Atucha Receives Alfred Toepfer Faculty Fellow Award

Atucha’s research focuses on fruit crop physiology and production of deciduous fruit crops (cranberry, apple and grapes in particular). Her current research areas include cold hardiness of fruit crops, improving fruit quality of cold hardy wine grapes through cultural practices and differences in root growth rates of rootstocks as affected by soil borne pathogens. She is also a UW-Extension fruit crop specialist.

The one-year award is bestowed on pre-tenure faculty whose research benefits agricultural activities within the United States and whose areas of interest lie in the scientific fields of crop research, improvements in crop yield and quality, or animal sciences. The award can also go to faculty members whose agricultural research is considered biological or physical in nature.

Dr. Yi Wang Joins the Department

Yi Wang is an assistant professor with a research focus on potato and vegetable sustainable production. The goal of her research and extension program is to conduct science-based applied research and collaborate with the potato and vegetable growers and processors to improve the resource use efficiency and sustainability of vegetable cropping systems in Wisconsin. Her major research areas are:

  • Investigate new irrigation technologies to improve the water-use sustainability of vegetable cropping systems;
  • Develop production recommendations for new varieties with higher water and nitrogen use efficiency;
  • Develop useful growth modelling tools to predict crop yield, quality, water balance, and nitrogen balance.

Yi got her B.S. in Biological Science from Nanjing Agricultural University in China, her Ph.D. in Potato Physiology from UW-Madison. She worked as an assistant professor at the Kimberly Research and Extension Center, University of Idaho before rejoining the Department of Horticulture at UW-Madison.

Campus Food Sheds Stocked With Research Excess

Hannah DePorter

UW-Madison student Hannah DePorter stocks a refrigerator in the university’s Student Activity Center with vegetables grown for campus research projects. DePorter founded an initiative called the Campus Food Shed that aims to find a better use for the surplus produce faculty and students grow as part of their agriculture research. Photo by John Hart, State Journal

When Hannah DePorter’s plant breeding and genetics lab at UW-Madison grows beets, only a fraction of what the students harvest winds up being used for research.

Some of the rest goes to local food pantries and to students such as DePorter, who takes beets home to cook and give to friends. But there’s always plenty left over.

“So many of the beets were left in the field to compost,” she said.

DePorter, who will be a senior this fall, wants to change that, so she has started a new program that aims to address twin problems: The food waste that occurs when researchers in agriculture programs throw out or compost the excess produce they grow and the food insecurity that leaves some low-income college students hungry.

Her solution is called the Campus Food Shed, and it will take the form of four refrigerators stationed around UW-Madison that will be stocked with left-over produce for anyone who needs or wants free, nutritious and locally grown fruits and vegetables.

The first location opened in the Student Activity Center on Friday.

In an interesting juxtaposition, the refrigerator sits right next to a bank of vending machines — giving students a choice, DePorter said, between “fresh vegetables for free” and “processed foods that cost money.”

There should be plenty of produce to supply the refrigerators. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alone has a dozen research stations around Wisconsin where faculty grow crops. F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture, a campus group DePorter is a member of, also has a two-acre plot, and researchers grow produce on space they rent from private farms as well.

The needs of research projects vary, said Irwin Goldman, a professor in the Department of Horticulture, but in some cases they only require half of what fields produce, if not less.

Without a formal system for what’s left over, researchers often just leave piles of free produce on tables in the halls of the Horticulture Building, Goldman said.

He credited DePorter for saying, “Let’s do something with this.”

Goldman said six researchers have signed on to contribute their crops to the Campus Food Shed, and he and DePorter are looking for others who will join the effort.

‘Great, local food’

Along with the Student Activity Center, on the third floor of 333 East Campus Mall, refrigerators will be stationed in Science Hall, 550 N. Park St.; Moore Hall, 1575 Linden Drive; and the Allen Centennial Garden, 620 Babcock Drive.Campus Food Shed,

Labels will tell visitors what the food is and when it was picked, DePorter said, and volunteers will make the rounds to toss any produce that goes bad.

