Greenhouse Wins Rural Development Initiative Award

The Flambeau River Community Growing Center in Park Falls, Wisconsin, which was founded with the help of CALS horticulturalists, (Mike Geiger and Dr. Sarah Patterson) has been selected to receive a Top Rural Development Initiative award from Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc.

Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc. (WRP) is a statewide non-profit organization that develops rural networks and leaders, and provides a voice for rural Wisconsin. WRP is the federally-recognized State Rural Development Council for Wisconsin.

This is the sixteenth year that WRP has recognized Wisconsin’s Top Rural Development Initiatives. The program is designed to identify, highlight, and share innovative models, practices and programs that have a positive impact on rural Wisconsin communities.

Here’s the description of the Flambeau River Community Growing Center from the WRP news release:

 

Flambeau River Community Growing Center, Park Falls
It started in 2012 with the idea of using waste heat from the Flambeau Mill to heat a greenhouse which could provide higher educational classes, a food source for the food pantry, and community gardens. Through a collaboration with UW- Madison, the Flambeau Mill, UWEX – Price County, and the Flambeau River Community Growing Center committee, a nonprofit 510(c)3 organization was established. Today, the vision has been realized and the growing center provides educational classes, and community support through the availability of raised beds for community members and through the provision of fresh foods for the local food pantries.

Originally posted at ecals.cals.wisc.edu/2016/05/17

Atucha awarded Baldwin Grant

The Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment competitive grant program is open to UW–Madison faculty, staff and students. Grants of up to $120,000 and mini-grants of up to $4,000 are awarded.

Ira Baldwin, a longtime UW teacher, researcher and administrator, served as dean of the Graduate School and the College of Agriculture and as vice president for academic affairs. Ineva Reilly Baldwin taught and served in the university administration as assistant dean of women and associate dean of the College of Letters & Science. Their endowment is one of the largest gifts ever received by UW–Madison.

Building a Comprehensive Network of Fruit Growers to Improve Sustainable Production of Fruit Crops in Wisconsin
Christelle Guédot, assistant professor of entomology, and Amaya Atucha, assistant professor of horticulture

Fruit production in Wisconsin contributes over $400 million to the state economy and encompasses large-scale commercial growers, small-scale growers, as well as homeowners. The goal of the project is to develop new avenues for effectively delivering time-sensitive information on environmentally sound pest management practices and sustainable fruit crop production to all fruit growers, with special attention to underserved communities in the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Fruit Program Web Presence

The Wisconsin Fruit Program under the direction of Dr. Amaya Atucha has announced their re-designed website. Of particular information on the site are links to their regularly published newsletter “Wisconsin Fruit News”.  Those who wish can get the newsletter direct by providing an email address.  http://fruit.wisc.edu/

CrazyLegs Team

The “HortLegs and More” team participated in the CrazyLegs Classic race the eighth consecutive year.

The HortLegs and Moore team. Front Row (left to right): Pingdong Zhang, Xiaobiao Zhu, Bo Zhu, Yuan Lin, Tao Zhang. Middle Row (l to r): Axel Ramirez Madera, Joe Gage, Kevin Coe, Jiming Jiang, Susan Wielgus. Back Row (l to r): Alex Marand, Paul Bethke, Tom Frank, Dennis Halterman, Hainan Zhao. Not pictured: Irwin Goldman and Yan Bin.

The HortLegs and Moore team. Front Row (left to right): Pingdong Zhang, Xiaobiao Zhu, Bo Zhu, Yuan Lin, Tao Zhang. Middle Row (l to r): Axel Ramirez Madera, Joe Gage, Kevin Coe, Jiming Jiang, Susan Wielgus. Back Row (l to r): Alex Marand, Paul Bethke, Tom Frank, Dennis Halterman, Hainan Zhao. Not pictured: Irwin Goldman and Yan Bin.

