My research addresses the challenges of sustainably and profitably producing tree fruits. Current projects focus on soil ecology in high-density orchards, value-added products (i.e., hard cider), and sustainable management practices and systems.
My research projects have covered many different aspects of tree-fruit production, including: 1) sustainable soil and nutrient management practices, 2) increasing the efficiency of apple orchard production systems (i.e., fresh market apples grown in high-density orchards with highly productive, size-controlling rootstocks), 3) developing high-value crop production systems (e.g., sweet cherries grown under protective structures), 4) increasing the production of value-added fruit-based products (e.g., hard cider), and 5) improving crop-load management in apple trees through the application of exogenous chemicals (primarily plant growth regulators) and the use of weather-based models to predict ideal fruit thinning application timing. The common thread among these research projects is the development of fruit production systems that facilitate the long-term economic and environmental viability of commercial tree-fruit growers.
Outreach and Extension Focus
I regularly interact with commercial growers, Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators, farm consultants, associated industry representatives, Master Gardeners, and homeowners at meetings and field days, and through email and telephone correspondence. I have published numbered extension publications on organic apple production and hard cider. My outreach activities also include websites, blogs, and social media tools.
As an educator, it is my responsibility to engage students in a dialogue that builds dynamic problem-solving skills and fosters critical thinking. To accomplish this, I believe it is important to provide a diversity of instructional tools and methods to match the diversity of the student body so that learning is accessible by and achievable for all students. I am committed to helping students learn how to imagine and construct novel approaches to solving problems and work effectively alone and within groups. As a researcher with varied interests and experience, I cover a broad range of topics in my courses. I teach Ecological Orchard Management (PLHRT 4450) in the Spring Semester of odd years; Fruit Crop Physiology (PLHRT 4500) in the Spring Semester of even years; and Cider Production (VIEN/FDSC 2340 (Lec)/4340 (Lab) every Spring Semester.
Awards and Honors
- Outstanding Extension Publication Award winner for papers published in 2017. Peck, G.M., C.N. DeLong, L. Combs, and K.S. Yoder. 2017. Managing apple crop load and diseases with bloom thinning applications in an organically managed ‘Honeycrisp’/‘MM.111’ orchard. HortScience 52(3):377–381. (2019) American Society for Horticultural Science