Building the perfect beet: Seed to Kitchen brings chefs, farmers and plant breeders to the table

Solveig Hanson wants to make a flavor wheel for beets.

As she described it on Wednesday morning to a group of 10 local chefs, the wheel would resemble a flavor wheel for wine, with axes for earthiness and sweetness branching out into more detailed descriptors.FOREQUARTER

Hanson, a plant breeder and researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wants to answer an important question for famers who grow the beets and the chefs who buy them: What makes a Badger Flame different from a Chioggia or a Touchstone Gold, other than color? And if chefs could choose qualities in a beet, what would they pick?

“I’m excited to see what people come up with,” Hanson said quietly as chefs set to work, blind tasting eight kinds of beets at the Forequarter bar.

Read the complete article found in the Capital Times: 

 

 

Faculty Honors

Jeff Endelman is the recipient of this year’s Early Career Scientist Award from the National Association of Plant Breeders. The award will be presented at their meeting in Guelph, Ontario this month.

Mike Havey has been selected as a fellow in the American Society for Horticultural Science and received his award at their annual meeting in July in Washington, D.C.

Jed Colquhoun has been named as the Friday Chair for Vegetable Production Research. This appointment is given for a five-year term and provides support for research.

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.

Seed to Kitchen Collaborative – Farm to Flavor Dinner

Veggie lovers of all stripes will converge on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus to celebrate tasty, local vegetables at the fourth annual Farm to Flavor dinner on Sept. 26. During the event, which runs 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Discovery Building, participants will have the opportunity to sample chef-designed dishes showcasing top vegetable varieties identified through the university’s Seed to Kitchen Collaborative, as well as listen to a panel discussion featuring chefs, farmers and plant breeders involved in the project. See below for ticketing information.

The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative connects plant breeders with Wisconsin farmers and chefs interested in developing delicious organic vegetable varieties with high culinary quality that are well-adapted for the area, with the goal of supporting local food systems. More than 20 plant breeders from UW–Madison, other universities, seed companies, non-profits, and independent farms have contributed numerous varieties of 12 different crops to the project. Trials are conducted at the university’s West Madison and Spooner Agricultural Research Stations to compare crops for flavor, productivity, disease resistance and earliness.

“The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative is working with plant breeders to develop varieties that perform well for direct-market growers in the Upper Midwest, with a focus on flavor,” says project leader Julie Dawson, a UW–Madison assistant professor of horticulture.

Every month, a group of Madison-based chefs gather to taste the produce from the trials and provide information to breeders about flavor. Participating chefs include: Eric Benedict and Yusuf Bin-Rella of UW–Madison’s Four Lakes Market; Daniel Bonanno of A Pig in a Fur Coat; Sean Fogarty of Steenbock’s on Orchard; Jonny Hunter of Underground Food Collective and Forequarter; and Tory Miller of L’Etoile, Graze, Sujeo and Estrellon.

“It is a great experience being part of this collaboration because not only do we get to have personal input in the taste of crops we are looking for, but we get to learn more about the growing and research processes, which really expands our knowledge base as chefs,” says Bonanno.

Early bird tickets for the Farm to Flavor dinner are available for $25. After Aug. 16, the price goes up to $30, and same-day tickets are $35. To purchase tickets, go to: https://go.wisc.edu/farmtoflavor.

For more information about Farm to Flavor, contact Julie Dawson at dawson@hort.wisc.edu.

Seed to Kitchen Collaborative partners include the Department of Horticulture and Department of Agronomy at the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the college’s Agricultural Research Stations, UW-Extension Cooperative Extension, local growers, and local chefs.

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

Wisconsin Fruit Production 2017

Cranberry prices have been below the cost of production, which has led many growers to upgrade their beds, Atucha said. “Some of the growers are taking out of production older varieties and that basically means that, by renewing, you have a couple of years where you don’t have any production,” Atucha said. (Wisconsin Department of Agriculture via Flickr)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin apple growers had a productive year in 2017, but cranberry and tart cherry producers faced more challenges.

Recent data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service found apple production increased almost 20 percent in the state between 2016 and 2017, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The 2017 spring weather helped apple growers recover, producing 49 million pounds (22 million kilograms) of apples, said Amaya Atucha, a fruit crop specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Production could continue to rise this year, she said.

“A lot of the orchards are going through the process of renovation and changing their production systems to a more high-density system, which are much more productive,” Atucha said.

But Wisconsin produced 12 percent fewer barrels of cranberries last year than in 2016. The state’s tart cherries also saw a 17 percent decline.

Production levels dropped due to a 2016 spring frost, Atucha said. Cherry producers in Wisconsin and across the U.S. are also battling an invasive pest called the spotted wing drosophila, she said.