Carrot genomes

Carrot genome paints picture of domestication, could help improve crop 

Carrot color arrangement

Carrots derive their color from pigment compounds called carotenoids. Orange carrots are colored by alpha- and beta-carotene, while red carrots get their color from lycopene, yellow from lutein and purple from anthocyanin. These pigments also provide the nutrition found in carrots. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL SIMON, UW–MADISON, USDA-ARS

Sometimes, the evolutionary history of a species can be found in a fossil record. Other times, rocks and imprints must be swapped for DNA and genetic fingerprints.

The latter is the case for the good-for-your-eyes carrot, a top crop whose full genetic code was just deciphered by a team of researchers led by University of Wisconsin–Madison horticulture professor and geneticist Phil Simon. Simon is also a research scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, which helped fund the work. The study is published today in the journal Nature Genetics.

It tells a story of how the carrot has been touched by domestication and breeding practices and influenced by environmental and geologic change, and it fills in a family tree of relatives that otherwise appear distinct. It also reveals how carrots have become so good at accumulating carotenoids, the pigment compounds that give them their characteristic colors and provide them with their nutritional strength.

Photo: Phil Simon

Phil Simon

“The carrot has a good reputation as a crop and we know it’s a significant source of nutrition — vitamin A, in particular,” Simon says. “Now, we have the chance to dig deeper and it’s a nice addition to the toolbox for improving the crop.”

The knowledge gained from the study could also lead to the improvement of similar crops, from parsnip to the yellow-fleshed cassava, a staple food throughout much of Africa.

“This was an important public-private project, and the genomic information has already been made available to assist in improving carrot traits such as enhanced levels of beta-carotene, drought tolerance and disease resistance,” says co-author Allen Van Deynze, director of research at the University of California, Davis’ Seed Biotechnology Center. “Going forward, the genome will serve as the basis for molecular breeding of the carrot.”

Carrots have a long history as a domesticated root crop. The first cultivated carrots appeared 1,100 years ago in Central Asia. These carrots were — unlike their white wild ancestors — purple and yellow. The canonical orange carrot appeared later, in Europe in the 1500s, providing at the time an aesthetic subject for German and Spanish art. Even before domestication, wild carrot seeds showed up in 3,000- to 5,000-year-old primitive campsites in Germany and Switzerland.

The study cannot answer why the first crops were purple and yellow, though it can verify that it is not because of flavor. The genes for color and the genes associated with preferred flavors are not connected. But that colored carrots became popular is fortuitous: The pigments are what make them nutritious, and orange carrots are the most nutritious of all, Simon says. Carrots are the richest crop source of vitamin A in the American diet.

The new study reveals how that orange color happens. “The accumulation of orange pigments is an accumulation that normally wouldn’t happen,” says Simon, one of just a few carrot researchers around the world, along with another UW–Madison scientist, Irwin Goldman, who was not part of this study. “Now, we know what the genes are and what they do.”

Carrots are the richest crop source of vitamin A in the American diet. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL SIMON, UW–MADISON, USDA-ARS

Carrots are the richest crop source of vitamin A in the American diet. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL SIMON, UW–MADISON, USDA-ARS

The research team used the Nantes carrot — a bright orange form of the vegetable named for a city in France — to assemble and analyze the full genetic sequence, peering into the machinery that drove the carrot’s evolution, and the bread crumbs left through time.

The carrot genome contains more than 32,000 genes arranged among nine chromosomes, which code for pest and disease resistance, colorful carotenoids and more. Carotenoids, like alpha- and beta-carotene, were first discovered in carrots.

The researchers uncovered features traced to distantly related plant species, from grapes and tomatoes to kiwis and potatoes. Carrots more recently split from lettuce and they are in the same family as spice crops, like parsley and fennel.

The researchers also sequenced 35 different types of carrots to compare them to their wild ancestors. They showed carrots were first domesticated in the Middle East and Central Asia, confirming the Vavilov Center of Diversity theory, which predicts cultivated plants arose from specific regions rather than randomly.

