Horticulture Hokies Win 2nd Place at the Inn’s Fashion for Evergreens

Congratulations to Barbara Leshyn and Lisa Lipsey! The tree they decorated for the VT Inn’s Fashion for Evergreens contest won 2nd place!! There were approximately 20 trees decorated by different local organizations. Check them all out here: VT Inn Fashion for Evergreen Facebook album.

VT News: Susan Day honored with top arboriculture research award

From VT News:

Susan Day, associate professor of urban forestry in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment, is this year’s recipient of the International Society of Arboriculture’s L.C. Chadwick Award of Arboricultural Research. This award of distinction is given to individuals to recognize their investigation and analysis and its valuable contribution to arboriculture.

Read the entire article here: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2017/09/cnre-susandayisaaward.html

Congratulations to Paul Chumbley, CALS June Employee of the Month!

Pictured left to right are Lisa Lipsey, Paul Chumbley, Alan Grant, and Richard Veilleux

Congratulations to the June Employee of the Month – Paul Chumbley, Horticulturist with Department of Horticulture

Paul’s nominator praised his work ethic and attitude  He makes hard work fun.  With a positive attitude and a smile, Paul comes everyday to work at the Hahn Horticulture Garden with a willingness to help his co-workers, to guide and instruct student interns and volunteers, and to work diligently to make the Hahn Garden the most beautiful place on the Virginia Tech campus.

In addition to his prescribed work, Paul has over the years mentored numerous students, not just those pursuing a horticulture degree, but many from diverse backgrounds and disciplines.  He instructs students in Public Garden Maintenance and Landscape Construction classes as they work in the Hahn Garden on specific maintenance and expansion projects.  He guides student interns and workers showing by example how best to accomplish tasks, giving them invaluable real-world experience. 

…  He makes annual events –  such as the spring Plant Sale in partnership with The Horticulture Club, our Garden Gala, our Art in the Garden exhibit, and our Christmas Open House – happen with ease and enthusiasm.  He is inventive when problem solving, respectful of his co-workers, and proud of his work here at Virginia Tech.  He stays current in his job by attending seminars and classes outside the University, traveling to industry trade shows, and visiting industry leaders in our state.

As the June Employee of the Month, Paul received a plaque, gifts from the college, has his photo displayed in the case in Hutcheson Hall, and will be eligible to be considered for the 2016-17 Employee of the Year award.

(This write-up and photo is from Stephanie Stockholm’s email to the CALS listserv)

Ron Morse was recognized for a lifetime achievement in improving soil and water quality

Photo of Dan Luebben (Carl Luebben’s son), Ron Morse with his award, and Eric Bendfeldt. Photo by Barbara Bowen.

Ron Morse, an Emeritus Associate Professor of the Horticulture Department at Virginia Tech, was awarded the 2016 Carl Luebben Soil Health and Water Quality Award which recognizes a lifetime achievement in improving soil health and water quality in Virginia. This award was presented to him at the 2016 Virginia Farm to Table Conference, hosted by Virginia Cooperative Extension and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Services. He was nominated by the 2015 awardee, Mark Schonbeck, who said “Dr. Morse has, through a combination of research, education, extension, and community outreach endeavors, made a very substantial contribution to soil health in vegetable production across the US.”

Morse’s focus on sustainable agriculture and conservation began in 1979, when he received an appeal for help from an Extension agent in mountainous Carroll County, with a photo showing a major highway blocked by soil washed onto the road from a cabbage field under conventional tillage.  Ron’s answer was, “Stop plowing.”

Beginning in 1980, when “no-till” was practiced mainly on a limited number of corn/soybean acres in the Midwest, Morse began researching, developing, demonstrating, teaching, and promoting no-till practices on vegetable crops. His successful demonstrations of cover crop-based no-till for pumpkins, squash, broccoli and other crucifers, tomato, potato, and other vegetables has led to adoption of these systems by both organic and conventional producers.