Cranberry prices have been below the cost of production, which has led many growers to upgrade their beds, Atucha said.

“Some of the growers are taking out of production older varieties and that basically means that, by renewing, you have a couple of years where you don’t have any production,” Atucha said.

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Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio, http://www.wpr.org

— Wisconsin Public Radio via The Associated Press

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/

Plant breeders balance shared innovation, revenue

Have you thanked a crop breeder today? Public-sector plant breeders (for example, at public universities) have developed crops for better productivity. As a result, more food is available to feed a growing population.

A group of people prepare different varieties of sweet corn near a field for a taste test..

Sweet corn breeder William Tracy (second from left) and Julie Dawson (third from left), both faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, prepare a sweet corn taste test with summer field crew students. One of the goals of this particular breeding project is to develop ‘culinary corn’ with more intense corn flavor. Photo credit Joan Fischer / UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

This research and innovation requires funding. But funding—and revenue from the crops developed—is increasingly hard to obtain.

In response, a group of plant breeders met in 2016 to discuss best practices. Julie Dawson, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is lead author of a recent paper summarizing their recommendations.

Intellectual property rights can protect crop varieties. And licensing can provide revenue to support further developments. But certain types of intellectual property rights can restrict plant breeders from sharing plant materials. That can limit innovation across the board.

Finding a balance between these needs is tricky. It’s also important: “Crop breeding is critical for the future of agriculture,” says Dawson. “Plant breeding programs benefit farmers everywhere. They also benefit anyone who eats.”

The group has three recommendations. They suggest developing best practices for revenue sharing. They advocate for increased funding for public programs. They also suggest establishing professional standards for sharing plant breeding materials.

Historically, many crop varieties were released to the public with almost no restrictions. “But budgets are getting tighter,” says Dawson. “Grant funding is also becoming more competitive. Public sector plant breeders need to seek other sources of revenue.”

Royalties generated by licensing new crop varieties have been one revenue stream. These royalties are usually shared between universities and their plant breeding programs. But the group finds that the distribution isn’t always equitable.

“Cultivar development can be considered a type of university-sponsored start-up,” Dawson says. “In order to continue the breeding programs a reasonable amount of revenue needs to be returned to those programs. Unfortunately, the workgroup found this is not always the case.”

Two researchers hold carrots, including tops, in the field

Carrot Breeder Philipp Simon (USDA-ARS, Madison WI) and graduate student Charlene Grahn explain their selection for stronger and more vigorous tops to improve carrot competition with weeds and ease of mechanical harvest. This complex trait is important for both conventional and organic production. Photo credit Micaela Colley / Organic Seed Alliance.

Overall funding for public plant breeding programs also needs to increase, according to the group. Public breeding programs train the next generation of researchers and plant breeders. They can also focus on low-return, high-value crops that are less attractive to the private sector.

For example, cover crops may have relatively low monetary returns. That can reduce interest from the private sector. But they have high social or environmental value, such as improving soil quality or reducing erosion.

“Public programs don’t have to be immediately profitable, unlike in the private sector,” says Dawson. “The public sector is able to respond to regional and long-term needs of U.S. agriculture,” says Dawson. “It can do so in ways that are more difficult for private companies that need to turn a profit every year.”

The group also advocates for uniform standards for sharing breeding materials. They recommend using the Wheat Workers’ Code of Ethics as a template. Crop breeders could then work with their universities to better define intellectual property rights and sharable resources.

“Tech transfer offices are usually more familiar with medical or engineering innovations,” says Dawson. “Plant breeders need existing plant material to continue innovating. Restrictive intellectual property rights can shut off this source of research materials. That essentially turns each breeding program into a silo and hinders innovation.”

Read more about the group’s recommendations in Crop Science. Funding for the conference was provided by a conference grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (USDA-NIFA-AFRI 2017-67013-25922) and SeedMatters.

Article originally published at: https://www.agronomy.org/science-news/plant-breeders-balance-shared-innovation-revenue

 

Yandell awarded Round 4 Funding for Data Science Hub

This project will launch a campus-wide Data Science Hub (DSHub), paving the way for an eventual Data Science Institute. The​ ​goal​ ​of​ ​DSHub​ ​is​ ​to​ ​coordinate​ ​and​ ​execute​ ​a​ ​campus-wide​ ​data​ ​science​ ​strategy​ ​that​ ​fills​ ​critical​ ​gaps​ ​and supports​ ​data​ ​science​ ​growth​ ​and​ ​cross-fertilization.​

In the last decade, data science has gone from the “big data” fad to a mission-critical enterprise need. DSHub will increase visibility of UW–Madison as a major data science destination, provide unified leadership to advance campus expertise in data science, enable big funding opportunities, foster researcher training in data science, coordinate and strategize development of educational tools for data science degree programs, support domain scientists doing data science, foster cross-disciplinary methodological research in data science, and develop data science outreach to Wisconsin.

