Community blogs are created for all of ASHS Membership. Group and personal blogs are not listed here. Please click "subscribe" to be sent a message when a new blog is posted. ASHS Members may post and/or comment to the blogs. Content should be of interest to horticultural professionals.
The first ban on sales of products containing the neonicotinoid class of pesticides will begin on January 1, 2018 in Maryland after Governor Larry Hogan announced he would allow the legislation (S.B. 198/H.B. 211) to become law without his signature. The Governor invoked a provision in the state constitution that allows legislation to become law within a thirty day time period if he does not sign or veto it. Exempt from the law are certified applicators, farmers and veterinarians.
Connecticut followed suit about a week later with a similar ban.
For the past decade, there has been a decline among bees. Many studies have been published over the past several years – some with conclusive results - that neonicotinoids are to blame for the decline in bee pollinators and some have found inconclusive results.
The Maryland bill was brought forward based on the same concerns that neonicotinoid pesticides are contributing to the mortality of bees and other pollinators. According to a 2015 USDA survey, Maryland lost about 60% of hives last year, which is much higher than the national average of approximately 42%. But many researches remain uncertain if there is enough evidence to prove that neonicotinoid pesticides have a fatal impact on pollinators. One theory is that low level exposure to neonicotinoids does not kill bees directly, but impacts their ability to forage for nectar and find their way back to the hive.
Other factors also influence the health of bees such as disease, parasites, and loss of habitat. How influential is the use of pesticides in the bee population along with the other factors?
The EU banned some neonicotinoids in 2013 and is currently assessing data to be released in January 2017. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the first of four studies on many of these pesticides in January. The preliminary study on imidacloprid finds that it is a potential threat to bees and will release a risk assessment on all ecological effects in December of this year.
Neonicotinoid insecticides (which include acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam) were introduced to the market in the 1980s and were targeted to specific pests and considered less harmful to humans. Neonicotinoids are absorbed when applied and remain in the tissue of the plant. The bans that have been passed have considered the fact that mis-application of the pesticide can be a hazard thus allowing professionals to continue use of them.
If more research continues down the path of neonicotinoids being harmful and professional use is banned–what will happen? Crops, including self-pollinating crops, use these insecticides for crop management. Will it fall to the manufacturing companies to develop new insecticides or to the breeders to identify and incorporate multiple insect resistance genes?
How do you fall on this continuing research and debate? ASHS would love to hear from the membership. If you have something to say, please comment on this post.
Distinction Between Genetic Engineering and Conventional Plant Breeding Becoming Less Clear,
Says New Report on GE Crops
WASHINGTON – An extensive study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has found that new technologies in genetic engineering and conventional breeding are blurring the once clear distinctions between these two crop-improvement approaches. In addition, while recognizing the inherent difficulty of detecting subtle or long-term effects on health or the environment, the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops. However, evolved resistance to current GE characteristics in crops is a major agricultural problem.
A tiered process for regulating new crop varieties should focus on a plant’s characteristics rather than the process by which it was developed, the committee recommends in its report. New plant varieties that have intended or unintended novel characteristics that may present potential hazards should undergo safety testing -- regardless of whether they were developed using genetic engineering or conventional breeding techniques. New “-omics” technologies, which dramatically increase the ability to detect even small changes in plant characteristics, will be critical to detecting unintended changes in new crop varieties.
The committee used evidence accumulated over the past two decades to assess purported negative effects and purported benefits of current commercial GE crops. Since the 1980s, biologists have used genetic engineering to produce particular characteristics in plants such as longer shelf life for fruit, higher vitamin content, and resistance to diseases. However, the only genetically engineered characteristics that have been put into widespread commercial use are those that allow a crop to withstand the application of a herbicide or to be toxic to insect pests.
The fact that only two characteristics have been widely used is one of the reasons the committee avoided sweeping, generalized statements about the benefits and risks of GE crops. Claims about the effects of existing GE crops often assume that those effects would apply to the genetic engineering process generally, but different characteristics are likely to have different effects. A genetically engineered characteristic that alters the nutritional content of a crop, for example, is unlikely to have the same environmental or economic effects as a characteristic for herbicide resistance.
