Dutch elm disease claims “Elmer,” a campus tree more than a century old

The elm tree in 2012, with the Hector F. DeLuca Biochemistry Building. PHOTO BY STEVE HALL

The University of Wisconsin–Madison campus is saying goodbye to a beloved natural landmark. An elm tree that has stood for more than 100 years fell victim to Dutch elm disease and is in the process of being removed from the Hector F. DeLuca (HFD) Biochemical Sciences Complex by UW–Madison grounds staff.

The tree – often known informally as Elmer – has a rich past with the Department of Biochemistry and surrounding departments in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), such as the Department of Horticulture. Thousands of students who have taken biochemistry courses or frequented that area of campus have gazed up at the old elm or enjoyed breaks in the shade it provided.

Many staff members and scientists on the upper floors of labs or offices overlooking Elmer have spent decades watching the seasons through the tree – leaves falling in autumn, snow coating its sturdy branches, leaves returning in spring. They’ve watched birds come and go, including famed campus hawks, and some students say finches, perched among Elmer’s limbs, watched them work in lab.

When construction on buildings in the HFD Biochemical Sciences Complex took place in the late 1990s and again in 2012, crews took extreme care not to disturb the tree to which so many students, faculty, and staff had become attached.

“In our two major recent projects, I think that protection of the tree was the first item in the program, and it was discussed at the first construction meeting before the contractors got to work,” says Biochemistry Professor Mike Cox, who was faculty leader for much of the construction. “It is more than sad to see it go.”

Elmer dates back to a time well before the HFD Biochemistry Laboratories, when the area was covered with greenhouses, says Horticulture Chair Irwin Goldman. For decades, the tree was used as a teaching tool and was even a stop on a campus tree walk for students.

“Our department is 129 years old, one of the four original departments in CALS, and since it started we have used the tree to teach students about woody plants,” Goldman says. “I’d bet that tree was there from the beginning, although we aren’t sure exactly when it was planted.”

Please continue reading this story here.

Claudia Calderón receives Global Health Institute travel award

Claudia Calderón, assistant faculty associate in the Department of Horticulture, was selected to receive a Global Health Institute 2018 Faculty and Staff Travel Award. The award will cover travel costs associated with her project, “Assessing mycotoxin levels in maize in the highlands of Guatemala.”

Maize is a dietary staple in Guatemala and is often consumed to the exclusion of other food commodities. Previous studies have found that people relying on maize often consume high levels of toxic metabolites produced by fungi (mycotoxins). This has significant implications for food safety, food security and international trade. Calderón’s project will focus on 50 small-scale farmers in the western highlands of Guatemala and will support research on the quality of maize and provide recommendations on food safety. The overall goal is to devise effective and sustainable mechanisms to educate, monitor and reduce exposure to mycotoxin contamination.

The Global Health Institute Faculty and Staff Travel Awards are available for UW-Madison faculty and staff to undertake international travel related to educational and research activities. Several grants of up to $2,500.00 are awarded for a duration of one year.

Originally posted here: https://ecals.cals.wisc.edu/

UW field day to showcase organic vegetables at West Madison Ag Research Station

Vegetable farmers are invited to attend the Organic Vegetable Variety Research Showcase, a field day at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s West Madison Agricultural Research Station, set for 3-5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 20. This free, interactive event highlights the many organic vegetable variety trials being conducted on the station’s 30 acres of certified organic land.

“This is a great opportunity for vegetable growers to see new varieties out in the field,” says event organizer Julie Dawson, a UW–Madison assistant professor of horticulture and UW-Extension urban and regional food systems specialist. “They can talk with plant breeders and seed company staff to learn what’s in development and express their priorities and preferences for new varieties.”

The field day is also an opportunity to learn about the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative, a UW–Madison-led collaboration of local chefs, farmers, and plant breeders that is working to develop full-flavored vegetable varieties with high culinary quality. Also featured will be trials for sweet corn, bell peppers, acorn and delicata squash, cabbage, and tomatoes grown as part of the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) project, as well as potato variety trials for organic systems, and tomato trials under organic high tunnel, caterpillar tunnel and field management. Attendees will have to opportunity to help select beet varieties for high or low “earthy” flavor, and learn about breeding efforts to improve carrots for organic systems and culinary corn breeding.

West Madison Agricultural Research Station is located at 8502 Mineral Point Road in Verona, Wisconsin. For more information about the field day, visit dawson.horticulture.wisc.edu. Questions can be directed to Julie Dawson at dawson@hort.wisc.edu.

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will make a reasonable effort to provide accommodations for participants with disabilities when notified in advanced. To request a disability accommodation, please contact WMARS superintendent Janet Hedtcke at (608)-262-2257 or janet.hedtcke@wisc.edu at least 10 days in advance of the event. Efforts will be made to meet same-day requests to the extent possible.

