Campus Area Farms manages 325 acres on 11 small farms in and around the Cornell Campus that are easily accessible for faculty and students. Research includes breeding research on popular food crops, such as corn, small grains, potatoes and pumpkins. Researchers investigate possible genetic improvements that would make these crops more suitable for growing in New York and other comparable climates. One exciting new project is a multi-acre trial of different grasses dedicated to biofuels to see which are most adaptable to New York and other comparable climates.
- New biocontrol strategies are tested on a plantation of 120 young hemlock trees, for their effectiveness to combat hemlock woolly adelgid – an invasive insect pest now killing hemlocks all over New York state. Hemlocks are a foundation species that creates new habitat, and protects gorges and watersheds. Finding effective biocontrol methods fast is essential for the survival of these giant trees and the species that depend on them.
- The Small Grains Breeding & Genetics Research Program identifies superior genetic information in small grains such as oats, wheat, rye and barley. It aims to improve yield, nutritional quality, disease resistance, and other characteristics that increase the crop value and production efficiency.
- The cucurbit breeding project produces cucumber, melon and squash varieties, as well as peppers for disease resistance, superior flavor and adaptation to the Northeaster US. This project is working with the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative, which aims to develop and deliver improved vegetables varieties selected for superior performance in organic growing systems.
- Another breeding project develops new potato varieties adapted to the Northeast that meet the ever-changing needs of the regional potato industry. Recent releases include 'Marcy', a high-yielding cultivar designed for making potato chips, 'Adirondack Red', a red-skinned, red-fleshed specialty variety, and 'Lehigh', a widely-adapted, scab-resistant, yellow-flesh line.
- Research projects on tomatoes focus on breeding fresh market varieties for disease resistance, in particular early and late blight. Onion variety breeding focus on pest and disease resistance, in particular Botrytis leaf blight, which results in huge losses for onion growers.
- Other studies are conducted on the effects of herbicides on plants and weeds and the adverse affects on soil structure.
Grasses for Bioenergy
The CALS Bioenergy Feedstock Project is the only project of its kind devoted to exploring the many species of field grass that grow in the Northeast and their potential as sources for biofuels. The project has about 75 acres of different warm- and cool-season perennial grass varieties, including 12 varieties of switchgrass alone. Research on production of bioenergy feedstock was initiated to provide farmers and producers with information on planting and managing grasses and other crops for the emerging agricultural energy industry in the Northeast.
A different research project focuses on the development, production and pelleting of grasses and woody material biofuels. Grass pellets have great potential as low-tech, small-scale, environmentally friendly, renewable energy system that be locally produced, processed and consumed, and help communities to move towards energy independency.