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, and am frequently asked to speak to Cornell alumni. I served as department chair for the last 13 years, having played a major role in the merging of departments between the Geneva and Ithaca campuses, and the creation of the new School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS). My new position is Director of Undergraduate Studies for SIPS since August, 2015.
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.
Outreach and Extension Focus
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.
Awards and Honors
- CALS Faculty Award for Outstanding Service (2014)
- SUNY Chancellor's Award for Faculty Service (2014) SUNY
- Distinguished Service Award (2012) North American Strawberry Growers Association
- CALS Outstanding Faculty Award (2012) CALS Alumni Association
- Distinguished Service Award (2011) North American Raspberry and Blackberry Growers Association
- Harbut, R., Pritts, M. P., & Cheng, L. (2016). Changes in morphological, biochemical and physiological traits in strawberry in the northeastern United States during one hundred years of breeding. J. Amer. Pomol. Soc. 70:194-206. Journal of American Pomological Society. 70:194-206.
- Gallagher, E. J., Mudge, K. W., Pritts, M. P., & DeGloria, S. D. (2014). Growth and development of Illini Hardy blackberry (Rubus subgenus Eubatus Focke) under shaded systems. Agroforestry Systems.
- Pritts, M. P., & Park, T. D. (2013). Proposed Learning Outcomes for Four-year Horticulture Programs in the United States. HortTechnology. 23:237-240.
- Acuna-Maldonado, L., & Pritts, M. P. (2013). Seasonal patterns of carbohydrate and nitrogen accumulation and depletion in strawberry are affected by fruiting but not day neutrality. Journal of American Pomological Society. 67:95-103.
- Pritts, M. P. (2012). Managing farming systems, landscapes, pests and pathogens to improve consumer acceptance of berries. Acta Horticulturae. 926:579-585.
- Maldonado, L. A., & Pritts, M. P. (2009). Carbon and nitrogen reserves in perennial strawberry affect plant growth and yield. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 133:735-742.
- Harbut, R., & Pritts, M. P. (2008). A century of strawberry breeding in the northeastern US. HortScience. 42:897.
- Pritts, M. P. (2008). Primocane-fruiting raspberry production. HortScience. 43:1640-1641.
- Pritts, M. P. (2008). Raspberries Under Cover. Small Farm Quarterly.
- Turechek, W. W., Heidenreich, C., Lakso, A. N., & Pritts, M. P. (2007). Estimation of photosynthetic impact and physiological lesion size for strawberry leaf scorch. Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology. 29:159-165.
Presentations and Activities
- Environmental history of central New York. Old Growth Forest Tour. July 2017. The History Center. Trumansburg.
- Applications of Plant Science. NSF Upward Bound. June 2017. Upstate NY Alliance . Ithaca.
- Soil health in strawberries. Great Lakes EXPO. December 2016. North American Strawberry Growers Association. Grand Rapids, MI.
- Getting started with berry crop production. Veteran's Small Farm Education Program. April 2016. CCE. Binghamton.
- Getting started with commercial berry production. Getting started with commercial berry production. March 2016. Ontario County CCE. Canandaigua.
- Extending local strawberry production using low tunnel technology. Empire State Producer's Expo. January 2016. NYSAES. Syracuse, NY.
- Low tunnels and day neutral strawberries extend production until November. Great Lakes Fruit Workers. November 2015. CCE. Geneva.
- Growing Blackberries in Cold Climates. International Rubus-Ribes Symposium. June 2015. ISHS. Asheville, NC.
- Soil and Nutrient Management in Berry Crops. Fruit Crop Nutrition Short Course. March 2015. Connecticut Cooperative Extension. South Windsor, CT.
- Evolution of the strawberry. Darwin Days, Museum of the Earth. February 2015. Paleontological Research Institute. Ithaca.