Horticulture & Plant Breeding Projects
1. Full-spectrum hyperspectral imaging for weed research and management
Hyperspectral imaging is a promising tool for precision weed management and weed herbicide resistance. In this project, you will use cutting-edge full spectrum (400 to 2500 nm) hyperspectral imaging systems to characterize major spectral signatures for weed-crop differentiation and herbicide resistance detection and quantification. You will learn and apply computational skills (e.g., computer vision and machine learning) to hyperspectral image analysis as well as domain knowledge about weed biology and herbicide resistance through collaborative experiments and data interpretation. Outcomes from this project will allow both the engineering and weed science community to innovate sensing solutions to precision weed management and research in the future.
Lab: 70%, Field: 30%
2. Rise of the Robot Weeders!
Weeds interfere with crops, directly, through resource competition, which results in reduced yield. For many growers, herbicides are the most frequently used tools to manage unwanted vegetation. However, a heavy reliance on herbicides for weed control is economically and environmentally unsustainable due to 1) the evolution of herbicide resistance, 2) crop injury concerns, and 3) changing public perceptions about pesticide use. This research project will evaluate the weed control efficacy (I.e. which weed species are controlled and which aren’t) of an autonomous Naio Oz robot weeder in vegetables (like sweet corn) and field crops (like soybeans). This will include describing the Oz’s performance in heritage crop varieties, such as flint and popcorn. The scholar will also help to develop extension materials for presentation at grower meetings. The goal is to show stakeholders what the coming wave of innovative weed control technology looks like, especially for small and underserved farms and farm communities.
Lab: 30%, Field: 70%
3. Timing is everything: phenological variation and response to climate in grapevines
Grapevines are cultivated as a clonal crop, with the same genetic individual grown across highly variable climates. One of the primary threats to grapevine production across the globe is changes in growth and development because of increased temperatures due to climate change. As temperatures rise, the timing and pattern of grapevine growth can change, resulting in differences in flowering time and ripening time of the berries. This project will examine how different grapevine varieties grow and develop throughout the growing season, with special attention to differences between the domesticated species, Vitis vinifera, and newly developed cultivars that are were developed through hybridization with wild grapevines species. The project will involve field work measuring and monitoring growth, phenology, and physiological traits as well as molecular lab experience and computational biology. The summer scholar will work in collaboration with a graduate student and the rest of the lab to learn methods for field observations, perform DNA and RNA extractions in the lab, and learn how to design and analyze experimental results with the R programming language.
Lab: 25%, Field: 50%, Computer: 25%
4. Observe this! High-Throughput Phenotyping in Hemp
In this project, you will learn about the phenomenal hemp plant, high-throughput phenotyping, and how genotype and environment influence phenotype. Throughout the summer, you will collect ground-based phenotypes such as plant height, color, and flowering, and then correlate this data with drone-based phenotypes. With this project, you will gain knowledge in precision agriculture and plant breeding practices, as well as data analysis in Python and/or R. This project will directly contribute to a broader effort of developing high-throughput phenotyping applications in hemp and support breeding efforts of late-flowering high-cannabinoid hemp cultivars.
Field: 60%, Computer: 40%
Mentors: L. Smart, Maylin Murdock
5. Solving the Chili-Pepper Shaped Tomato Seed Problem
The Cornell AgriTech vegetable breeding program has developed new small-fruited tomato lines shaped like chili-peppers and baby bell peppers in multiple fruit colors to introduce new aesthetics for consumers and to make food more fun! The seed production is very low in the preferred indeterminate vine plant type reducing its commercial opportunities but is improved significantly in fruits of determinate bush type plants, a morphological trait determined by a recessive gene. This project will generate hybrids among a series of determinate and indeterminate chili-pepper tomatoes to determine differences in seed set by crossing in each direction to more efficiently generate hybrid seed; together with evaluation of fruit product set and quality in the different plant types in high tunnels. On this project, the summer scholar will work in the greenhouse, field/high tunnel and laboratory to gain exposure to vegetable breeding, horticulture, plant hybridization and most importantly product quality and desirability, together with planning cross sets, generating and evaluating data sets and helping to solve the low seed production problem in indeterminate tomato plants.
