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Lawrence Smart

Larry Smart


126 Jordan Hall - Geneva
(315) 787-2490

I am a plant geneticist and breeder using genomic tools to breed shrub willow bioenergy crops and to better understand hybrid vigor and pest and disease resistance. More recently, I have been leading Cornell’s hemp research and extension team and have initiated a long-term breeding program to develop new hemp cultivars for New York State.

Research Focus

My long-term research goals include maintaining and strengthening the willow breeding program, so that it can invigorate and sustain a dramatically expanded commercial willow bioenergy enterprise that will have significant impact on stimulating agricultural productivity, improving the environment, and strengthening local economies. I also aim to develop this system as one that can build upon our basic understanding of perennial woody plant physiology, the genetic basis of biomass production, and the domestication of perennial bioenergy crops. Included among the goals I hope to achieve over the course of my research career are:

1) To produce and commercialize new cultivars of willow bioenergy crops that display improved and consistent yield across a wide variety of sites with resistance to pests and diseases;
2) To develop and utilize genetic and genomic resources and approaches for the study of Salix that will improve our understanding of perennial bioenergy crop domestication, comparative genomic organization in the Salicaceae, and networks of gene regulation that control key traits in woody biomass crops;
3) To explore the diversity of willows assembled from natural collections and produced through controlled hybridization and to identify and exploit species and individual genotypes that display traits well-suited for environmental engineering and horticultural applications;
4) To gain an understanding of the genotypic variation and environmental regulation of variations in woody biomass composition, especially as it relates to the efficiency of conversion to biofuels and to heat and power.

More recently, I have been leading Cornell’s hemp research and extension team and have initiated a long-term breeding program to develop new hemp cultivars for New York State.

Outreach and Extension Focus

While my group’s basic research on willow genomics and applied willow breeding program are critical to support the long-term viability of shrub willow energy crops, the true value is realized only when results are disseminated and improvements adopted by industry stakeholders. There has been very little commercial deployment of the crop in North America, and there are very few experts available to provide extension and education to growers, policymakers, bioenergy industry professionals, and consumers. Thus, a critical component of my day-to-day efforts is to develop extension materials, provide information that may stimulate further commercialization of willow energy crops, and help coordinate educational opportunities for growers, while also building a cohesive team of willow expertise to support the industry. I will strive to participate in conferences and trade shows frequented by growers and extension educators, such as Empire Farm Days, Ag Progress Days, Cornell Cooperative Extension in-service training, and other regional events to present both foundation information on the cropping system and latest results from applied research. We have produced a few dozen fact sheets with the latest information on characteristics of commercial cultivars, tillage practices, and disease and pest identification and management. The applied research results from the Cornell willow team are published online via the Willowpedia web site ( and Willowpedia Channel on YouTube. The Willowpedia site will be linked with academic and commercial willow sites around the world to provide a comprehensive information resource. We have produced Willowpedia-branded fact sheets for widespread distribution to growers. We will initiate a new annual field day event at the NYS Ag Experiment Station in Geneva to describe the willow cropping system to interested growers and landowners, featuring annual research and extension reports from willow researchers, nurseries, and entrepreneurial growers invited from across North America. E-mail distribution lists for the automated distribution of regular Willowpedia newsletters and newsflashes will be implemented and managed using the Constant Contact marketing service. Professional online networking among willow energy crop experts and stakeholders will be vigorously encouraged through LinkedIn and online meetings and Webinars.

Awards and Honors

  • Honorary Professor (2018) National Agrarian University, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

Presentations and Activities

  • Use of genome-wide markers for the analysis of genetic diversity of willows collected in Jordan and Israel. Willow Workshop. October 2018. National Agricultural Research Center. Amman, Jordan.
  • Dissecting the genomic basis for triploid heterosis and disease resistance in willow hybrids. Genomic Science Program Annual Meeting. February 2018. DOE. Tyson’s Corners, VA.
  • Untapped Potential: Bioenergy Production on Marginal Lands of NY and the Northeast. Northeast Region Certified Crop Advisor Annual Training Meeting. December 2015. NRCCA/ASA/NYS. Syracuse, NY.
  • Second generation bioenergy production on marginal lands of NY & the Northeast. 2014 Northeast Biomass Heating Expo. April 2014. Portland, Maine.
  • The NEWBio Project: Expanding commercial deployment of bioenergy crops in the Northeast. In Service Training Conference. November 2013. Cornell Cooperative Extension. Ithaca, NY.
  • Breeding to improve yield and sustainability of shrub willow bioenergy crops. Ninth International Conference on Biomass for Energy. September 2013. Ukraine Bioenergy Association. Kiev, Ukraine.
  • Development of genomic resources and novel species hybrids for the genetic improvement of shrub willow feedstock crops. 2013 Genomic Science Annual Contractor-Grantee Meeting. February 2013. US Dept. of Energy Office of Bioscience. Bethesda, MD.
  • Genomic approaches to improve yield and biofuels conversion efficiency of shrub willow. Plant Biology Seminar Series. February 2013. Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.