Horticulture/Plant Breeding Projects

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These are the Horticulture/Plant Breeding projects that our Summer Research Scholars will be tackling in 2019.  Faculty members associated with each project are also listed. You can read more about their programs by clicking on their names.

1. Space saving columnar apple trees!

Apple TreesAlthough most apple trees branch and grow rapidly in size, there are compact ones, called columnar apple trees, which are slow in growth, have little branching, and require less space and pruning in orchard. Join us to uncover the molecular switches that can turn on or off the columnar growth, while learning basic techniques in plant genomics, such as DNA and RNA isolation, DNA sequencing, and gene expression analysis.
Lab 80%, Field: 20% Faculty: Xu


2. Drone technology for willow

drone launchRemote sensing by way of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones offer a quick and cost-effective way to detect biotic and abiotic stressors at the field and plot levels. You will use high-resolution cameras and multispectral sensors mounted on a UAS to develop indices that correlate well with ground-based phenotypes in shrub willow, such as canopy chlorophyll content, pest and disease outbreaks and plant height. You will gain knowledge in the use of the latest image analysis software packages, open-source GIS, as well as field-based techniques for evaluating woody plant growth.
Lab: 40%, Field: 60% Faculty: L. Smart


3. Genetic control of flowering time in grapevines

grape flowersControl of flowering time is a complex trait in grapevines and has rarely been studied in North American species commonly used in grapevine breeding. Flowering time controls adaptation of plants to their local environment, and evidently, climate change is causing vines to flower earlier. Consequently, it becomes quite important for breeders to gain some control over flowering time in potential new cultivars. As part of this project, flowering time along with climate parameters (temperature, solar radiation) will be assessed with two complementary grapevine segregating seedling populations. One group of seedlings descends from a very early flowering parent, while the other group descends from a later flowering species. You will interact with a national cooperative grapevine genetics project (VitisGen2; www.vitisgen2.org) to use your flowering time data with pre-existing molecular marker-based genetic maps in order to elucidate the genetic architecture of the flowering time in grapevines in terms of finding regions of grapevine chromosomes influencing the timing of flowering,  and measuring the magnitude of gene effects, epistasis, gene-by-environment interactions, and pleiotropy.
Lab: 40%, Field: 60% Faculty: Reisch


4. Building better broccoli

broccoli We study the physiology and genetics of how broccoli uses temperature to regulate flower development. This work is part of a broader effort to develop broccoli that is resilient to the eastern climate, and to use the new hybrids to expand local production of this widely consumed crop (easternbroccoli.org). The summer project will involve scoring phenotypes and matching them with genomic information in several diverse collections of genotypes. 
Lab: 50%, Field: 50% Faculty: Björkman


5. Biodiversity of vegetables

Explore the diversity and natural colors in vegetable crops and how they can contribute to aesthetics and nutrition.  You will work in both the greenhouse and field with an applied breeding program to identify and select new plants with diverse colors and shapes.  The summer scholar experience will also include an opportunity to evaluate phytochemical profiles and how they influence plant nutrition and color. 
Lab/Greenhouse: 70%, Field: 30% Faculty: Griffiths


6. Mapping resistance to pests of willow

Are you interested in sustainable energy sources? Have you ever thought about working with one of them? Shrub willow (Salix) is an up and coming sustainable energy source with a beetle problem. We have mapping populations that you can use to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) for resistance to imported willow leaf beetle and Japanese beetle, comparing results between field and lab surveys.
Lab/Greenhouse: 60%, Field: 40% Faculty: L. Smart


7. Breeding and selection of industrial hemp

hempIndustrial hemp is Cannabis sativa that produces low levels of THC and has numerous food, medicinal, and industrial uses. Cornell is initiating the first public hemp breeding program in the US, and we are evaluating germplasm for breeding and commercial cultivars for their adaptability to NY conditions. You will assist with field trial measurements, chemical, and genetic analysis of industrial hemp. Hemp is hot, pot is not!
Lab: 30%, Field: 70% Faculty: L. Smart


8. Apple trees grow horizontally

Apple trees grow upward normally. However, the picture shows that an apple tree can grow horizontally. It would certainly cause headaches if such trees were grown in apple orchard. Can we learn something from ‘the bad and the ugly’ and then make something good out it? The answer is YES as understanding the underlying genetics and genomics will provide useful information for making apple trees grow with optimum architecture. The mystery of horizontally growing apple trees is being revealed, but much remains unknown. Want to be part of our mystery solving team?
Lab: 80%, Field/Greenhouse: 20% Faculty: Xu