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.

CALS Vegetable Breeders Leave Their Mark

Tucked behind campus’ Walnut Street Greenhouses sits a nondescript brick building known colloquially as the “Carrot and Beet Lab.” It doesn’t look like much, but its exterior tells the story of an important campus legacy. Etched into its walls are various names, dates and symbols carved by UW-Madison faculty, staff and students who were—or are—involved in the university’s carrot and beet breeding research efforts.name.

The small building, built in 1910, originally functioned as a barn to house campus animals. In 1949, it was converted into a cooler to store carrot, beet and onion roots by Warren “Buck” Gabelman, who grew into an internationally respected plant breeder over the course of his 42 years with the Department of Horticulture. Ever since, the facility has functioned as a common space for campus’ various vegetable breeding labs.

Irwin Goldman, professor and chair of the horticulture department, recalls students and researchers nicknaming the building “The Clubhouse” which accurately portrays the building as a common ground used for lunch breaks, yard games, and conversation.

“Yes, it’s a campus building. Yes, it’s a place where we house our research materials, but it is also a gathering place, a place for people to play cards at lunch time and park their bikes,” says Goldman, who has been in charge of the Carrot and Beet Lab for the past 24 years.

From early on, as students and researchers moved on from the lab, they began carving their names on the south-facing wall to commemorate their time spent there. Thus, a new tradition was born.

One of the bricks bears the name of Robert Kane, who works as a plant breeder in the horticulture department. According to Kane, who has witnessed the evolution of the wall over time, the names are like a family tree of campus’ vegetable breeders. While each engraving represents a unique individual, the wall gives viewers a sense of the depth of the Lab’s alumni and current membership and the cumulative impact of their efforts.

“I’ve heard UW-Madison referred to as ‘the well’ of horticulture because of its variety and depth of talent,” says Kane. “If researchers needed anything—from someone with decades of professional experience to a fresh pair of eyes—they would go to ‘the well’ to recruit new team members.”

Upon close inspection, the wall contains the names of a number of veggie celebrities such as Warren Gabelman, Rodger Freeman, Fred Bliss and JF “Rick” Watson II. All trained at UW-Madison and carved their names before going on to make influential contributions to the world of agriculture.

“These are people in our field who are now legendary figures, but who all once trained there in the modest little place called the Carrot and Beet Lab,” says Goldman.

The carving tradition still lives on today. With the names of such famous predecessors written just to the left or the right of fresh signatures, one can’t help but wonder what incredible accomplishments these recent graduates might achieve.

Originally posted by:  Gilliane Davison, student employee, CALS Office of External Relations in ecals newsletter Friday, August 5th, 2016

Irwin Goldman and Beets – a Retrospective

Source:  uwmadscience.news.wisc.edu – Chris Barncard

For all the moments while writing about research at UW–Madison in which I’ve been moved by a scientist’s passion for their work, the one that resurfaces most in my (admittedly shallow) memory comes from a Wednesday night in 2010.

Irwin Goldman

Irwin Goldman

My wife and I came to campus for a talk by Irwin Goldman, a plant geneticist and horticulture professor, in the weeklyWednesday Nite @ The Lab series. The title — “The Beet Goes On: Health, Nutrition, and Social Justice from an Under-appreciated Root Vegetable” — was not flashy. I mean, it was about beets. I don’t even know why we were interested enough to show up, other than we did grow beets in our garden. And we didn’t have any kids yet.

“This is a subject that is very dear to my heart,” said Goldman as an opener. “So it’s an honor to talk about it.”

Remember: “It” = beets. He’s talking about beets.

“And here, thanks to WN@TL’s extensive, indispensable video library, is Goldman’s first presentation slide:”

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.08.52 PM

That’s heavy stuff. It’s bolted to the Statue of Liberty. It might seem over the top for a beet lecture.

But let me tell you something, with apologies to Emma Lazarus: Here at our lake-lapped, sunset gates stands a mighty grower with a torch whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and his name is Irwin Goldman.

He is a poet of root vegetables. He is the only person in the public sector in the United States working on table beet genetics. He knows everything about anything horticultural that has happened at UW–Madison, and he is unfailingly pleasant about sharing.

Here are things I know now because I spent an hour with Irwin Goldman in 2010:

  • Sucrose was first identified from beets.
  • Napoleon was spurring innovation through X Prize-style contests way back in the 19th century.
  • Wisconsin produces more table beets than any other state.
  • As many as 14 percent of us cannot absorb betacyanin, the red pigment in beets, so it gets excreted in our urine. And that looks scary.
  • The earthy flavor of beets owes a lot to the presence of geosmins, compounds produced by dying bacteria. Geosmins also contribute to that great smell that follows a good rain.