The refrigerators are open whenever the campus buildings are, and are available to students or anyone else who wants the free produce, she said. There’s no limit to what people can take, and the new initiative won’t reduce how much produce goes to local food pantries, DePorter said.

“We’re hoping that this reaches as many people as possible,” she said.

The fact that they are stocked with locally grown produce means the fridges won’t have much to offer when they first open, since it’s still early in Wisconsin’s growing season, and will probably be less full during the depths of winter.

But organizers say the produce will provide a source of free and healthy food on a campus in which students have directed more attention to the plight of less wealthy peers who sometimes struggle to find enough to eat. A campus food pantry, The Open Seat, opened last year on a floor above the first Campus Food Shed refrigerator.

“It’s relatively small,” Goldman said of the effort, “but it’s great, local food.”

 Story Source:  Wisconsin State Journal, June 17, 2017

WPVGA Researcher of the Year

Dr. Jeff Endelman, Assistant Professor in the UW Dept. of Horticulture received the Researcher of the Year award at the recent at the recent Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association meeting held February 8, 2017, in Stevens Point.  Dr. Endelman has an emphasis on potato breeding and genetics. He brings a unique set of skills and experiences to his position, including two sets of advanced degrees. First, he earned degrees in physics and bioengineering. Then, after participating in a Community Supported Agriculture program, he fell in love with farming and completed two year-long apprenticeships on small farms in California. This inspired him to go back to earn a Master’s Degree in Plant Science from Utah State University and a Ph.D. in Crop Science from Washington State University.

At the University of Wisconsin, a major focus of Jeff’s research and extension program is to produce improved potato varieties. In recent years, Jeff’s research has helped Wisconsin release several outstanding varieties including Red Endeavor, Oneida Gold and Hodag. Jeff has also been instrumental in making improvements to the Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station as well as the SpudPro commercialization program.

Breeding Potatoes for More Calcium

Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato—and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Neither consumers at grocery stores nor chip and fry manufacturers want these low-calcium defects. In addition to the obvious cosmetic issues, these potatoes are more likely to rot.

Most farmed varieties of potatoes have naturally low levels of calcium. So researchers at the USDA-ARS and University of Wisconsin-Madison, including Shelley Jansky, John Bamberg and Jiwan Palta, looked to wild potatoes. Their purpose: to breed new potato cultivars with high calcium levels.

Many wild potato relatives are still present in South America. Their presence means growers’ potato plants in that region often exchange genes with wild species.

“That’s a way they continue to evolve as the climate changes or as disease and pest patterns change,” says Jansky. “But in the U.S. we have removed our potatoes from that environment. We have to breed new genes in from these wild relatives when we want to improve our cultivars.”

These wild relatives are an invaluable resource for scientists across the country.

“If you go down there and drive along the roadside you can see these weedy, wild plants growing along the roads and fields,” says Jansky. “Whenever we have looked for any trait in wild potato species, we have been able to find it.”

And so it was with searching for a high-calcium potato. The team found a wild potato with almost seven times as much calcium as typically grown varieties. The next job was to isolate the calcium trait. Jansky and her colleagues interbred the high- and low-calcium potatoes. The resulting generations showed a molecular marker—a pattern in the plant’s natural DNA. This pattern led researchers to the plant’s calcium trait.

“Finding this marker will allow us—and other breeding programs—to make faster progress in breeding potato plants with high tuber calcium content,” says Jansky. “This has been difficult and time-consuming in the past. You have to grow all the populations, harvest tubers, and then analyze the tubers for the trait you are looking at—in this case, tuber calcium levels. And that’s a long, laborious process.”

A typical breeding program grows and assesses up to 100,000 seedlings every year. It takes 10 to 15 years to release a particular variety of crop plant. However, the process simplifies with known molecular markers.

“We can collect DNA from seedlings and check for these molecular markers,” says Yong Suk Chung, the first author of the study. “If you have the marker present, then you select those seedlings and save a tremendous amount of time and labor.”

