’22 participate in Cornell’s inaugural Digital Agriculture Hackathon in the Schurman Hall atrium.
Matt Hayes / CALS

For the first time ever, a Cornell Hackathon was devised to deal with agricultural issues. This event, which took place on March 1 and 2, combined departments across Cornell University including computer, food, animal, and agricultural science. Focusing on the growing need for increased food production, the hackathon addresses a looming global problem.

“You have to give them not just food, but good food, and you have to do this in a sustainable way without harming the environment,” Ranveer Chandra explained to the Cornell Chronicle. “How are you going to grow more food without harming the planet? That’s the challenge that all of us need to get together to solve.” Chandra ‘05, is the chief scientist at Microsoft Azure Global, and an important guest at the hackathon. With a broad range of topics covered under this prompt, the students were free to be innovative in their choice of issue and its solution.

This ambitious idea was rewarded with impressive results. Over the 36-hour event, 26 teams divised of 140 students feverishly worked away on lines of code, business planning, and market research. By the end of the event, 10 teams were named finalists and 5 were awarded prizes. Projects were scored on a number of criteria including originality, feasibility, impact and data collection/analysis.

The top prize of $2,000 was awarded to a project called InsectInsight. The project, comprised of a business startup and an app, addresses a growing need for feed-grade insects used on fish farms. InsectInsight allows fish farmers to grow their own insects to feed the fish instead of the traditional method of buying premade meal. This will shorten the supply chain and help smaller fish farmers scale up their operations while keeping costs down. The second part of the project was an app which connected fish farmers to local food producers.

The hackathon was a clear success, both by its participation and outcomes. It marks an important step for the newly launched Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture.

“For students that participated, we hope the hackathon creates a path for them to deepen their engagement and take their ideas forward,” Steven Wolfe, associate professor of natural resources in CALS, and leader of the hackathon, told the Cornell Chronicle. “For CIDA, I hope it creates energy to advance relationships on and off campus.”

Read the full story from the Cornell Chronicle.

The Cornell-led New York Soil Health Initiative has just released its Soil Health Roadmap, which identifies ways farmers and land managers can adopt better soil health practices. Above, Jean-Paul Courtens, left, of Roxbury Farm, discusses the finer points of using a roller crimper to terminate a cover crop and create a layer of mulch that suppresses weeds in preparation for planting a cash crop.
Photo courtesy of Cedric Mason

In a collaborative effort between the New York Soil Health Initiative and Cornell University, a new plan has been rolled out to help guide the adoption of soil health practices in New York State. This new program, titled the New York Soil Health Roadmap, was written to address sustainability in food production through innovation in soil health practices.

The roadmap combines policy, education, and research objectives to help establish better soil practices for our farmers. Led by professor David Wolfe, of plant and soil ecology, the roadmap takes an inside look at barriers preventing farmers from implementing soil conservation practices.

What sets this roadmap apart from previous projects is its widespread collaboration. This project was able to bring together diverse stakeholders including community members, environmental conservationists, academics and policymakers as well as farmers. By taking a holistic look at soil conservation, the roadmap outlines the link between soil, water, and air quality. It also addresses the results from the 2018 New York Farmer Survey where farmers can express their pressing economic concerns.

Climate change issues are a looming problem for the continued agricultural economy in New York State. Good soil practices, described in the roadmap can be powerful tools to adapt to uncertain conditions.

“After working on this roadmap for over a year, I’m more optimistic than ever about the sustainability of New York’s diverse agriculture,” Wolfe stated while being interviewed for the Cornell Chronicle. “We not only have innovative farmers rebuilding their soils, but also a wide range of allies, from consumers to policymakers, who are ready to support them.”

To learn more, read the CALS article about the New York Soil Health Roadmap

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has launched a new outreach campaign focused on preventing the spread of infectious poultry diseases in both commercial and backyard poultry. Considering the devastating impact of the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in 2014-2015, as well as the recent outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease, the timing is right for everyone in the poultry community to work together to protect the health of our nation’s flocks.

The “Defend the Flock” campaign to promote biosecurity combines and updates two previous campaigns that were each targeted at a specific segment of the poultry population.

“While each of the previous campaigns were successful, by combining them and emphasizing shared responsibility, USDA will improve its ability to promote biosecurity and protect avian health across the country,” said Dr. Jack Shere, USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer and a poultry veterinarian himself.

Having experienced several poultry health issues over the last couple of years, the poultry community knows how important biosecurity is to protecting the nation’s flocks.

The PDF checklist gives farmers tips to help keep their flocks healthy.

“We’ve seen great strides in biosecurity since 2015, but biosecurity is an every day, every time effort,” said Dr. Shere. “To sustain good practices takes awareness, training and reminders – which this campaign is poised to do. Let’s all work together to defend our nation’s flocks.”

USDA launched a new web page for the campaign where anyone can find important information about protecting their flocks from disease. The site also has a resource section, including a series of checklists each covering specific biosecurity principles. Producers, growers, workers and enthusiasts alike can use these as regular reminders or cues for maintaining a high level of biosecurity.

These resources will be available in both English and Spanish at the launch, with additional languages coming in the next year.

 

For more information please contact Donna Karlsons or Joelle Hayden.

