UW–Madison, apple growers bring data to the orchard

The robot weather station stands sentinel above the deer fence of an apple orchard in the hills near Hell Hollow Road in Richland County.

The device, a 21st-century enhancement of the ancient weathervane, is measuring wind, rain, humidity, temperature and sunlight duration and intensity.

Oakwood Fruit Farm installed this computerized weather station in the spring of 2018. Steve Louis says weather data helps with a number of tricky management decisions, including irrigation and thinning of young fruits. Photo: David Tenenbaum

Installed this spring, the weather station is part of a system aimed at advising owners of the 180-acre, family-owned Oakwood Fruit Farm about a number of critical procedures — think pruning, irrigation and pest control — needed to bring in a bountiful, healthy crop.

One crucial decision concerns timing a treatment that will eliminate more than three-quarters of the tiny fruits, says Amaya Atucha, a UW–Madison assistant professor of horticulture and Extension fruit crop specialist, who has been leading the effort to introduce the new technology.

Without thinning, the trees will be over-taxed and underproductive. Roughly speaking, about 80 percent of the flowers must be removed, a process that often involves multiple sprays of thinner followed by handwork to make final adjustments.

Thinning is necessary, but the timing and intensity are both tricky, says Steve Louis, one of the family’s fourth-generation of apple growers. “There are so many things that go into knowing when it should be done, and how much thinning we need.”

Please continue reading this story here.

Jeff Endelman receives Early Career Scientist Award from National Association of Plant Breeders

Jeffrey EndelmanJeff Endelman, assistant professor of horticulture, was recently honored by the National Association of Plant Breeders with the association’s Early Career Scientist Award. This award recognizes scientists in the early stages of their plant breeding career who exhibit the ability to establish strong research foundations, to interact with multi-disciplinary teams, and to participate in relevant professional societies.

Endelman studied computational science for many years before discovering his calling as a plant breeder. As a graduate student in bioengineering at Caltech, he developed computational methods to optimize the in vitro evolution of enzymes and spent many weekends observing native plants in the wilderness areas of southern California.

Endelman left academia for two years to work on small vegetable farms, by which time he realized a career in plant breeding was the perfect way to combine his interests. He returned to graduate school to complete a PhD in Crop Science at Washington State University, where he conducted research on barley breeding and genetics. Toward the end of his PhD he created the software package rrBLUP for genome-wide prediction, which has been cited over 500 times. As a postdoc at Cornell University, he continued to research genomic selection by improving its theoretical foundation for inbred lines and investigating the optimal allocation of resources.

In 2013 Endelman joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to lead the potato breeding program. Over the past five years, he has overseen the release of 10 potato varieties, spanning all US market categories (chip; French fry; russet, red, and yellow fresh market).

One of the challenges with commercial potato is that it is autotetraploid, meaning the genome is organized in groups of four homologous chromosomes rather than homologous pairs. The Endelman group has developed several tools to facilitate molecular breeding in autotetraploids, including software to determine allele dosage for SNP array and GBS markers, software for genome-wide association analysis, and methods to partition genetic variance. In 2018 UW-Madison became the first potato breeding program in North America to implement genomic selection, based on a training set of 570 clones.

Endelman has been active in training students and postdocs at UW-Madison. He teaches an undergraduate course on “Genetically Modified Crops” and graduate courses on genetic mapping, polyploid genetics, and selection theory. One MS student, one PhD student, and three postdocs have been trained in his lab so far, and he has served on the thesis committee of 14 other graduate students.

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Colquhoun named Friday Chair for Vegetable Production Research

Jed Colquhoun, professor of horticulture, was recently named the Friday Chair for Vegetable Production Research. Colquhoun’s research focuses on developing integrated pest management strategies and quantifying on-farm sustainability measures that can be communicated to those looking for more information about where their food comes from. He has served in a number of leadership positions in CALS including interim associate dean for extension and outreach and interim agriculture program director.

The Friday Chair for Vegetable Production Research was established by Mr. Fritz Friday, owner and CEO of the Friday Canning Corporation in New Richmond, Wisconsin. The chair is awarded to a faculty member in CALS who demonstrates outstanding research and service in the area of vegetable production. The chair provides the recipient with an annual research allocation of $30,000 that can be used in support of research activities, including supplies, equipment, research assistants, publications, and other activities that enhance the work of the faculty member and his or her interaction with the vegetable industry. The appointment is for a five-year term.

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The Corner Table podcast: Farm to Flavor

Sometimes, what farmers want and what chefs want lines up perfectly.

A sweet pepper with rounded shoulders, like a Carmen Italian frying pepper, is easier for a cook to chop up than a bell with a bowl shape at the top around the stem. Farmers like rounded shoulders too — when it rains, water will run off the sides instead of collecting in that bowl and encouraging rot.

Plant breeders can make these kinds of adjustments if they know which ones to look for, and that’s where the Seed to Kitchen project comes in. This week on the podcast, we’re talking to Solveig Hanson, a beet researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Julie Dawson, an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture who founded the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative.

Listen to the podcast & read the rest of the story here.

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/