Two Cornell-led specialty crop projects received over $6 million dollars from the United States Department of National Institute of Food and Agriculture to advance apple rootstock technology and help develop an east coast broccoli industry.
Nineteen awards were gifted by the USDA to agricultural projects nationwide, and the two Cornell-led projects were the only projects in New York State to receive this honor, according to the University.
The first project — directed by Lailiang Cheng, professor of horticultural physiology — will focus on the U.S. apple industry and was awarded $4,281,618.
Cheng explained that this project will address the current rootstock problem in the United States, including replant diseases and soil stresses, which have caused significant losses in profit for apple farmers.
“The deficiencies of current rootstocks create an urgency to develop and adopt new, improved rootstock varieties,” Cheng told the University. “However, to prevent costly mistakes in planting inferior rootstocks, there is a critical need to thoroughly evaluate new candidate rootstocks before we adopt them.”
The research will focus on evaluating and developing new rootstock technologies that will aim to improve fruit quality of high-value cultivars, according to the University.
“This project will not only provide Americans with sustainably produced, healthy, high-quality fruit, but will also ensure that U.S. farmers remain competitive in international markets,” said Kathryn J. boor, the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Also directing this project are Prof. Terence Robinson, horticulture, Prof. Bradley Rickard, applied economics and management, and Prof. Gennaro Fazio, horticulture, alongside other researchers from the USDA, Washington State University, University of Idaho, Utah State University and Michigan State University, the University said.
The second project — led by Thomas Bjorkman, associate professor of horticulture — was awarded $2,019,142 to continue the interdisciplinary research, that began in 2011, on the East Coast broccoli industry.
Since last year, the project has been testing different hybrids of broccoli varieties with tolerance to eastern heat and humidity, with an aim to establish a new systematic broccoli industry. The new market will produce locally and promote economic developments in East Coast communities, according to the University.
“Our vision is to create a regional food network for an increasingly important and nutritious vegetable that may serve as a model for other specialty crops,” Bjorkman told the University.