The committee examined almost 900 research and other publications on the development, use, and effects of genetically engineered characteristics in maize (corn), soybean, and cotton, which account for almost all commercial GE crops to date. “We dug deeply into the literature to take a fresh look at the data on GE and conventionally bred crops,” said committee chair Fred Gould, University Distinguished Professor of Entomology and co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University. In addition, the committee heard from 80 diverse speakers at three public meetings and 15 public webinars, and read more than 700 comments from members of the public to broaden its understanding of issues surrounding GE crops.
In releasing its report, the committee established a website that enables users to look up the places in the report that address comments received by the committee from the public, and also find the reasoning behind the report’s main findings and recommendations. “The committee focused on listening carefully and responding thoughtfully to members of the public who have concerns about GE crops and foods, as well as those who feel that there are great benefits to be had from GE crops,” said Gould.
Effects on human health. The committee carefully searched all available research studies for persuasive evidence of adverse health effects directly attributable to consumption of foods derived from GE crops but found none. Studies with animals and research on the chemical composition of GE foods currently on the market reveal no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health and safety than from eating their non-GE counterparts. Though long-term epidemiological studies have not directly addressed GE food consumption, available epidemiological data do not show associations between any disease or chronic conditions and the consumption of GE foods.
There is some evidence that GE insect-resistant crops have had benefits to human health by reducing insecticide poisonings. In addition, several GE crops are in development that are designed to benefit human health, such as rice with increased beta-carotene content to help prevent blindness and death caused by vitamin A deficiencies in some developing nations.
Effects on the environment. The use of insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant crops did not reduce the overall diversity of plant and insect life on farms, and sometimes insect-resistant crops resulted in increased insect diversity, the report says. While gene flow – the transfer of genes from a GE crop to a wild relative species – has occurred, no examples have demonstrated an adverse environmental effect from this transfer. Overall, the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems. However, the complex nature of assessing long-term environmental changes often made it difficult to reach definitive conclusions.
Effects on agriculture. The available evidence indicates that GE soybean, cotton, and maize have generally had favorable economic outcomes for producers who have adopted these crops, but outcomes have varied depending on pest abundance, farming practices, and agricultural infrastructure. Although GE crops have provided economic benefits to many small-scale farmers in the early years of adoption, enduring and widespread gains will depend on such farmers receiving institutional support, such as access to credit, affordable inputs such as fertilizer, extension services, and access to profitable local and global markets for the crops.
Evidence shows that in locations where insect-resistant crops were planted but resistance-management strategies were not followed, damaging levels of resistance evolved in some target insects. If GE crops are to be used sustainably, regulations and incentives are needed so that more integrated and sustainable pest-management approaches become economically feasible. The committee also found that in many locations some weeds had evolved resistance to glyphosate, the herbicide to which most GE crops were engineered to be resistant. Resistance evolution in weeds could be delayed by the use of integrated weed-management approaches, says the report, which also recommends further research to determine better approaches for weed resistance management.
Insect-resistant GE crops have decreased crop loss due to plant pests. However, the committee examined data on overall rates of increase in yields of soybean, cotton, and maize in the U.S. for the decades preceding introduction of GE crops and after their introduction, and there was no evidence that GE crops had changed the rate of increase in yields. It is feasible that emerging genetic-engineering technologies will speed the rate of increase in yield, but this is not certain, so the committee recommended funding of diverse approaches for increasing and stabilizing crop yield.
Regulation Should Focus on Novel Characteristics and Hazards
All technologies for improving plant genetics – whether GE or conventional -- can change foods in ways that could raise safety issues, the committee’s report notes. It is the product and not the process that should be regulated, the new report says, a point that has also been made in previous Academies reports.
In determining whether a new plant variety should be subject to safety testing, regulators should focus on the extent to which the novel characteristics of the plant variety (both intended and unintended) are likely to pose a risk to human health or the environment, the extent of uncertainty about the severity of potential harm, and the potential for human exposure – regardless of whether the plant was developed using genetic-engineering or conventional-breeding processes. ” –omics” technologies will be critical in enabling these regulatory approaches.
