SAVE THE DATE: 2nd annual Family Fun Day coming September 6

Weeds crowding out your tomato plants or late blight hampering your tomato harvest? CALS experts will be sharing top tips for home gardeners at a free, family-friendly organic farm and garden open house from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 6 at the H.C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, N.Y.

See how cotton and peanuts grow, learn about “good” bugs and “bad” bugs, taste the best roasted peppers, make your own tortillas with local corn, learn about food preservation, composting, high tunnels and get tips from researchers about gardening and growing practices. Go on a wagon ride, get your face painted and enjoy farm-fresh snacks. 

Free admission and all are welcome! 


Hope at harvest after harsh winter

Photo by Dominic Rivard

A recent announcement by Richard A. Ball got a warm reception by wineries affected by harsh winter weather. The State Agriculture Commissioner said he would ease restrictions on farm wineries that are required to use only grapes grown in New York in their products.

The combination of harsh winter temperatures, sustained cold, lack of snow cover, and alternating warmer and colder temperatures killed critical fruiting buds, vastly reducing 2014’s grape yield. An assessment conducted by Cornell Cooperative Extension determined that 15 grape varieties in the state experienced over a 40 percent loss, putting heavy demand on the surviving grapes. Vineyards also saw trunk damage, which could necessitate the replacement of entire plants. Some vineyards received little to no damage, while neighbors down the road were devastated.

This is the first time since 2005 that the Commissioner has given authorization to a farm winery to manufacture or sell wine produced from grapes grown outside of New York due to adverse weather conditions. It applies to farm wineries statewide, and covered grape varieties include: Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lemberger, Syrah, Gamay Noir, Brianna, Frontenac, La Crescent, and Noiret.

“The state’s grape harvest is fast approaching and due to freezing temperatures that severely damaged plants throughout the state, there will be more demand than supply for New York grapes,” said Commissioner Ball.  “We need to give New York’s world class farm wineries every tool possible to succeed this year, and this is a strong tool that can provide the industry with immediate assistance. It gives wineries the flexibility to adjust to their own unique situations. I thank our friends at Cornell for assessing the damage on behalf of the wine industry.”

"The success of our vineyards and wineries are central to the economy of New York, and on behalf of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, I congratulate the hard work contributed by those completing this survey," added Dean Kathryn Boor. "This assessment has provided our state leadership with the information needed to implement fast action towards a remedy, and this declaration positions our growers and beverage entrepreneurs with the flexibility needed this year to foster their continued prosperity."

New York ranks third in the nation in wine and grape production.  According to a recent study commissioned by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the full economic impact of New York grapes, grape juice and wine in 2012 was $4.8 billion. Since 2011, the number of farm wineries has risen by nearly 50 percent, from 195 to 291 today. In addition, the number of farm wineries opening branch offices, authorized by legislation signed by Governor Cuomo in 2011, has increased by 97 percent, from 29 to 57, and the number of wineries has also increased, from 52 in 2011 to 76 today, for a total 46 percent growth.

Building a legacy

imageOral communication lecturer Kathy Berggren ’90 MAT ’93 was passionate about supporting students and helping them realize their own personal successes. Her unexpected death on July 24 at the age of 46 left the CALS community reeling. Now her family has teamed up with the Dyson School to create an opportunity for others to contribute towards her legacy. They have established the Kathy Lee Berggren (Druckman) Memorial Fund to support some of the activities she advocated so strongly, such as the preparation of teaching assistants for undergraduate instruction, financial aid, and diversity and inclusion programs. They are also hoping to establish an annual symposium on communication for career preparation, with guest speakers and skills development workshops for undergraduates, as a signature event in Warren Hall’s new Collaboration Zone. Gifts can be made online, or by check payable to Cornell University and mailed to: Cornell University, Box 223623, Pittsburgh, PA 15251-2623, with a note that it is intended for the Kathy Lee Berggren (Druckman) Memorial Fund #0011199.

A campus memorial service will be held at Sage Chapel at 1 p.m. on September 21, with reception to follow.

If you believe in a cause of your disorder, it becomes the cause. We see this in many different studies. If you believe it, you change your behavior in the direction of being cured.

— Nutrition professor David Levitsky discusses the placebo effect in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the pros and cons of a gluten-free diet

A drive toward better energy prices

How does one quantify the harmful side effects of energy use? According to Dyson School assistant professor Shanjun Li, energy prices in many countries are wrong because they are set at levels that do not reflect environmental damage, notably climate change, air pollution, and various side effects of motor vehicle use, such as traffic accidents and congestion. Energy tax reform need not be primarily about raising new revenues, but could focus on restructuring the tax system away from taxes that are likely to be most harmful for efficiency and growth, such as income taxes, and towards carefully designed taxes on energy, he argues.

Li teamed up with three researchers at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to study the issue. The results, published in a book offering practical advice illustrated for more than 150 countries, suggest there is pervasive mispricing of energy across developed and developing countries alike, with much at stake in policy reform.

"Getting energy prices right would require extending current widely accepted and easily administered motor fuel taxes, to better align the rates of these taxes with environmental damage," the authors write. "Similar charges could be added to other fossil fuel products, such as coal and natural gas, or their emissions."

At a global level, implementing efficient energy prices would reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 23 percent and fossil-fuel air pollution deaths by 63 percent, while raising revenues (badly needed for fiscal consolidation and reducing other burdensome taxes) averaging 2.6 percent of GDP.

The book was officially launched July 31 at an event at the Center for Global Development, recorded here.

How much does your garden grow?

