Understanding New Plant Varieties

The Otsego County Master Gardener Volunteers hosted a Zoom presentation by plant scientists from Cornell for an informal and informative, Everything You Wanted to Know About Plant Breeding for Our Home Gardens, in March 

As we read through seed catalogs each year, we find an array of new plants. Have you wondered how these plants come to be? For more than 100 years, Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University has been recognized for their work in the fight for food security and responsible environmental stewardship in the 21st Century. It is ranked the top plant breeding department in the nation, focused on plant science and food systems at its research farms and non-commercial greenhouse. One result is creating plants for sustainability and resilience for us and for the planet.

This will be the start of a number of Gardenside Talks for home gardeners and all interested in plants and the environment. Our presenters for Understanding New Plant Varieties include doctoral students in plant breeding from Cornell AgriTech who bring a wide array of experience:

Marlie Lukach grew up in Owego, NY and now has a farm in Freeville, NY with dairy goats, meat rabbits, and chickens. Marlie is a PhD student in Plant Breeding and Genetics working with Dr. Mazoureck focusing on squash, pepper, pea, and dry bean breeding with a goal of increasing the accessibility of SE Asian and African crops. In the future, Marlie plans to focus on preserving and increasing the accessibility of other underutilized crops.

Ricky Tegtmeier is from the Hudson Valley. Ricky’s work with Dr Awais Khan has focused on understanding the genetics behind what makes an apple tree naturally resistant to diseases, especially wild species of apples that have a strong resistance to important apple diseases. What they learn helps apple breeders develop an apple that tastes great and requires less management.

Seren Villwock is a 3rd-year Plant Breeding & Genetics PhD student working with Dr. Jean-Luc Jannink, a USDA research geneticist, focusing on enhancing the nutritional quality of cassava, a starchy root that is an important food-security crop in Africa and Latin America. In the future, Seren would like to focus on increasing other healthful compounds that crops can provide.

Karl Kunze is from Wyoming, NY and a family has been actively involved in agriculture and gardening through generations – dairy farming, a greenhouse business, and completion of Master Gardener programs. Karl works with Dr. Mark Sorrells in the Cornell small grains breeding program. They work on applied breeding projects in both winter malting barley and organic naked barley, focusing on developing a winter malting barley variety adapted to NY growing conditions to increase the barley grown, malted, and brewed in NY.

Our thanks to Dr. Steve Reiners, Professor, Horticulture Section
School of Integrative Plant Science Cornell AgriTech

A Scientist and a Home Gardener

Last updated March 6, 2023