The United States’ current policy on new plant varieties is in theory a “product” based policy, but USDA and EPA determine which plants to regulate at least partially based on the process by which they are developed. But a process-based approach is becoming less and less technically defensible as the old approaches to genetic engineering become less novel and as emerging processes — such as genome editing and synthetic biology — fail to fit current regulatory categories of genetic engineering, the report says.
The distinction between conventional breeding and genetic engineering is becoming less obvious, says the report, which also reviews emerging technologies. For example, genome editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 can now be used to make a genetic change by substituting a single nucleotide in a specific gene; the same change can be made by a method that uses radiation or chemicals to induce mutations and then uses genomic screening to identify plants with the desired mutation – an approach that is considered to be conventional breeding by most national regulatory systems. Some emerging genetic engineering technologies have the potential to create novel plant varieties that are hard to distinguish genetically from plants produced through conventional breeding or processes that occur in nature. A plant variety that is conventionally bred to be resistant to a herbicide and one that is genetically engineered to be resistant to the same herbicide can be expected to have similar associated benefits and risks.
Regulating authorities should be proactive in communicating information to the public about how emerging genetic-engineering technologies or their products might be regulated and how new regulatory methods may be used. They should also proactively seek input from the public on these issues. Not all issues can be answered by science alone, the report says. Policy regarding GE crops has scientific, legal, and social dimensions.
For example, on the basis of its review of the evidence on health effects, the committee does not believe that mandatory labeling of foods with GE content is justified to protect public health, but it noted that the issue involves social and economic choices that go beyond technical assessments of health or environmental safety; ultimately, it involves value choices that technical assessments alone cannot answer.
The study was sponsored by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the New Venture Fund, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org. A roster follows.
Pre-publication copies of Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects are available from the National Academies Press on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).
# # #
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects
Fred Gould* (chair)
University Distinguished Professor
Department of Entomology
North Carolina State University
Richard M. Amasino*
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor
Department of Biochemistry
University of Wisconsin
Professor and Chair
Department of Life Sciences Communication
University of Wisconsin
C. Robin Buell
Department of Plant Biology
Michigan State University
Richard A. Dixon*
Distinguished Research Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
University of North Texas
Jose B. Falck-Zepeda
Senior Research Fellow
International Food Policy Research Institute
Michael A. Gallo
Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Professor of Plant Production Systems
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
Pennsylvania State University
Timothy S. Griffin
Agriculture Food and Environment Program
Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy
Bruce R. Hamaker
Roy L. Whistler Distinguished Professor of Food Science
Director, Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research
Department of Food Science
West Lafayette, Ind.
Peter M. Kareiva*
Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
University of California
Daniel B. Magraw
Foreign Policy Institute
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
The year 2016 has begun and ASHS is looking at the trends in horticulture and how we can best serve our membership.
There are many issues circulating in the news and social media about a variety of horticultural-related issues such as the GMO debate, climate change, neonicotinoids on bees–just to name a few. However, the one topic that seems to be at the top of the list is the decline of student enrollment in horticultural programs. This down-swing is occurring while reports such as the one from USDA and Purdue University are showing that job opportunities will be strongest in the plant science market in the next five years. (See the report, Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment, United States, 2015-2020, is the eighth in a series of five-year projections initiated by USDA in 1980.)
Janet Cole, Director of the Landscape Management Program at Oklahoma State University states, “Student numbers are still declining and are critically low in all horticulture programs. This will limit growth of the industry, and also in the extreme instance can eventually affect our food availability.”
Dr. Cole does see a shift among interest to areas such as community gardening, locally-grown foods, and sustainability. Is this a reflection of horticulture in general? Is it shifting in specialty areas? And how is this recognized in education, certifications, and industry?
In discussing the issues of student (and in some areas faculty) decline, Dr. Dennis Ray from the University of Arizona, provides the following insight, “The reality is that students are different, the field (horticulture) is different, funding is different, the problems we address, and the universities are different.” Individual universities are making adaptations to meet the change in student interest. But there needs to be more outreach to get an invested interest in horticulture from a younger age and keep the interest through college.
