At the 2021 joint meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) and the American Pomological Society (APS), Cornell apple researcher Terence Robinson was elected an ASHS Fellow, awarded the APS’s Wilder Medal and was co-author of the best article published in the APS’s journal in 2020.
Robinson is a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science based at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, N.Y., where he started his professional career in 1984 after receiving his PhD from Washington State University.
Established in 1873, the prestigious Wilder Medal is conferred on individuals or organizations for outstanding service to horticulture in the broad area of pomology, the science of growing fruit. Robinson’s varied career contributions are particularly noteworthy.
Perhaps Robinson’s greatest achievement has been the refinement of high-density orchard systems. His pioneering research on planting density, pruning strategies and other management practices led to the tall spindle orchard system, which is currently the most profitable and widely planted apple production system in the world.
Robinson has collaborated with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) breeder Gennaro Fazio to evaluate apple rootstocks worldwide. Together, they've developed and released 12 new rootstocks that make up 60 percent of U.S. market share and are being rapidly adopted worldwide. One variety, Geneva® 41, won the 2018 ASHS Outstanding Fruit Cultivar Award. “Without Terence Robinson’s role as keeper and evaluator, the new series of Geneva apple rootstocks would not have been available to apple growers in the U.S. and around the world,” said Fazio.
In collaboration with retired Cornell AgriTech professor Alan Lakso, Robinson helped develop models to fine-tune fruit thinning with plant growth regulators to optimize crop load, maximizing crop value. His other research efforts have demonstrated the value of drip irrigation in orchards in humid regions and the effects of management practices on apple quality.
While his research output has been prolific, Robinson’s dedication to working with fruit growers – across New York and around the world – has been exemplary. In addition to delivering more than 800 talks to orchardists and penning more than 400 grower-targeted articles, Robinson has shared he expertise through on-farm demonstrations and research projects, workshops, field days and in other venues.
Fazio recalled one example of his dedication to sharing what he knows with others. “During a field tour after an international fruit growers meeting, there was Terence in a blowing snowstorm with pruning shears in hand, showing several international apple growers how to train a tree into a tall spindle, being careful to explain the principles behind what he was demonstrating.”
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