As part of the Food Dignity Project, 18 home gardeners and 32 community gardeners are measuring the amount of produce they grow in one season. Researchers want to find out if gardeners are producing nutritionally and economically significant amounts of food. Based on preliminary data from 22 gardens last year, they are indeed! They averaged 181 pounds of food, valued at over $550. The top producer grew more than 450 pounds of food! In addition to the produce, however, they are also growing a sense of community, sharing some of their stories - and advice - on the Ithaca Garden Harvest Log Blog. Enfield resident Steve Mohlke, pictured above, recently shared his secrets of a weed-free garden and his experience with a low tunnel to cover some of his eggplant, while Forest Home resident Montana directed readers to her favorite recipe site and Freese Road gardener Pat Bax (pictured below) passed on her ingenious tip: sewing zippers on her plant covers. It’s well worth a read if you want to pick up some pointers or see what other local gardeners are growing.

CALS invests in “greener” greenhouses

CALS is about to become a whole lot “greener” thanks to a major greenhouse renovation scheme now underway at both the Ithaca and Geneva campuses. The initiative, called for in the college’s Master Plan, aims to eliminate or replace older, energy inefficient greenhouses with state-of-the-art structures that will provide faculty, staff and students with safe, spacious and sustainable facilities in which to conduct research.

New greenhouses are already under construction at CALS satellite campus at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, thanks to $4.3M in funds received from New York State. Construction also began earlier this month to replace the Bailey Conservatory Greenhouse adjacent to the Plant Science Building, which was closed in 2010 due to health and safety concerns. And CALS is also building new greenhouses (rendering above) at the Guterman complex on the Ithaca campus with a mix of college funds and a $500,000 grant awarded through the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council. 

These renovations are taking place in concert with a new lean process improvement initiative undertaken by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station that’s designed to save on greenhouse energy usage without diminishing the essential value of Cornell’s greenhouses. Not only will this effort save money, it will also help to diminish the carbon footprint of both CALS and Cornell.

What a way to save green by going green! 

With ancient roots in Mesopotamia and Central Asia, falconry also finds impassioned practitioners in North America. At an April 2014 talk at Mann Library, writer, wildlife photographer and falconer Timothy Gallagher presented a history of this art and an overview of its current practice in the U.S.

Currently, editor-in-chief of “Living Bird,” the flagship publication of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Gallagher has had a lifelong interest in wilderness exploration and falcons.

Beloved art professor dies

Robert J. “Jack” Lambert Jr. ’50, professor emeritus of freehand drawing, died August 8 at Kendal at Ithaca. He was 86. The beloved professor nurtured the artistic abilities of innumerable students, especially those studying landscape architecture and design, as head of the Freehand Drawing Program once housed in the Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture. He taught for more than 45 years, and even his retirement in 1997 didn’t stop him from sharing his love of drawing with others who took part in weekly lunchtime art classes. His artwork has been exhibited in numerous galleries, museums and juried shows, and is included in many publications and private collections. He also planned and supervised the construction of a rock garden at Cornell Plantations.

"Jack inspired generations of artists who now engage in all walks of life, from the life sciences, to communications, marketing, medicine and a host of other disciplines,” said Marcia Eames-Sheavly, senior extension associate/lecturer in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “He taught the power of keen observation, and encouraged students to pause to record nature’s beauty everywhere. He possessed a wry wit, strong opinion, and a unique lens through which he viewed the world."

Read more about his life on the Horticulture blog, or visit his memorial page.

This is a new era. I liken it a little bit to when chemistry got the microscope.

Jeffrey T. Hancock, professor of communication and information science, discusses social science research and the ethics of tapping into data from sites like Facebook in a New York Times interview.

Share your Cornell memories to celebrate our 150th birthday!

Soon, around the globe, Cornell will be celebrating it’s Sesquicentennial!

You can help energize the Big Red community even before the official celebrations begin. Here’s how: send us the stories, images and events that have shaped your Cornell experience, recent or long ago. We’ll gather these memories and share them on the Sesquicentennial website.

Stand up and be counted as a proud Cornellian. Show your Sesquicentennial spirit!

Upcoming workshops for the CALS community

Check out these three upcoming workshops available to CALS faculty, students and staff:

  • ELN Training: Learn to use LabArchives

Curious how you might be able to use an Electronic Lab Notebook to better manage your research notes, data, protocols and related documents? Come to an introductory training session to learn about Lab Archives, the online electronic lab notebook service available to use for free for all Cornell faculty, staff and students. In this hands-on, one-hour class, we’ll show you how to get yourself set up with an account, show how to add (and share!) some common content types, demonstrate some of the more advanced features of the software, and talk about some best practices for organizing and working with your content. We’ll also talk about how you can use this tool in the classroom/teaching lab, and point you to additional resources to keep you on track with your notebook.

Monday August 25, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. in 112 Mann Library (the CIT Classroom). Please register here

  • Using Excel with Research Data

Microsoft Excel is a commonly used and powerful tool for entering, analyzing, and storing many types of research data. This series of workshops covers tips, tricks and best practices for using Excel to work with your data. Taught at an intermediate user level, topics include formulas and functions, pivot tables, macros and more.

The workshops will be held in the Stone Classroom in Mann Library, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. on September 9, and from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. on September 23, October 7 and October 21. More details on the topics covered and registration information is available here.

  • Data Management

The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires a data management plan with all grant applications, and growing numbers of funders and publishers have data sharing requirements. Data management is equally important for the individual researcher trying to document, organize and evaluate empirical information. This series of workshops cosponsored by Cornell’s Research Data Management Service Group and Mann Library includes an introduction to data management plans, metadata to document data, and best practices for sharing and archiving research data.

The workshops will be held in the Stone Classroom in Mann Library, from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. on September 17, October 1 and October 15.

More details on the topics covered and registration information is available here.