Professor Irwin Goldman, along with undergraduate assistant Iszie Tigges-Green, recently grew and harvested tobacco plants from seeds provided by Jeff Metoxen of Oneida Farm. The plants were germinated in Goldman’s greenhouse and then transplanted to the West Madison Agricultural Research Center.
Patty Loew, Professor in the Department of Life Sciences communication was instrumental in organizing the collaboration. Student members of Wunk Sheek will save the seeds to plant again this year. The impetus for the project was and is to grow tobacco to be used as a gift to elders and tribal partners when UW-Native nations collaborations take place.
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.
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.”
The West Madison Ag Research Station display gardens contained more than 270 annual and 62 perennial flower cultivars that were evaluated monthly for the Commercial Flower Growers of Wisconsin, Proven Winners, and Ball Horticultural Company. Additionally, more than 61 All-America Selection cultivars were on display in 2016. Vegetables included 12 garlic varieties, eight squash and melon varieties, 11 peppers, six tomatoes, and a few herbs. Under research by the University of Wisconsin’s Horticulture Department were 65 varieties of leafy greens/lettuces evaluated for heat tolerance during summer and cold tolerance in the late fall and 23 onion varieties screened for flavor by local chefs. Seedless table grapes were also evaluated for cold hardiness, vigor, and fruit production.
The winter of 2015-2016 was relatively mild with the lowest temperature being only -10°F for one day in January. The growing season began warmly with 4 inches of rain (not snow) in March. Except for a brief three-hour dip to 30°F on May 16, it was a warm month with 12 days above 75°F. August and September were especially warm and humid. Rainfall was abundant and frequent (nearly every five days) from April through September, which reduced overhead irrigating to just two events. In July alone, the station received 8.25 inches of rain. With the plentiful rain and high dewpoints, there was increased incidences of fungal pathogens and bacterial disease, including many root rots (Phythium, Rhizoctonia) and Verticillium wilt on verbena. Many melons and squash rotted early. Bacterial wilt on cucumbers was widespread, as was Septoria on tomatoes. However, peppers produced well with harvest peaking in early September.
Several horticultural societies continue to participate in the University of Wisconsin trial gardens. The Wisconsin Peony Society solicited help from our visitors to evaluate its improved genetic collection of 50-cultivars, displayed and maintained at the gardens. The Wisconsin Daylily society promoted its cultivars and plant sale via the University of Wisconsin’s six well-managed nurseries containing nearly 300 cultivars. Likewise, hundreds benefited from a plant sale held at the station this spring by the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society, which included donated plants grown in the display gardens. The hydrangea collection at the University of Wisconsin trial gardens is now up to 23 cultivars, including both paniculata and macrophylla species.
New to the gardens since 2014 is the testing of the Darwin Perennial collection. These plants are monitored for winter survival, pest tolerance, flowering duration, and growth habit. In 2014, 22 cultivars from 10 genera were established. In 2015, 12 more cultivars from 7 genera were added. In 2016, another 15 cultivars from 8 genera were established. Also in the university’s evolving perennial trials was a chrysanthemum evaluation trial with the University of Minnesota. The objective was to evaluate the 20 cultivars for persistence over winter as well as floral quality and pyretherin levels.
Several faculty members used the gardens to promote special topics they wanted to publicly promote: Ceremonial tobacco for the Ojibwe tribe; Seven sisters, a traditional Mexican planting system that includes corn, beans, and squash, was established to highlight the symbiotic benefits that these three species provide when inter-planted; a pole bean breeding demonstration with 12 varieties with both living (corn and sorghum) and man-made trellises was new this year; Quinoa was planted in June and July to compare seed set on this plant that lacks heat tolerance; honey bee and bumble bee hives were set up near the gardens to promote pollinators and the importance of garden habitat for them.
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Silverberry’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Fuchsia Improved’
Petunia ‘Picasso in Purple’
Petunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Petunia ‘Surprise Magenta Halo’
Petunia ‘ColorRush Blue’
Petunia ‘Pretty Much Picasso’
Salvia ‘Black & Bloom’
Cyperus ‘Graceful Grasses Prince Tut’
Cyperus ‘Graceful Grasses Prince Tut’
Angelonia ‘Angelface Super Pink’
Salvia ‘Black and Bloom’
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Wisconsin Public Television’s Garden Expo, in its 24th year, was held February 10-12. The warm weather invited 10’s of 1000’s to attend. Horticulture staff who participated include Julie Dawson, Eileen Nelson, Madeline Wimmer, Amaya Atucha. Also participating: Ben Futa, Elin Meliska and Abby Granite of the Allen Centennial Garden, Johanna Oosterwyk from The DC Smith Greenhouse, Mike Maddox, Susan Mahr and Amy Freidig of the Master Gardener Program.
On November 23rd, Faculty Associate, Claudia Irene Calderon, and Postdoctoral Fellow, Shelby Ellison, organized a carrot tasting with 12 three to five year olds from the UW Preschool Lab Otter class. The event took place in the DC Smith Conservatory where the children tasted orange, purple, red, white, and yellow carrots and learned about how the carrot color translates into the nutritional benefit it can provide when eaten.
Many of the children were excited to taste the different colored carrots and a few appeared to favor the less traditional purple types. In addition to tasting, the Otters enjoyed carrot themed story time, were able to pick out vegetable stamps, and enjoyed exploring the DC Smith Conservatory. The children returned to the UW Preschool lab with more carrots to sample and a nutritional fact sheet to share with their families.
