Blue Sky Science: How do seedless plants start?

The Blue Sky Science video series was a collaboration of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Morgridge Institute for Research. They took questions posed by visitors to the Discovery Building and then found an expert to answer the questions.

In this episode, Nico Conti asks, “How do seedless plants start?” Amaya Atucha, assistant professor of horticulture, answers his question.

In Memory of Chris Blanchard

Chris BlanchardThe Department of Horticulture lost one of its most accomplished alumni last month. Chris Blanchard, a graduate of our department from the mid 1990s, passed away following a long battle with cancer. Many of you will recall that Chris was a strong proponent of organic agriculture and a tireless advocate for local farms. He worked at Seed Saver’s Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, ran a large vegetable farm for fifteen years, managed his own consulting business, and most recently was the founder and host of the brilliant Farmer to Farmer podcast, available online at

Chris was a philosopher and a farmer. He was a positive force in everything he did. In his vision of organic agriculture, he was far ahead of his time. He was a friend and will be dearly missed. Our thoughts go out to his family and to his wife Angie Sullivan of Madison, Wisconsin.

Michael Havey named fellow of ASHS

Michael Havey, horticulture professor and USDA research geneticist, was recently named a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS). Election as a Fellow of the Society is the highest honor that ASHS bestows on its members in recognition of outstanding contributions to horticulture and the Society.

Havey’s research program is focused on the breeding, genetics and genomics of the Alliums (onion and garlic) and cucurbits (cucumber, melon and watermelon). Specific projects involve molecular tagging of major quality attributes and disease resistances in the Alliums and cucurbits.

Article first appeared in ECals 

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:

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 Questions can be directed to Julie Dawson at

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 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

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. –

Greenhouse Wins Rural Development Initiative Award

The Flambeau River Community Growing Center in Park Falls, Wisconsin, which was founded with the help of CALS horticulturalists, (Mike Geiger and Dr. Sara Patterson) has been selected to receive a Top Rural Development Initiative award from Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc.

Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc. (WRP) is a statewide non-profit organization that develops rural networks and leaders, and provides a voice for rural Wisconsin. WRP is the federally-recognized State Rural Development Council for Wisconsin.

This is the sixteenth year that WRP has recognized Wisconsin’s Top Rural Development Initiatives. The program is designed to identify, highlight, and share innovative models, practices and programs that have a positive impact on rural Wisconsin communities.

Here’s the description of the Flambeau River Community Growing Center from the WRP news release:


Flambeau River Community Growing Center, Park Falls
It started in 2012 with the idea of using waste heat from the Flambeau Mill to heat a greenhouse which could provide higher educational classes, a food source for the food pantry, and community gardens. Through a collaboration with UW- Madison, the Flambeau Mill, UWEX – Price County, and the Flambeau River Community Growing Center committee, a nonprofit 510(c)3 organization was established. Today, the vision has been realized and the growing center provides educational classes, and community support through the availability of raised beds for community members and through the provision of fresh foods for the local food pantries.

Originally posted at

Faculty Awards

Jim Nienhuis has been selected to receive an award for excellence in collaboration from the Institute of Technology in Costa Rica.  The award will be presented February 11, 2016, in Costa Rica.

Jiwan Paulta has been chosen to receive the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association’s award for “Researcher of the Year”.  The award will be presented at the WPVGA-UWEX Grower Education Conference next week.