Seventeen  innovative projects ranging from personalizing diabetes prevention and treatment, to transforming wood into a renewable electronic material, to improving outcomes for incarcerated parents and their children, to fusion energy research that integrates optimized plasma confinement, and establishing a UWLandLab and a forecast-based flood and health disaster preparedness system, have been chosen to join the UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative cohort.

The projects were reviewed by faculty from across the university, ultimately involving 102 reviewers. Funded projects include 125 faculty and academic staff investigators from 10 schools and colleges. The UW2020 Council, a group of faculty from all divisions of the university, evaluated the merits of each project based on the reviews and their potential for making significant contributions to their fields.

Project Description and Participants

 

Harvesting Ideas and Fruit with Amaya Atucha

In a lab filled with test tubes and microscopes the last thing one may expect to see are grape seeds and cranberry vines. However, this is necessary as Amaya Atucha and her team are studying the cold hardiness of fruit crops to better understand fruit crop physiology and production. Atucha serves in three main roles: an assistant professor in the department of Horticulture, a Fruit Crop Specialist for UW-Extension, and the Gottschalk Chair for cranberry research. Needless to say Atucha is well-versed in the field of fruit crop production, helping to improve the production practices of fruit crops across the state of Wisconsin.

How does the Wisconsin Idea animate your work? As a state specialist with UW Extension my work is basically the implementation of the Wisconsin Idea, in that I conduct research and interpret research from other scholars to help fruit growers across the state. Being part of extension has given me the opportunity to experience how the university can influence peoples live beyond what we see happening on campus, and that is very inspiring and gratifying at the same time.

How has your research and teaching path changed the way you think about Wisconsin and the world? My interaction with colleagues and scientists around the world has given me a broader perspective of the challenges and advantages others face in their work. As an international scholar, moving to Wisconsin has allowed me to experience a completely different culture, and has definitely changed my vision on the role universities can play in their local communities.

One of Amaya's research assistants uses a microscope and camera attached to the microscope to observe the cranberry plantHow does your research tell a larger story about Wisconsin and the world? My research program focuses on fruit crop physiology and production of deciduous fruit crops; with cranberries being one of the main fruit crops I study. Wisconsin is the top producer of cranberries in the world, and UW-Madison is the place where most of the research on this fruit crop takes place. UW-Madison has an impressive group of researchers working on all aspects of cranberry production and we are definitely the main source of information on this crop worldwide.

Is there a fact about cranberries that tends to amuse or surprise people? Yes, that cranberries do not grow in water! Most people associate cranberry production with the images they see on the television, where the growers are harvesting the berries from a pool full of water, so people think that’s the way they grow. Cranberry beds, which are the production unit in a cranberry marsh, are flooded to harvest the fruit because it makes it easier to collect all the berries, but once the harvest is done the beds are drained.

What do you love about the University of Wisconsin-Madison? There are so many possibilities to connect and collaborate with great scientists and faculty from other disciplines around campus. To be part of a diverse community of scholars stimulate you to create innovative approaches to complex problems.

What or who inspires you? My amazing female colleagues who have successful careers and family lives.

Amaya opens small containers that contain frozen grape seeds

What has been one of your favorite courses to teach? I have a very limited teaching appointment; I teach Fruit Crop Production every other spring semester. I really enjoy teaching this class as it has an important field component where students can interact with fruit growers in the state and learn about the socioeconomic implication fruit production has in the state of Wisconsin.

What are three books that have influenced you? Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes; The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben; When Breath Becomes Airby Paul Kalanithi

Atucha earned her B.S. in horticulture from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (Chile) and her Ph.D. in horticulture from Cornell University. She also participated in the 2015 Wisconsin Idea Seminar and served as a context expert and collaborator for the 2017 Wisconsin Idea Seminar.

This article first appeared in https://wiseminar.wisc.edu/harvesting-ideas-and-fruit-with-amaya-atucha/

Jeff Endelman Recognized with ARS Award

From left to right:
Jeff Endelman (Horticulture) – Research Award
Jeff Booth (Arlington ARS) – ARS Staff Award
Mike Peters (ARS Director)
Margaret Hoffman (Risk Management) – Service Award
Debbie Beich (Risk Management) – Service Award

Jeff Endelman received the Research Award at this year’s Agricultural Research Stations annual Recognition Awards Reception and Dinner.  Other winners included Debbie Beich, Margaret Hoffman and Jeff Booth.