The USDA/Purdue report will hopefully reenergize us all to work harder to spread knowledge and meet the increasing demand. ASHS President-elect John Dole of North Carolina State University states, “Student numbers appear to be declining at more college and university programs just when the number of horticulture jobs are increasing. Not only will we need national efforts such as Seed Your Future, but we will need local advocacy on this issue as well.” Of course, the idea of change to address new trends will take time and planning. There is not an immediate fix to attract more students to meet the anticipated increase in job opportunities.
ASHS efforts for 2016 center around formulating a remodeled strategic plan to make sure we are working on meeting the trends of horticulture by sending out the Member Survey this past November. By surveying our membership, we are mirroring what universities are doing in getting feedback on what the interests are becoming. This is part of a strategic planning process that will help ASHS craft its vision for a changing future to better serve the membership and horticulture. ASHS President Curt Rom, along with the ASHS Board, will be instrumental in providing great leadership as we tackle the issue of the decline in horticulture programs. ASHS will continue to be involved in Seed Your Future as we look at the many ways we can provide advocacy to develop an interest in horticulture among younger people.
With all of this said, the future of horticulture is evolving at a rapid pace, and we must keep abreast of the many issues while engaging youth to understand what horticulture is and how important it is.
So what should we expect in 2016? We should strive to be proactive and implement new ways to advocate, while sharing the latest science for the greater good. Our issues are global and relevant to all.
This article will be posted in the ASHS Community Blog. ASHS welcomes any feedback on horticulture advocacy and retention in 2016. There is additional information on Seed Your Future initiative on the ASHS website.
Many of us are challenged to find ways to better disseminate our research and Extension findings. Administrators, legislators, and the public are demanding to know our “impact”.Thus, using all available tools to our advantage only makes sense. Social media has been around for more than a decade now. Facebook is the most popular, with others like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Periscope, and Instagram following in its wake. From the outside looking in it may be difficult to see the value in using these digital tools. Unfortunately, a lot of what we see on them is photos of babies, lunch plates, and celebrities. Ugh, who needs that?Well, we do – not the pointless junk, but the social interaction with the public. There is a lack of public understanding of science and these social tools allow us to reach people who could learn from us.
But you don’t have time and you don’t get credit for doing it, right? We are all busy with the demands of our jobs and granted, most promotion and tenure committees have not figured where these activities fit into job parameters; however, the reason for using social media to disseminate our work is not for fortune and glory. Having used these social tools for more than five years now, I believe the best way to state the case for using social media is by providing some examples from my experiences.
To be clear, I am not a super star social media user. I choose which platforms best fit my interest and what I want to get out of them. I use Twitter and have a Wordpress blog, but I also have LinkedIn and ResearchGate accounts. For now, I want to focus just on Twitter and the blog. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have zillions of followers. My reach and engagement are fairly small; yet, in context, what does small mean in social media?As I write this I have 767 followers on Twitter. This included folks from all over the world who are interested in fruit crops. I have fewer followers on my blog, about 120, but each blog post is linked to Twitter and LinkedIn. Currently, I have about 60,000 views on my blog. Posts have been shared 2,657 times (via blog, does not include other outlets). Places that refer back to my blog: Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.), online forums (graduate student, commodity specific, etc.), popular press websites/blogs (New York Times, Scientific American, Growing Produce, etc.), online newspapers (Clarion-Ledger, etc.), and many, many more. To put this in perspective, there are people I never would have reached had I done nothing. These folks are not reading my journal articles – even those that are open access – but they are reading my blog, and better yet, sharing it with others.
Another interesting thing happened recently – a peer-reviewed journal article cited a post from my blog. This was the first time for my blog, but I have cited blog posts in some of my writings and I know others have as well. Does this mean anything in the larger scope of digital scholarship? As an isolated incident, no, but as a piece of an ever-growing mountain of social media validation, yes. ASHS recently launched a blog as part of their website. Blogs are a great way to communicate research in ways that traditional journals cannot. An enticing aspect of online blogs is that the author is not limited to only text. Color photos, video, and audio are all now in play. Someday more academic journals will catch up with these “advancements” but even so, blogs allow the communication to be more intimate between researcher and interested public. Many good horticulture blogs are online. The folks contributing to these are in the vanguard of new science communicators.
