134A Plant Science
My goal as a professor with a teaching, extension and research appointment is to seamlessly integrate these three activities into one program that is scholarly, credible and relevant to the multiple audiences that benefit from my program. One of my goals is to be a good communicator with many different audiences. I intentionally seek out audiences that range in age from preschool to adult, and range in expertise from novice to professional. I also strive to be broadly informed about the many issues that affect the food system so I can be a useful resource. As department chair, I oversee more than 40 faculty programs in fruit, vegetables, flowers, ornamentals, turfgrass and post-harvest management. Our department also manages several research farms, including the Cornell Orchards, where fruit is sold directly to the public. I try to ensure that the teaching, research and extension activities of the department run as smoothly as possible.
My research is focused on developing sustainable production methods for berry crops. A major focus is on environmental modifications, primarily using high and low tunnels, to produce tender crops (e.g. blackberries) in colder climates, and to extend the season into fall for strawberries and raspberries. Managing weeds is a major challenge for berry growers and using non-herbicidal approaches (such as integrating cover crops and reduce tillage planting systems) is a significant component of my research program. Also, using cultural practices to reduce damage from pests (e.g. black root rot, Phytophthora root rot, tarnished plant bug) is another facet of my research. Finally, I am interested in better understanding some of the basic physiological responses of berry crops to the environment and developing ways to improve plant growth and productivity.
I believe that we have a responsibility to help educate all citizens (not just commercial growers) about issues that affect their lives. In my case, this education involves issues of food choice, sustainability, food safety and food quality. One of my professional objectives is to be a credible resource on these broader issues, in addition to developing a high level of expertise in berry crops. The audience for my extension program is national. Many of my presentations are given to out-of-state audiences, many phone calls come from out-of-state, and the printed materials and electronic resources are written for a regional audience. Berry crops are the most widely grown of all fruit crops, so the audience is dispersed throughout the entire northeastern United States and Canada. In addition to commercial berry crops, I have worked on developing Good Agricultural Practices materials to improve food safety on the farm. I also attempt to allocate a portion of my outreach efforts to non-commercial audiences, both youth and adult. Occasionally I present and consult internationally. I strive to inform all audiences about the many issues that affect the food system.
My goal as a teacher is to share my passion for learning with students with the goal that they too will become life-long learners. I teach a 3-credit course on berry crop production on alternate fall semesters. This course involves a great deal of application of principles learned in other courses. Farm visits are an important component of the class. I also teach Hands-On Horticulture to non-majors. In this class, students are introduced to a new horticultural concept and allowed to develop skills using related techniques (e.g. flower arranging, grafting, pruning, etc.).I have also organized a leadership course (ALS 5100) for grad students in the college because students usually lack an opportunity to learn about their own strengths and weaknesses and develop personnel management skills. Managing conflict, leading teams, and appreciating diversity are just some of the skills that will be needed soon after graduation. I also teach a course for incoming freshmen that helps to introduce them to college life, faculty, research opportunities and career possibilities. Finally, I welcome opportunities to guest lecture in other courses, and I am a frequent guest in the local schools where I am eager to instill a love of plants and the natural world in young people.