I might not know any of that — or anything about the modest Prof. Irwin Goldman — without Wednesday Night @ The Lab (WN@TL), which celebrates roughly 10 years of weekly presentations tonight when Carol McCartney of the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey delivers “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants in the Digital Age: A Look at Charles Van Hise’s Field Notebooks.”

Fittingly, Van Hise is the guy who first articulated the Wisconsin Idea, and WN@TL is a window on the people still giving that idea life more than a century on from Van Hise.

Tom_Zinnen

Tom Zinnen

“Wednesday Nite @ the Lab helps keep the public connected to their public, land-grant research university,” Tom Zinnen, coordinator of the WN@TL series, told the Wisconsin Alumni Association, a WN@TL sponsor along with the UW Biotech Center, UW-Extension and Wisconsin Public Television. “This series has provided an opportunity for the public to stay connected to groundbreaking research activities, and we look forward to showcasing even more innovation over the next 10 years.”

Since the night (pardon me, the Nite) I learned more than I ever bargained about beets, WN@TL presenters have taught me about vaccines, cancer treatment, bird flu, frac sand mining, animal research ethics, plant diseases, polar vortices and a new branch of our family tree. Among other things.

I’ve watched it in person. I’ve watched it in overflow rooms. I’ve watched it from a roaming crowd touring lab buildings. I’ve watched it on TV at 3 a.m. with a fussy infant in my arms. And I recommend it to you.

You can soak in the science on 50 Wednesday nights every year in person at 7 p.m. in Room 1111 of the Biotechnology Center, 425 Henry Mall, watch live online, pick through the archives, or catch it on Wisconsin Public Television.

Organic approach to improving carrots

Organic carrots are coming into their own. About 14 percent of U.S.-produced carrots are now classified as organic, making carrots one of the highest ranked crops in terms of the total percentage produced organically. With production and demand increasing in recent years, organic-carrot growers need help deciding which varieties to grow. Some varieties perform well as a conventional crop, but not so well under organic conditions. While conventional growers also can fumigate to control nematodes, bacterial diseases and fungal pathogens, organic growers don’t have that option.

That’s why the work of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticist Philipp W. Simon and his colleagues is so important. Simon, who is the research leader of ARS’s Vegetable Crops Research Laboratoryin Madison, Wisconsin, is leading the five-year Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project that is ultimately aimed at providing information and helping breeders develop carrots that are tastier, more nutritious and better equipped to combat weeds, diseases and pathogens. It is funded with a National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative grant.

The researchers are growing 36 carrot varieties in organic and conventional fields at four locations and comparing them for flavor, productivity, appearance, color, disease resistance and other key traits. Partners include researchers from Purdue University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California-Riverside, Washington State University and the Organic Seed Alliance. The field trials are in Madison, Wisconsin, Pasco, Washington, West Lafayette, Indiana, and Bakersfield, California.

Carrots grow relatively slowly, and that means that faster-growing weeds are a major problem. Some large-scale organic producers in California estimate that they spend thousands of dollars per acre to weed carrot fields. A priority highlighted by the research is the need for carrots that can produce their large, above-ground leafy “tops” quickly to outcompete weeds for sunlight and moisture.

Organic growers also are more interested than conventional growers in producing carrots with novel shapes and colors—purple, red and yellow—that will attract organic consumers, according to Simon. When it comes to nutrition and health, orange carrots are always a good choice because they are high in vitamin A, an essential nutrient. But changing up your carrot color scheme once in a while might not be a bad idea, he says. Purple carrots have powerful antioxidants. Yellow ones are a good source of lutein, which could reduce the risk of macular degeneration, an all too common eye problem. Red carrots are high in lycopene, a nutrient associated with reducing the risk of certain cancers.

The researchers are still evaluating the 16 named carrot varieties and 20 scientific lines selected for the project. That includes assessing them for flavor, a major issue for consumers. When the market for baby carrots started to take off years ago (baby carrots account for about half of all the fresh carrots consumed in the United States), consumers came to expect carrots to taste good, and growers were quick to adapt, according to Simon. “That message has come through clearly. Flavor is a priority because if people don’t want to eat carrots, they’re not going to buy them.”

Dennis O’Brien, Agricultural Research Service

reposted from Vegetablegrowersnews.com