Social media allows one to condense information, make it more digestible, and more relatable. I recently saw a quote that went something like this, “At no point in the history of mankind have we had so much access to bad information”.There is an enormous need to combat the torrents of misinformation that foment inside the social media world (which is essentially the entire world). Ultimately our job is to educate the public and advance science – with social media we can do both. It can be frustrating and liberating at the same time. Some obvious benefits are that you will reach a larger audience, provide a service to your university/department/program, and also further educate yourself. The benefits to you will become apparent with time and engagement. What doesn’t seem so obvious now may allow your career to grow into another direction.
My use of social media got me invited to serve on the Guiding Committee for an eXtension Learning Network. And, among other things, it also got me invited to write this newsletter article. You see, by using social media you will be going down a rabbit hole with all of its twists and turns, dead ends and collapsed tunnels, and you can follow it as far as you have the desire and interest to do so, but just remember, at some point someone will end up following you.
A new version of the Plant Elements of Design plant selection program is now available from University of Minnesota Extension here: http://www.landscapeplants.extension.umn.edu/
Designed to encourage plant selection based on site conditions and design requirements, Plant Elements of Design is open to the public and free of charge. Visitors are required only to create a user name and password. To select plants, users identify site conditions (soil, light, zone, etc.) and plant characteristics desired (plant type, size, flower, texture, form, use, etc.), from drop-down menus and click search. A list of plants matching the criteria will be listed. Many plants have images and all images are downloadable. Desired plants can be exported to a spreadsheet to build a plant list. Individual plants data sheets including any plant images, can also be printed for future reference.
Released 09/01/15, the current program features about 2800 woody and herbaceous plants, and about 3500 plant images. More plants and images are being added weekly. Users are encouraged to read the user manual and participate in the user blog. Links are provided in the program. Contact: Julie Weisenhorn, U of MN Extension educator - Horticulture, email@example.com
Posted By Zachary Brym,
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2015
My name is Zack Brym and I am working to finish up my Ph.D. at Utah State University. I have been a member of the Society for three years and was honored to chair the Graduate Student Working Group (GRAD) this last year. Throughout my short experience with ASHS, I have felt very welcomed by the Society, especially for an 'outsider' coming from a background in ecology. Many other graduate students seem to feel welcomed also and continue to fill the ranks of the membership.
I am inspired by the energy building among the graduate students and dream of a long career in the presence of such motivating peers. To be sure, much of the energy from the graduate students is in response to the selfless and genuine mentorship offered to us by members of the society. A special thanks goes to Dr. Kent Kobayashi, Dr. Sandra Wilson and the ASHS Staff. These folks and many others have ensured that resources and encouragement are available to grad students. As a result, participation by the graduate students is up in many regards.
Every year, more students are applying for travel scholarships, getting support to attend the conference and joining the conversation at the GRAD annual business meeting. Every year that I've attended the conference, the Society president has also been in attendance at the GRAD business meeting to answer questions and show support for the students. It has been a pleasure to get to know these individuals and I applaud their ambition and vision for the future of the Society. ASHS Past-President Dr. Mary Meyer is continuing involvement in her efforts to determine the public perception of horticulture through the Seed Your Future! program. In her update on the program this year, she said "We need to give horticulture a young face, a new face". Her position is obvious through her actions, but it's great to hear this is part of the dialog at ASHS. ASHS President Dr. Curt Rom is spear-heading a strategic planning process this year that aims to be inclusive of all levels of the membership as he most recently outlined in the September 2015 ASHS Newsletter. His focus is to ensure the Society remains sustainable by focusing on the "organization’s strengths and its vision for achievement in the future". We've been working hard this year to communicate better within GRAD and the strategic planning activity was a great way to generate some lively discussion about the vision we have for the Society's future.