Photos by Florencia Bannoud
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).
Source: Wisconsin State Farmer, Nicole Miller, UW CALS author
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. –
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
Autumn is just around the corner, and instead of lamenting the end of summer, many Wisconsinites embrace cooler weather with fall activities.
One favorite excursion around the state is apple picking, which goes hand-in-hand with cider, donuts and pie. Many Wisconsin pick-your-own orchards and farm stands showcase “antique” or “heirloom” apple varieties, which have been passed down through generations of growers after being found from a chance seedling. Antique apples can have unusual flavors, textures, and aromas, and usually come with an interesting back-story too. Many are of U.S. or even Wisconsin origins.
In recent years, antique or heirloom varieties have become more popular at farmers’ markets and pick-your-own orchards, as consumers are searching for apples that are essentially different from those offered by big supermarket chains. This search for a “different” kind of apple is not only driven by the lack of choice and poor quality of apples offered by superstores, but also by a change in consumer preferences that are a consequence of increasing interest and concern regarding where and how fruit is grown.
Many of these rarer varieties can be found at many Wisconsin orchards and local direct markets, but it may take a little searching to get past the rows of Honeycrisp. Hundreds of varieties of antique apples are available — this list is meant as a starting point only.
Gravenstein is one the first varieties to ripen in the apple season. It originated in Denmark in 1669. The fruit is irregularly shaped with broad red stripes and a sweet-tart flavor. It’s great for eating fresh, or for making into sauces or cider. Ripens late July to early August.
Northfield Beauty originated in Vermont in the early 1800s. The fruit is medium-large, with a tart flavor extremely well suited for pies and sauces. Ripens in late August.
Duchess of Oldenburg is a cold-hardy plant, producing tart red apples, best used for making pies or sauces but also good for eating. A great early-season options, it can be found even in the northern parts of Wisconsin. Originating in Russia in the 1700s, it is naturally resistant to many diseases, reducing the need for pesticides. Ripens in late August.
Chenango Strawberry was discovered in the eastern United States in the early 19th century, and is renowned for its rich apple flavor and aroma, and beautiful mottled appearance. The skin and flesh is soft and juicy. Ripens early September.
Summer Rambo is a tart, crisp, juicy apple that originated in France in the 1500s. The fruit is greenish-yellow with a red blush. It’s good for both eating and for sauces. Ripens in early September.
Holstein Cox has large fruit with an intense sweet/tart flavor with intense citrus and pineapple aroma, and is good for eating or cooking. It is a relative newcomer, being developed in Germany in the early 1900s. Ripens in early September.
Court Pendu Plat was first described in France in the 1600s, but is thought to have been brought there much earlier during the time of the Roman Empire. It has a dense texture, and balance of sweetness and acidity, making it excellent for cider and sauces, but also tasty fresh. Ripens in early September.
Wealthy makes a good eating apple with a mellow, sweet flavor. Having originated in Minnesota in 1868, it is very cold-hardy. Ripens in mid-September.
Pink Pearl is not only a novelty, with bright pink flesh underneath a smooth yellow skin, but is also a flavorful, tart, juicy and crisp apple. A suggested use is to make rosy-pink applesauce. This variety originated in California in the early 1900s. Ripens in mid-September.
Wolf River originated in central Wisconsin, and is an old-time favorite around the state. The large apples are primarily used for baking — supposedly one apple makes one pie! Ripens in late September.
Reinette Gris produces medium-sized sweet, crisp and dry fruit, with a red blush. The trees are very hardy and fruit keep well. It originated in France in the 1600s. Ripens in late September.
Egremont Russet, like other russetted apples, has lost popularity recently to the smooth shiny varieties generally showcased in grocery stores. However, despite its rough appearance, this variety is full of unique flavors, which have been described as nutty, smoky, or with anise undertones, which combined with a pear-like smooth texture makes for a one-of-a-kind apple. It originated in England in the 1800s. Ripens in late September to early October.
Northwestern Greening originated in Wisconsin in the late 1800s. It is the predominant apple-pie apple of the north, but is too tart for eating fresh. Ripens in October.
Arkansas Black is a deeply colored, crisp, and flavorful apple. For best flavor, store at least a month before eating; it can be stored up to eight months in refrigeration. Ripens in October.
Winesap is an old-timer favorite, with high sugar content, a crisp texture and deep red color. This variety originated in the US in the 1800s. Ripens in late October.
Newtown Pippin has a distinctive flavor, and firm, crisp flesh. The skin is light yellow-green with just a slight red blush. It was developed on Long Island, New York in the 1700s. This apple is excellent for eating fresh or for making cider. Ripens in late October.
Black Oxford produces a dark purple, almost black skinned fruit with tart, aromatic flesh. It originated in Oxford, Maine in the 1800s. The fruit keeps well in storage. Ripens in late October.
Source: Wiscontext, September 23, 2016 http://www.wiscontext.org/picking-holstein-cox-and-other-antique-apples-wisconsin-orchards
Janet van Zoeren is a fruit crops associate with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Amaya Atucha is a fruit crop specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension and UW Fruit Program, and an assistant professor in the UW-Madison Department of Horticulture. This article is adapted from an item originally published in Wisconsin Fruit News, Volume 1, Issue 9, a publication of the Fruit Crops Team