Enhanced Food Value

Optimizing growing conditions to maximize productivity in diverse environments

Optimizing environmental conditions and treatments to diverse needs of different cultivated varieties is essential to maximizing productivity of food crops. Strategies encompass seed treatments to maximize germination rate, cultivation practices that maximize yield, especially for those crops being grown at the northern edge of their natural range, and management of storage conditions to reduce losses post-harvest.

  • Neil Mattson’s program investigates how different environmental variables affect the growth of greenhouse crops.  Given that flower growers frequently grow many different cultivars and species in the same greenhouse, there is particular interest in identifying variables that benefit a wide range of plants.
  • Marvin Pritts’ research group focuses on berry production and how cultivation practices such as environment management with high and low tunnels can enhance growth in colder climates
  • Steve Reiners’ research focuses on cultural practices and variety selection for the processing vegetable industry, with particular interest in using cover crops to maximize nutrient cycling and reducing disease incidence
  • Terence Robinson’s program is dedicated to improving fruit production through identification of rootstocks most suitable for New York growers and development of orchard management practices that improve fruit size and quality
  • Tim Martinson, Northern Grapes Project leader,is focused on how best to integrate varieties and cultural practices to maximize productivity and fruit quality in the New York environment
  • William Cox conducts field trials throughout New York State to identify top performing soybean varieties and corn silage hybrids and management practices best suited for production in New York
  • Alan Taylor’s research program is focused on seed biology and development of seed treatments that protect against insect pests and pathogens.
  • Chris Watkins, in addition to his responsibilities as Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, researches management strategies for extending post-harvest storage of apples.   

Development of new cultivated plants with enhanced food value

Introduction of new traits into cultivated plants is one of the most powerful means of creating new varieties with enhanced nutritional value, resistance to pests and adaptation to different growing environments. With the recent advances in whole genome sequencing and analysis, we have new tools that greatly enhance the speed and precision with which these changes can be made

  • Thomas Bj√∂rkman’s program is involved in development of commercial broccoli varieties from existing germplasm that are capable of thriving in growing conditions of northeastern states, thereby minimizing the flavor-killing lag between harvest and consumption that occurs when broccoli is imported from more temperate regions
  • Susan Brown’s research group studies apple genetics and uses marker assisted breeding and transgene technology to develop new apple varieties including the recently released SnapDragon and RubyFrost.
  • Walter De Jong’s program works on genetic improvement of potato by conventional and molecular genetic means as well as identification of genes that control tuber color and shape
  • Phillip Griffiths’ research is focused on genetic improvement of snap bean and brassica crops, with particular focus on traits conferring resistance to plant diseases.
  • Susan McCouch’s program is focused on genetic analysis of rice and identification of genes and quantitative trait loci in wild and exotic species that enhance productivity of modern rice cultivars
  • Martha Mutschler-Chu’s research group works on the genetic improvement of tomatoes and onion with a particular focus on pathogen and insect pest resistance.
  • Bruce Reisch specializes in development of new grape varieties with the aid of marker-assisted breeding technology. Wine quality, disease resistance, and cold tolerance are among the traits of greatest interest.
  • Margaret Smith’s program focuses on genetic improvement of maize with an emphasis on traits that enhance performance in marginal environments
  • Mark Sorrells’ research group is engaged in genomic analysis of small grains and the mapping and characterization of candidate genes associated with stem rust resistance, nutritional quality and other kernel properties
  • Kenong Xu’s program is focused on characterization of regulatory networks in apple with an emphasis on those involved in stress resistance and fruit quality and longevity

Development of new analytical strategies for genome-assisted breeding

Rapid development of technologies for genome sequencing and genome-scale analysis are generating vast datasets that hold the key to potentially revolutionary insights regarding plant genetic potential. SIPS researchers are working at the forefront of the Big Data revolution, developing analytical tools and strategies that enable efficient application of these data to pressing worldwide problems

  • Ed Buckler’s research group uses genomics and statistical genetics to understand and dissect complex traits in maize and other crops, and develops software for relating genotype to phenotype
  • Jean-Luc Jannink’s primary focus is on developing statistical methods to use DNA markers in public sector small grains breeding
  • Michael Gore’s research group engages in genetic dissection of metabolic seed traits related to nutritional quality and contribute to the development and application of field-based, high-throughput phenotyping tools for plant breeding and genetics research

Application of breeding methods and agriculture strategies targeted to the developing world

Cornell has a long tradition of training international scientists, US students with an interest in applying their skills in the developing world, and fostering connections with international agriculture centers. Many SIPS researchers have extensive international collaborations, with some assuming significant leadership roles in Cornell’s internationally-directed programs.  

  • Ronnie Coffman, Cornell’s Director of International Programs, is engaged in developing world agriculture on several fronts including the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project and the NextGen Cassava Project
  • Sarah Davidson Evanega, Director of Alliance for Science, is focuses on leadership development and promotion of scientific innovation in developing countries in addition to advancing the role of women in agriculture
  • Vernon Gracen, Associate Director of the West African Center for Crop Improvement, trains plant breeders in traditional methods and new molecular technologies at locations in Africa and Thailand
  • Rebecca Nelson is Scientific Director for The McKnight Foundation's Collaborative Crop Research Program that funds agricultural research in developing countries. Her research program investigates natural genetic diversity for quantitative disease resistance in maize.