So what did we hear from the graduate students this year at the meeting? We are very excited to support the open source publication efforts of ASHS journals. We appreciate the free year of membership and the access to travel grants, but we want to hear more about why membership in the society is important and how it is more broadly beneficial to students. We want more mentorship opportunities with faculty and industry representatives throughout the year. We believe we can do a better job orienting newcomers to the Society and at conferences. From what I hear, this is something that has been around in the past, but now has greater potential with electronic communication and resources at ashs.org. We would like to see members interacting in more events out of the conference, both on-line and in person. Overall, it seems like grad students just want to be more involved at ASHS: to facilitate collaborative research, to develop programs at the conference, and to be a strong voice for planning the future of the Society.
In response to the growing voice of the grad students, we've adopted an inclusive leadership structure with a set of co-chairs at the helm and an open committee system for anyone to take charge of aspects of the working group that they are passionate about. If you are a grad student reading this and want to get involved, send a note to the 2016 GRAD Co-chairs Jessica Chitwood and Alex Rajewski!
So as I begin my exit from the grad student ranks to enter horticulture as an aspiring early career scientist, my biggest question remains: How many grad student members are still going to be members in five years? I want to still be around and I hope you do, too!
My name is Olivia Caillouet and I am majoring in Horticulture with a minor in sustainability at the University of Arkansas. This summer I attended the National American Society for Horticultural Sciences (ASHS) conference in New Orleans. At this conference my undergraduate honors research was presented on sustainable blackberry production in a greenhouse environment. The objective of this experiment was to use shade to reduce heat stress and potentially improve fruit quality for growers in the south.
This trip was beneficial to my research, professional development, and academic career in many ways. Through the presentation of my greenhouse experiment a deeper understanding of its importance on a national and local scale was understood.
This also provided me with the opportunity to communicate to a diverse audience the objectives, methods and results of the greenhouse research. I took part in the undergraduate poster competition and won 3rd place among other students from across the nation. Feedback was given on my statical analysis that will be taken into consideration while writing the thesis this upcoming fall semester.
Presenting my poster at the National ASHS conference.
In addition, this contributed to my professional development by providing networking opportunities with influential horticulturists from around the world. One in particular, Dr. Krishnan is currently the head horticulturist at the Denver Botanical Gardens while also managing a coffee farm in Jamaica. I was able to learn more about her impact at the Botanical Gardens and coffee production in the tropics. Another contact made was Dr. Jha who gave a lecture during the international horticulture oral presentations about the non-profit organization he founded that improves small-scale farming with improved access to technology.
These connections taught me about career opportunities in the field of horticulture. Conversing with professionals and graduate students gave me a well-rounded understanding of opportunities and expectations at the master and doctoral levels. I aspire to one day obtain an upper level degree, which this conference helped prepared me for.
To complement the lectures I took part in a local-food system tour that exposed me to non-profit organizations that strive to improve access to healthy nutritious food in the New Orleans. ReFresh, a non-profit brought back an abandoned building after the devastating hurricane Katrina. It is inspiring to see how the city used this as an opportunity to bring about social change to improve quality of life, food access and health among its residents.
The abandoned building has now been renovated through the support of Whole Foods, Liberty’s Kitchen, Tulane University and a community garden. Whole Foods is dedicated to providing quality food at an affordable price while also supporting local growers, fishers and the culinary arts. Tulane University developed a curriculum with the help of culinary and medical professors aimed to educate those obtaining a medical degree. A full scale kitchen is now accessible to students and the idea is being adopted by Universities across the nation. Liberty Kitchen hires at risk youth while supporting wholesome food and empowering the local community. Food cooked at Liberty Kitchen is packaged and sold at Whole Foods on a daily basis. The garden behind ReFresh is used to teach the surrounding community, Liberty Kitchen workers and the students from Tulane about sustainable farming practices. Whole Foods also recently sponsored a summer camp for children in the surrounding area to learn gardening skills and transfer the produce to the Tulane Kitchen to then create farm fresh meals. This is just one example of the symbiotic partnerships in bloom in and around New Orleans.
Local food system tour in New Orleans.