They also learned that sometime between the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods — roughly around the time dinosaurs went extinct — carrots picked up genetic advantages common to other plants of the era that allowed them to thrive.

Additionally, the study confirmed a gene called Y is responsible for the difference between white carrots and yellow or orange ones, and that a variation of it leads to the accumulation of carotenoids.

“They could keep their crops ‘clean’ from a patch of wild carrots growing 50 meters away by choosing only the purple or yellow ones. Or maybe it was the food fad of the 10th century …”

Phil Simon

But it also identified a new, previously unknown gene that contributes to the accumulation of the colorful compounds. Both genes are recessive, which means two copies of each are needed for carotenoids to build up in the plant, which is actually a defect in a metabolic pathway that appears to be related to light-sensing.

Plants derive their own nutrition through light-sensing, or photosynthesis, but roots like carrots aren’t normally exposed to light and do not need photosynthetic pigments like carotenoids. “It’s a repurposing of genes plants usually use when growing in light,” says Simon.

It appears these genes were inadvertently selected for by early growers, and Simon suggests it may have simply been to aid early domesticators — likely to have been women — differentiate between wild carrots and the plants they intended to grow.

“They could keep their crops ‘clean’ from a patch of wild carrots growing 50 meters away by choosing only the purple or yellow ones,” says Simon, who jokes: “Or maybe it was the food fad of the 10th century, with orange in the 16th.”

Global carrot consumption quadrupled between 1976 and 2013 and over the last 40 years, breeding has led to more nutritious carrots with the selection of ever more intensely orange crops. In fact, carrots have 50 percent more carotene today than they did in 1970.

While most Americans are not deficient in vitamin A, it is considered an essential nutrient and deficiency is a problem in some U.S. communities and around the world. While the study may not solve the problem, it does highlight the opportunity carrots present to improve health and economic outcomes in other nations.

“Globally, we hand out vitamin A capsules, but why not have people grow their own?” Simon asks. “In one square meter you can grow a single crop of carrots per year to feed up to a half dozen adults. You can grow half now and half in six months to give you a sustainable source of vitamin A and a valuable crop in the marketplace.”

The study also reflects a shift in how plant breeders operate, by taking advantage of new technologies to answer basic questions about cultivated crops.

“It tells us things about the genome we expected but didn’t know before,” says Simon. “Each crop has a story to tell.”

The study also includes co-authors from Michigan State University and around the world, including Poland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, China and Argentina. It was funded by several seed companies and the carrot industry, as well as the National Science Foundation, the Polish National Science Center and the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The authors declare no competing financial interests and Simon explains that industry funds make the work possible.

Reposted from: http://news.wisc.edu/carrot-genome-paints-picture-of-domestication-could-help-improve-crops/#sthash.le7Xxay2.dpuf  by Kelly April Tyrell

 

Allen Garden Ready for Its Closeup

Framed by emerging spring blooms at UW-Madison's Allen Centennial Garden, freshman Rachel Smaby enjoys the area's return to more seasonal temperatures during a break among the botanical exhibits. Photo by John Hart, Wisconsin State Journal

Every gardener counts the days to spring. At Allen Centennial Garden on the UW-Madison campus, they have been counting the plants, too.

As interns work on an online plant databank, which should be ready by mid-summer, the garden’s new director, Ben Futa, is looking at a schedule that includes therapy dogs, slow food, 3,000 new bulbs and an updated Master Plan. A key point of that plan is that the garden should not grow beyond its 27 separate exhibit areas, but should mature. Education and public engagement will be a focus, in keeping with the hiring of an education coordinator, Elin Meliska.

The garden — it is singular — at Babcock and Observatory Drives may be the most accessible classroom on campus, with the most diverse syllabus. Even on a recent chilly Sunday, the walkers in the 2.5 acres surrounding the vintage 1896 Agriculture Dean’s House ranged from an old man and his dog to curious children to students from the nearby Lakeshore dormitories.