Greenhouse: 40%, Lab: 20%, Field/High Tunnels: 40%
Faculty: Phillip Griffiths
6. Using micro-tensiometers to manage water stress to maximize fruit size of apple orchards with different rootstocks
The number of apples per tree can be controlled by precision crop load management but final fruit size is also affected by plant water status. Moreover, other important factors can influence the water status and fruit size is the rootstock. This way, it is necessary understand the and characterize the tolerance of apple rootstocks to soil water content. The objective of this project will be to understand apple fruit growth dynamics and relate it to water stress to manage irrigation for maximum fruit size and crop value in apple cultivars with different rootstocks. The project will involve field work measuring and monitoring apple fruits growth, phenology photosynthesis and water status. The summer scholar will work in collaboration with two postdocs and the rest of the lab to learn methods for field observations using different instruments to measure and learn how to design and analyze experimental results with JMP and SAS programming language.
Lab: 25%, Field: 50%, Computer: 25%
7. Who's in control? Physiological variation and rootstock-scion interaction in grafted apples
Apples (Malus domestica) are the number one consumed fruit in the United States and they are cultivated as a clonal and grafted crop. The top portion of the tree, the scion, is selected for fruit quality traits, while the roots are selected for dwarfing and vigor control. The scion and rootstock are mechanically grafted together, and how these two separate parts of the tree communicate and function as a single individual and respond to stress is largely unknown. This project will work to better understand the physiological differences between different rootstock and scion combinations under field conditions. The project will involve field work measuring fruit growth rate and development, and foliar physiological traits, across different rootstock-scion combinations. The summer scholar will work in collaboration with a graduate student and the rest of the lab to collect field data, examine samples under microscopes, perform RNA extractions in the lab, and analyze data using the R programming language.
Lab: 25%, Field: 50%, Computer: 25%
8. What is the effect of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) seed size on dehulling efficiency and seedling vigor?
Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) can produce high-protein grain for food and feed applications. Hemp seed size can vary dramatically, but the impact of this variation on processing parameters and early seedling growth remains to be tested. This project will explore the association of hemp seed weight and size among cultivars with ease of processing for hull removal and seedling vigor for crop establishment. This phenotyping will also be applied to a segregating mapping population, enabling the identification of genomic locations associated with these traits and, subsequently, the development of molecular markers. The summer scholar will work in greenhouse, laboratory, and processing facilities to gain experience in a hemp breeding program. They will learn techniques in breeding and genetics, grain processing, experimental design, and data collection, processing and analysis. The results of this project will inform future hemp breeding, production, and processing.
Greenhouse: 50%, Lab/Processing facility: 50%
Faculty: L. Smart
9. Effect of different chemical thinners on fruit set and fruit ethylene evolution in apple cultivars.
Most apples cultivars (Malus × domestica Borkh.) have excessive fruit set and require flower and fruit thinning to achieve an optimum crop load. Apple fruit thinning is an important practice for the maximization of crop value. Appropriate thinning must be done year to year because of the benefits to fruit size, color, and the regulation of alternance. Mathematical models have been developed to increase the predictability of chemical thinning. They include the carbohydrate model, the pollen tube growth model and the fruit growth rate model. The Carbohydrate model and the pollen tube growth are based in predictions in base a weather data and need a good weather forecast to predict the efficiency of thinning. The fruit growth model is a direct measurement and need 8 days for now a prediction. Ethylene is a natural plant hormone that promoting fruit abscission. Currently, there are new thinning products that stimulating ethylene biosynthesis. The objective of this project to evaluate the effect of different thinning products on fruit set and flower ethylene evolution in apple, as well as to understand the ethylene evolution after spray thinners. The project will involve field work measuring and monitoring apple ethylene production, apple fruit fall as well as lab experience using gas chromatograph. The summer scholar will work in collaboration with two postdocs and the rest of the lab to learn methods for field observations using different instruments to measure and learn how to design and analyze experimental results with JMP and SAS programming language
Lab: 65%, Field: 20%, Computer: 25%