Donna Karlsons
301-851-4107
donna.l.karlsons@usda.gov

Joelle Hayden
301-851-4040
joelle.r.hayden@usda.gov

Recognizing the needs of the modern farmer, The Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,  has called together a task force dedicated to engaging multiple departments in digital agriculture.

Cornell Brand Communications File Photo

The digital ag initiative refers to using data systems to optimize food production and, finding technological solutions for farming problems. Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture (CIDA) is an interdisciplinary team dedicated to improving food production through the use of robotics and data collection. Launched in 2018, CIDA represents Cornell’s role in this burgeoning field according to Provost Michael Kotlikoff. .

“Digital agriculture continues to blossom rapidly across academic and research fields, and there is no university as uniquely positioned as Cornell to help meet the world’s food system needs,” Provost Kotlikoff said in a Cornell Chronicle article.

While this initiative is relatively new, the idea of using big data and technology within our food system is not. Precision agriculture has been on the rise, including innovations like drone flyovers to manage cropping systems, and microchipped livestock to monitor herd health. Led by Susan McCouch, Ph.D. ’90, CIDA is a way to organize, fund, and increase participation in digital agriculture making it a university-wide interdisciplinary team.

These efforts help bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners, bringing technological solutions to farmers in the area. Practices developed by the CIDA team are already being trialed on the Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, NY. With large scale collaboration comes large scale innovation. Read the full article on Cornell CALS or the Cornell Chronicle.

To kick off season 3 of the Cornell Cooperative Extension podcast, “Extension Out Loud,” CALS Associate Dean of Governmental and Community Relations, Julie Suarez joins the show to talk through the new 2018 farm bill. The bill, renewed every five years, is the main tool the federal government uses to regulate food and agricultural policy. Among other things, this years bill has important provisions regarding commercial hemp, urban agriculture, and an increased research budget, especially in the organic sector.

“It was a very pleasant surprise that the farm bill did effectively fully legalize the growth and sale of industrial hemp both within states that have existing permitted programs and also allows for the sale of products across state lines,” Suarez said. “New York, I think, is much better poised than many states in terms of meeting the economic growth potential of this newly authorized crop.”

Despite the government shutdown, Suarez is optimistic about the bill.

“I’m excited for the first time in my career, to actually see the federal government increase their investment in research.”

Listen to “Extension Out Loud” and hear Julie talk about the implications of the bill, Cornell’s role in the new hemp industry, and continued innovation in the farming community. 

Have you thought about switching to a biofertilizer? Full spectrum biofertilizers like “Super Magro” have simple ingredients and can prevent yield loss. Through plant nutrition, biofertilizers reduce disease, pest, and physiological stress, to maximize your crops’ performance. After brewing the base recipe, Super Magro can be tailored by adding specific mineral salts to fit your needs.

Cornell Small Farms’ own Shaun Bluethenthal, an agronomist and research farmer describes the process of how to make Super Magro biofertilizer.

Super Magro was conceived in Latin America during the 1980s by farmer Delvino Magro with support from professor Sabastiao Pinheiro of the Juquira Candiru Foundation, in Rio Do Sul, Brazil. The Super Magro formula was intentionally released without patent or intellectual property claims as an empowerment tool for independent farmers.

The base formula for Super Magro combines seven key components, which ferment over four days. The result is a nutrient-rich liquid, complete with organic and amino acids, and essential minerals in plant-available form.

Base Formula*  

  •  Untreated water
  •  Fresh cow dung
  •  Molasses
  •  Whey (or milk)
  •  S. cerevisiae (yeast)
  •  Wood ash
  •  Rockdust

*see supporting documents for complete formula and schedule

The beauty of this recipe, and biofertilizers in general, is that they harness naturally occurring microbial processes and use them to convert essential mineral ingredients into available plant nutrients. Specialized rumen-microbes, delivered via the cow dung, use the readily available sugars in the molasses to perform anaerobic fermentation. After four days of fermentation, context-specific salts can be added to the mixture. Super Magro uses nine specific salts, each of which plays critical roles in plant health, to create a broad-spectrum complement of essential minerals.

Now that you have an understanding of the mechanisms behind this type of biofertilizer production, you can tailor-make your own fertilizers specific to the needs and stages of growth of your crops.

Since the recipe is scalable and requires no outside energy source for its manufacture, it can be a great fertilizer option for small farms, homesteads, and even urban farmers. During this type of biofertilizer process, gasses expelled through the air-lock during the fermentation process have no detectable odor. Also, at the completion of a successful fermentation, the end product no longer has a raw manure smell. This bonus is especially useful for farmers and growers that have neighbors within close proximity.

In addition to its robust nutritional profile, Super Magro is also a cost-effective alternative ( > $2.50 per acre) to commercial fertilizers. Some farmers may already have many of the ingredients on hand. Even if you don’t, the ingredients are common enough that they are readily available and inexpensive.

Read more about Super Magro at:

http://www.ragmans.co.uk/shop/abc_of_organic_argriculture/

Lamierdadevaca.com

http://www.ragmans.co.uk/harvesting_the_sun_/

Happy fertilizing!

Anna Birn is a junior studying Agricultural Science with a minor in Community Food Systems. She works as a student assistant at the Cornell Small Farms Program, supporting its communications and outreach efforts.

More »