A visitor in the next week or so will be treated to a colorful result of a student project from last fall, when 3,000 Chionodoxa, Scilla, narcissus, hyacinth, and muscari bulbs were planted in the “English garden” area.

Futa, an Indiana native starting his second year as director, said that while several student interns and a new education coordinator are at work, there is a full schedule of events on tap for the garden this spring.

The garden, named after Oscar and Ethel Allen, who were prominent faculty, was dedicated in 1989, the 100th anniversary of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Current visitors will find two new serene landscape design projects underway, both winners of a student team contest. April 27 is already booked solid for an “open-mike” night featuring horticulture-related events. Therapy dogs will host a meet-and-pet event, “Dogs on Call,” May 4; and there’s a Slow Food UW Cafe on May 6.

Mid-summer should see completion of a unique online plant database, Futa said.

“It’s a world-class garden,” he noted, “with a wonderful group of volunteers. The community is craving and ready for these new programs.”

In February, an intern-planned event, “Luminous,” featured six luminary exhibits, bonfires and hot chocolate. It drew 3,000 visitors, when no more than 300 were expected.

“The bones of this garden are extremely strong,” Futa said. “We’re gearing up to an update of our master plan, re-evaluating everything.”

The garden is open daily from dawn to dusk. Parking is free at the Observatory Drive ramp and Tripp Circle after 4:30 p.m. Monday–Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday.

Story Reprinted from Wisconsin State Journal – George Hesselberg

Sowing Seeds . . . Growing Communities

Just as some seeds yield tomatoes, carrots and lettuce, others grow community and partnership.

In a greenhouse in the northern Wisconsin town of Park Falls, all of those seeds are taking root with the help of CALS horticulture graduate student Michael Geiger, horticulture professor Sara Patterson and a team of dedicated local leaders.

hydroponic-salad-table-workshop-crop

Mike Geiger (left) at a hydroponic salad table workshop at the greenhouse. All photos courtesy of Mike Geiger. All photos courtesy of Mike Geiger.

“The greenhouse has opened doors to making healthier food choices, to education about gardening in local schools—and it’s given the university a presence in Park Falls,” says Geiger, who grew up in Arbor Vitae, some 50 miles away.

Geiger’s involvement with the project – called the Flambeau River Community Growing Center – started as an idea in 2012. That’s when his friend Tracey Snyder, a nurse practitioner developing a wellness program at the nearby Flambeau River Papers mill in Park Falls, approached him seeking guidance on the greenhouse project.

“I was very interested in what she was saying and thought it was something that would be fun to work on,” says Geiger, who then was a senior horticulture student at UW-Madison.

Snyder’s group was seeking funding for a greenhouse project, and Geiger teamed with Patterson to identify possible revenue sources. They developed a proposal for the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment at UW–Madison.

Their proposal was funded in the summer of 2013, and by the fall construction had begun on a 25-by-50-foot vail-style greenhouse, built by community volunteers on a vacant lot donated by Flambeau River Papers just north of the mill.

The greenhouse, built to withstand the heavier snows of northern Wisconsin, features in-floor radiant heating and custom greenhouse growing tables made of locally purchased white cedar and built by volunteers. Plans call for the facility to eventually be heated with waste steam from the mill.

An open house at the greenhouse.

An open house at the greenhouse.

The Flambeau River Community Growing Center has gained popularity with community members and school groups interested in learning about plants and gardening. “It’s a greenhouse, but it’s also a classroom,” says Geiger.

Learners include children from the Chequamegon School District, who start seeds in the greenhouse and nurture seedlings until they can be transplanted to their own outdoor school gardens. Area 4–H groups grow plants and tend them in raised beds just outside the greenhouse. Master Gardener classes are held at the facility, and community workshops have included such topics as square-foot and container gardening as well as hydroponics. Kids have been delighted with sessions on soil testing and painting their own flowerpots.