Original article created by Michael P. King at https://news.cals.wisc.edu

Ancient Method Helps Feed Present-Day Communities

In remote villages and rural towns from Guatemala to Costa Rica, horticulture professor James Nienhuis and his former grad student Erick Gutiérrez MS’17 are improving countless lives, one tomato seedling at a time. Their goal is to combat the region’s agricultural afflictions (viruses and soil pathogens) to ease the hardships of growing food and earning a living. They’re doing this with a technique older than the ruins of Tikal.

The roots of the initiative go back about eight years when Nienhuis established Seeds of Hope with a USAID grant. His goal was to combat the whitefly-transmitted geminivirus in Central America by developing genetically resistant cultivars that are still beautiful and flavorful.

Erick Gutiérrez teaches grafting to farmers in the small Guatemalan village of San José Sigüila. Photos: Brenda Dawson, UC Davis

Erick Gutiérrez teaches grafting to farmers in the small Guatemalan village of San José Sigüila. Photos: Brenda Dawson, UC Davis

Nienhuis produced the cultivars he needed to withstand the virus, but other soil pathogens — fungal, bacterial, and parasitic — continued to spoil tomato crops, slashing yields and decreasing the income and nutrition levels among the rural poor.

“Ralstonia (a bacterial wilt) kills the plant once symptoms develop. It causes serious yield losses,” says Gutiérrez, a native of Honduras. “It is very hard to eradicate.”

Matthew Kleinhenz PhD ’96, Nienhuis’ former student, asked if he had tried grafting as a possible solution. Seeing merit in the idea, Nienhuis shifted focus and launched a new program called Seedlings of Hope. The idea was to unite the upper portions (scions) of his virus-resistant cultivars with soil pathogen-resistant rootstocks. Solanum habrochaites, a wild tomato plant that thrives in diseased soil, was a prime candidate to serve as the rootstock.

Please continue reading this story on the Grow magazine website.

Goldman and Luby awarded Baldwin Grant

The subjects of the eight projects selected for grants from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment are varied but all will help the university contribute knowledge and resources across the state.

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.

Preserving and Advancing Seed Sovereignty and Crop Genetic Diversity for Native American Tribes in Wisconsin

Irwin Goldman, professor and chair, Department of Horticulture, and Claire Luby, research associate, Department of Horticulture

Maintaining and increasing genetic diversity in crop varieties can benefit from knowledge of population genetics. In addition, controlled pollination techniques can provide greater efficiency for managing cross-pollinated heritage seed varieties. Today, there is significant interest among tribal members in assessing, maintaining and utilizing these valuable genetic resources for both food and seed sovereignty, as well as public health and nutrition. Despite the existence of a number of new training resources for those who wish to preserve and maintain seed of heritage crop varieties, we have identified the need for creating culturally appropriate resources that will mesh with the traditions and relationships around food and land resources in native communities for this two-year project.

Originally posted here: https://news.wisc.edu/eight-projects-win-baldwin-grants/

New Summer Course – Hort 375.001 – Discovering the World of Wines and Vines

Hort 375. 001 Summer Course Flyer

Dr. Amaya Atucha and Dr. Claudia Calderon will be teaching a new course this summer called “Hort 375-001: Discovering the World of Wines and Vines”. It will be offered during the 8-week summer session on Mondays and Wednesdays, 5-7:30 PM, and will cover a range of topics from grape production, to wine making and wine appreciation.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to grape production and wine culture targeting students and general public interested in learning about growing grapes, winemaking, and wine appreciation. Course topics include cultural history and geography of the world’s grape-producing regions, principles of grape and wine production, wine producing regions of the world and wine styles, and sensory evaluation of wines. There are no prerequisite for this class, as it is an introductory course. Each class will be divided into a regular lecture (60 minutes) where instructors and guest lecturers will cover the topics listed below, and a 60 minutes wine tasting session that will provide sensory experience to the topics covered in lecture.

Learning Goals

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

• Outline basic chemistry and biology to viticulture and winemaking
• Explain general concepts of grape production and winemaking process
• Discuss the history of wine around the world and its relation to culture
• Implement tasting strategies to characterize wine from different regions of the world.

Please direct any enrollment questions to Kathryn Jones at kjones26@wisc.edu. University Special Students (non-degree seeking) information can be found here: https://acsss.wisc.edu/enrollment/

Gift Establishes Endowed Fellowship in Vegetable Crops

The Department of Horticulture is extremely grateful for the generous donation from Steve and Christa Slinger of Randolph, Wisconsin to establish an endowed graduate fellowship in vegetable crops in the Department of Horticulture.  Steve and Christa have had a long association with UW-Madison and with the Department of Horticulture, and have committed a gift of $200,000 to establish this endowed fellowship.

Their gift will receive a “Nicholas Match,” which will double its value to $400,000. In 2015, the Nicholas family pledged to match new gifts toward fellowships at UW-Madison. The Slinger fellowship is to be used at the discretion of the department to support graduate students working with horticulture faculty on research involving vegetable crops.

Steve and Christa have had successful careers as vegetable farmers and continue their efforts to produce high quality crops in the Randolph area. Our department expresses its gratitude to them for this generous gift.