The local food system tour was not the only hands-on experience gained at the ASHS conference. Thursday I took part in an invasive aquatic plant tour. We arrived in the early morning and set out on a bayou boat through the Barataria Swamp. Millions of dollars are spent annually trying to control these invasive plants. Professors from Florida discussed the obstacles faced with nonnative aquatic plants. This expanded my plant identification skills and allowed networking with students and faculty from all over the country. Below you will see the upper left photo of duck weed (Lemnoideae) that spreads so aggressively kayaking is no longer permitted in the preserve. Understanding the plant physiology and preventive measures could save thousands of dollars while improving the local ecology.
Invasive aquatic plant swamp tour.
For those who might consider attending the conference I would recommend taking the opportunity to present research if at all possible. This will develop speaking, writing and explanatory skills useful in many areas of life. Plan to attend oral presentations that spark your interest, but also balance that with some hands-on tours that will give you practical application of concepts learned in the classroom environment. Lastly, step out-side of your comfort zone and take advantage of the networking opportunities all around. Whether that is after presentations, during receptions or even in the elevator there is no telling where it will take you later in life.
What is next for me? I am now preparing for the fall 2015 semester and gathering material needed for completing my honors thesis on sustainable blackberry production. It is my intention to then pursue a master’s degree and use my knowledge to improve the lives of people of all ages through quality food and green-space.
This research was made possible by a grant funded by Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE; LS12-250) and an additional SSARE Young Scholar Enhancement apprenticeship grant. Additional grant funding was provided by the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and Honors College of the University of Arkansas undergraduate research grant programs. This project was part of an undergraduate Honors Thesis. Travel was partially supported by the University of Arkansas Department of Horticulture Mitchener Undergraduate Scholarship Award.
IMAGE: Bedding plant seedlings are shown growing under light-emitting diode supplemental lighting in the greenhouse. The study showed that using sole-source LEDs can be an effective production strategy for annual seedlings.... view more
Credit: Photo courtesy of Roberto Lopez
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - In northern latitudes, producers of bedding plants depend on supplemental lighting during the late winter and early spring growing seasons. Unfortunately, these peak times for young plant production are also the darkest. Researchers have determined that a minimum amount of photosynthetic light (daily light integral; DLI) is necessary to produce high-quality young plants in greenhouses. In northern latitudes, though, the average greenhouse photosynthetic DLI can fall far short of optimal levels, resulting in delayed production and poor quality plants.
Roberto Lopez and Wesley Randall, researchers at the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University, published a study in the May 2015 issue of HortScience in which they compared the quality of bedding plant seedlings grown under sole-source LEDs and supplemental lighting from LEDs and high-pressure sodium lamps. "Due to their small size, wavelength specificity, high light output, and relatively low heat output, LEDs have been used in environmental chambers for sole-source photosynthetic lighting and now in greenhouses as overhead supplemental lighting for young ornamental plants," Lopez said.
Lopez and Randall compared bedding plant seedlings grown under low greenhouse ambient light (AL) to those grown under supplemental lighting (SL) or sole-source photosynthetic (SSL) with a similar DLI. The researchers used seeds of French marigold, geranium, impatiens, petunia, and vinca sown into seed trays filled with soilless medium and then placed in a glass-glazed greenhouse. Trays of each species were moved upon hypocotyl emergence to one of three treatments: ambient light, ambient light plus supplemental light in a glass-glazed greenhouse, or sole-source photosynthetic light in a growth chamber. After the lighting treatments, seedlings from each tray were transplanted into containers filled with soilless medium and placed in a common greenhouse environment with a 16-hour photoperiod of ambient light supplemented with high-pressure sodium lamps.
"Our results showed that the bedding plant seedlings grown under SSL were of similar or greater quality compared with those under SL, indicating that LED SSL could be used as an alternative to traditional greenhouse seedling production," Lopez and Randall said.
"Supplemental and SSL with blue light are known to suppress extension growth and leaf expansion, resulting in compact young plants, which is often a desirable characteristic for greenhouse growers," the authors noted. "A general recommendation for SSL of bedding plant seedlings would be to include anywhere from 10% to 30% blue light depending on the desired crop-specific attributes and costs."
The researchers added that LEDs could be used for SSL in high-density multilayer production systems as an effective alternative in greenhouse annual bedding plant seedling production.
Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at ashs.org
This press release also available on EurekAlert! - view here
Comparison of Bedding Plant Seedlings Grown Under Sole-source Light-emitting Diodes (LEDs) and Greenhouse Supplemental Lighting from LEDs and High-pressure Sodium Lamps
Wesley C. Randall and Roberto G. Lopez HortScience 50:705-713. [Abstract][Full][PDF]
Posted By Eric Stafne,
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Muscadine grapes have always been a big deal in the South, but not everyone loves them. Bunch grapes are more familiar to most, especially as the migration of "northerners" to the southern states continues. Research on bunch grapes was done in Mississippi many years ago by N.H. Loomis (USDA) in Meridian and then by Mississippi State University researchers after he left for California. The work culminated in the release of three cultivars, 'MidSouth', 'Miss Blue', and 'Miss Blanc'. However, little work has been done in the last 20 years in Mississippi on bunch grapes in spite of the unfettered planting of vineyards across the U.S. After my experience working with vineyards and wineries in Oklahoma with Oklahoma State University, I decided to see if there was reason to revive the research here in south Mississippi.
Just after I moved here in 2011, my wife Richelle (also an ASHS member) and I went for a visit to the brewery where we met Mark Henderson, co-owner of Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company located in Kiln, Mississippi. We asked questions about the brewery biz and he asked what we did for a living. After telling him I worked with grapes, he became very interested and said he wanted to source some local grape juice for a project. I told him, “good luck” because there was none to be had. Later, I connected with a local grower, Dr. Wayne Adams, who had some fruit but not enough to supply Mark. After moving here, I thought my days with grapes was probably over, but what I have found out is there there is a strong interest in Mississippi just like everywhere else. Thus, I planted grape vines in response to Mark's request. In 2014, I wrote a Specialty Crops Block Grant funded through the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and USDA-NIFA that focused on grape education and I am in the midst of teaching a short course during 2015. My small vineyard helps to bolster that education component.
This year the vines in my vineyard were in the 3rd leaf. I harvested a little fruit last year, but this year was the first “big” harvest. Since most of the harvested vines were part of a study, I did various measurements on them (total weight, cluster and berry weights, ºbrix, TA, pH), but I had a conundrum — what do I do with the fruit? The majority of the harvested grapes was from three cultivars: 'Blanc du bois' (a very good white wine grape released by Dr. John Mortensen at University of Florida. It is widely grown along the Gulf Coast region in Texas), 'Miss blanc' (released by Mississippi State in 1982), and 'Villard blanc' (a French-American hybrid). All have resistance or tolerance to Pierce's disease (Xylella fastidiosa). I also harvested a little from 'MidSouth' (also released by Mississippi State University in 1981). In the end I gave it all away, some of it to folks who helped harvest, but also some to help Lazy Magnolia do some experimentation of their own.
Unfortunately the 'Blanc du bois' was not in good shape. It had a good bit of rot caused by early season anthracnose (Elsinoe ampelina), then bunch rots. The very rainy month of May (11+ inches) did it no favors. However, 'Miss blanc' and 'Villard blanc' were in relatively good shape.
After getting the fruit in from the field, we took some data measurements then pressed it for juice. Mark and Travis from Lazy Magnolia came up to help with that process along with my collaborator Dr. Donna Shaw (another ASHS member) from USDA-ARS in Poplarville.
It is a very messy job, but being able to taste the fresh juice is rewarding. Of course it happened to be one of the hottest days of the year, but then again it is July in South Mississippi! We were able to get about 20 gallons of juice from 18 'Miss blanc' vines. A couple of days later we got 10 gallons of juice from 17 'Villard blanc' vines. I also gave Mark about 2 gallons of 'MidSouth' juice (which is acidic but has an intriguing “raspberry” flavor). So he has between 25 and 30 gallons to experiment with (wine, mead, beer, or something else entirely). This project is a beginning to see how Mississippi-grown grapes can be used for marketable products.
Although it is not easy to do in the Deep South, bunch grape viticulture can be done with the right cultivars and management practices. Developing markets is another important step in the process, and Lazy Magnolia is exploring whether or not grapes can make a marketable product for their business model with the help of Mississippi State University Extension Service.