“It’s clearly a benefit to build a connection between UW–Madison and the community, for the community itself—people from ages 3 to 90—and for the local schools,” Patterson says.

Community leaders and institutions have joined to fuel the center’s success. Its chief executive officer, Tony Thier, recently retired from Flambeau River Papers, says UW–Extension has provided valuable educational and technical support, and volunteer opportunities draw professionals from various companies in the area. Park Falls attorney Janet Marvin helped the center gain nonprofit status last fall.

Thier says the center provides needed education for area residents. “It’s been very beneficial,” he says. “When I got involved, it really became a passion. I wanted to learn more about gardening and increase my skill. We try to involve the whole community.”

Geiger says the project has helped him in his academic career as he learned about project planning, gave presentations about the center at two national academic conferences and writes scholarly articles about his work there.

“I’ve been able to see this process through from an idea to reality,” says Geiger. “It’s been really rewarding.”

Original Posting: Dennis Chaptman,  ecals.cals.wisc.edu  04.14.2016  All photos courtesy of Mike Geiger.

Sustainable Landscapes Collaborative

A collaborative effort on the UW-Madison campus focussing on Sustainable Landscapes in the Built Environment (SLBE), is bringing together expertise from across  campus to examine questions and opportunities in sustainable landscape design, implementation, maintenance, and impact.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is uniquely positioned to contribute to the rapidly developing area of sustainable landscapes through collaborations across a broad range of disciplines, programs, schools, and colleges. A group of faculty and staff from the Nelson Institute, Graduate School, and College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have identified an emerging interest in the theme of sustainable landscapes across many disciplines at UW-Madison. Scholarship, design, and practical programming in many aspects of sustainable landscapes is already in progress,including projects that connect public health, sustainable cities, urban planning, landscape and garden design, water and nutrient management, and many other disciplines.

For additional information and resources from a recently held workshop, link to SLBE.

Luminous exhibition lights up Allen Centennial Garden

This past weekend’s Luminous: Luminaries in the Garden exhibition at Allen Centennial Garden was a huge success, says garden director Ben Futa. The special event attracted a stream of 1,300 visitors on Friday evening, and drew a similarly large crowd on Saturday night, with attendees queuing in lines to enter the garden and see the luminaria and lantern installations created by the garden’s interns.

Below are some beautiful shots from opening night taken by Jeff Miller, photographer for UW-Madison University Communications.

If you missed Luminous, don’t worry! Futa says it’ll be back next year.

Reposted from ecals newsletter 02.22.2016

WPVGA Researcher of the Year

Horticulture professor Jiwan Palta is the recipient of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association Researcher of the Year Award for 2016.

According to the WPVGA announcement, Palta was nominated for serving “the Wisconsin potato industry for many years with his valuable research focusing on the impact of Jiwan-Palta-20151calcium and nitrogen nutrition on potato tuber quality and yield under heat and drought stress. Working in the areas of molecular biology, crop physiology, and postharvest quality, Palta has been involved in collaborative potato breeding and variety development activities to enhance farm sustainability. His research program recently led an effort to understand the mechanism of action of a natural lipid that acts as a bioregulator to help improve the shelf life of fruits, flowers and vegetables.”

Palta received the award during a banquet at the 2016 UW-Extension & WPVGA Grower Education Conference and Industry Show in Stevens Point in early February.

Commenting on the award, horticulture department chair Irwin Goldman noted Palta’s long track record of successful research and outreach in potato. “Jiwan has developed an in-depth understanding of calcium fertility and nutrition in potato and translated his findings into recommendations that are followed on many acres around Wisconsin and throughout the world. This award signifies the value of his contributions to Wisconsin’s potato and vegetable growers, one of our most important constituents in the state,” says Goldman.

Reposted from ecals newsletter 02.22.2016