Source:  www.potatogrower.com

 

Potato industry commits $5M to support research

Sevie Kenyon

Madison — Wisconsin’s potato industry has had a strong, decades-long partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s potato researchers, one that has helped place Wisconsin among the top three potato-producing states in the nation. Now, in order to ensure the ongoing strength of this relationship, the industry has made a commitment to raise $5M over the next 10 years to support the university’s program.

“This support stems from the great value that our growers and our potato industry see in the University of Wisconsin-Madison research team and the related research facilities,” says Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA).

Continue Reading. . . .

Source: Wisconsin State Farmer, Nicole Miller, UW CALS author

Seed to Kitchen

Plant breeders partner with chefs for tastier produce

Have you noticed that more and more restaurants are featuring great-tasting, locally sourced foods on their menus? Now, through a UW–Madison horticulture initiative called “Seed to Kitchen,” chefs on the culinary cutting edge are working with plant breeders to grow produce with specific flavor characteristics their customers will love. –

Supporting Young Women in Science

Sharon Gray’s work in Ethiopia is not done.

The 30-year-old UC Davis postdoc had gone to the African nation to discuss the start of a plant biology research project. She and others — including Associate Professor Siobhan Brady — were in a car, driving on the outskirts of the capital city, Addis Ababa, when a rock came crashing through a window, striking and killing Gray. Brady was not injured.

Now, to preserve her legacy of mentorship, and hopefully bring this scientist to the United States,Gray’s family is raising money via GoFundMe to mentor women in science. “The mission of this current campaign is to make something positive out of this tragedy,” Markelz wrote for the GoFundMe site.

He said the family is discussing the exchange proposal with multiple institutions, including UC Davis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Gray received her Ph.D. Meanwhile, as of around 12:45 p.m. today (Oct. 11), the GoFundMe drive had raised more than $63,000 toward its $200,000 goal.

Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/sharonbethgray

Article detailing Sharon’s life and mentoring: https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/sharon-grays-mentorship-lives-on

Phil Simon Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Horticulture professor Phil Simon is the recipient of the National Association of Plant Breeders Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016.

Phil Simon 2015Simon was selected based on his outstanding achievements and cutting edge research as a carrot breeder and geneticist, as well as the distinguished service and exceptional leadership he has provided on a regional, national and international level.

The award, given out to one person each year, recognizes individuals who have given distinguished long-term service to the plant breeding discipline in areas such as breeding/genetics research and publication, education (graduate or undergraduate training), extension outreach, and regional, national, and/or international leadership.

Farm to Flavor dinner will feature plant breeding efforts

Farm to Flavor is a signature dinner experience and celebration of Wisconsin food that will be held on Thursday, September 15, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Mendota Room inside Dejope Hall. It brings together the plant breeders, farmers, and chefs responsible for creating a new local cuisine. These co-creators encompass the motto that food is made at the intersection of seed, farm, and kitchen.

Taste the results of collaborative plant breeding in small plates from Madison’s highly acclaimed chefs including, Jonny Hunter of Underground Food Collective, Tory Miller of I’Etoile, Dan Bonnano of Pig in a Fur Coat and Eric Benedict of Café Hollander. Guest speaker Ken Greene of the Hudson Valley Seed Library will kick off a dinner discussion about the intersection of crop varieties, culture and art. Questions about plant breeding, farming and food systems are welcomed throughout the dinner.

Prior to the dinner, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., a free plant-breeding showcase held at Allen Centennial Garden will give attendees the opportunity to meet leading plant breeders responsible for developing fruits and vegetables adapted for Wisconsin’s organic farms. While sampling the results, attendees will learn how collaborative plant breeding can increase productivity and the profitability of regional organic farms.

The cost to attend the dinner is $35 in advance and $40 the day of the event. Register athttp://bit.ly/2bh7dtv.

For more information, contact Julie Dawson at dawson@hort.wisc.edu or (608) 609-6165.