Ron Morse emphasizes that the use of high biomass cover crops in no-till systems is as equally fundamental as the elimination of tillage itself. He has developed Conservation Agriculture systems for both organic and conventional vegetable production that contribute to soil health and water quality in several ways. Key elements of these systems include:

  • No-till for conventional crops and reduced-till for organic crops, including the development and refinement of no-till equipment. These practices minimize soil disturbance and reduce erosion and leaching.
  • Permanent controlled-traffic raised beds to minimize compaction and improve soil health.
  • Farmscaping with native flowering plants to provide food and habitat for natural enemies of insect pests, reducing the need for pesticides and increasing biodiversity.
  • High biomass cover crops integrated into diverse crop rotations to reduce nitrogen fertilizer application, increase soil organic matter, reduce nutrient leaching, and provide a surface mulch that conserves soil moisture and suppresses weeds.
  • Fertigation with soluble organic and conventional fertilizers to match crop nutrient uptake and reduce leaching.
Photo of farmscaping system on Kentland Farm. Photo by Alex Hessler.

Ron Morse taught courses in vegetable crop production and plant nutrition while a professor in the Horticulture Department. Though he retired from the department in 2003, he remained active in research until 2015. In 2009, he served as an advisor for the development of the six-acre Dining Services Farm as a site for hands-on education for students in the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems minor (USDA-Higher Education Grant 2009-38411-19770).  The Dining Services Farm now hosts the Sustainable Agriculture Practicum, an experiential course in sustainable vegetable production in the Horticulture Department.  In 2015, The Dining Services Farm provided nearly 50,000 pounds of produce to dining centers on Virginia Tech’s campus.  Farm manager and Horticulture instructor Alex Hessler worked closely with Dr. Morse for several years.  “Ron’s tireless passion for refining no-till equipment and practices continues to inspire the next generation of farmers and agricultural researchers,” says Hessler.

Ron is currently in the process of writing a manual synthesizing the Conservation Agriculture system that he has developed.

Congratulations to Ron Morse, 2016 awardee of the Carl Luebben Soil Health and Water Quality Award.

2011 PLANET Competition

After a 3 year hiatus from PLANET Student Career Days, the Hort Hokies returned to their old form last weekend by placing among the top ten teams from across the country. Over 850 students participated in the four-day conference held near Chicago at Joliet Junior College. Virginia Tech was the top ACC school (7th), with NSCU (11th), University of Maryland (14th) and Clemson (15th) also placing high in the competition. WVU finished 29th.

Eight students won individual honors placing in the top four in their respective events. Tish Poteet placed 2nd in the Annual & Perennial ID event, Samantha Hugo placed 3rd in the 3D Exterior Landscape Design event, JB Snelson placed 3rd in Irrigation Troubleshooting, Travis Jowers placed 3rd in the Tractor Loader Backhoe Operations event, and Jake Shreckhise place 3rd in Woody Ornamental Plant ID. The team of Billy Yuhase and Paul Hutcheson placed 4th in the Arboriculture Techniques event and Anne Howell placed 4th (with a perfect score) in Maintenance Cost Estimating.

Also notable were:

  • The team of Laura Shields and Paul Hutcheson placed 8th in Personnel Management
  • The team of Wesley Chiles and Zebulon Ethier placed 9th in Truck & Trailer Operation
  • Andrew Ransone placed 10th in Compact Excavator Operation
  • Tish Poteet placed 10th in Interior Landscape Design
  • The team of David Fetchko and Andrew Ransone placed 11th in Paver Installation
  • Daniel King placed 11th in Maintenance Cost Estimating
  • Anthony Piselli placed 12th in Exterior Landscape DesignEvery student who attended contributed to our success. Even if a student doesn’t place high in an event, his/her points are added to the team’s total. While the team officially was sponsored by the Horticulture Department, there were students from the Ag Tech program, Ag Econ, Mechanical Engineering and Landscape Architecture.

Bingyu Zhao receives the NSF CAREER Award

Bingyu Zhao has received a $1 million, five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for his research on host-plant resistance to control plant disease. This recognition is NSF’s most pretigious award for creative junior faculty who are considered to be future leaders in their academic fields.

Dr. Zhao has identified a disease resistance gene in corn called Rxo1. This gene can recognize a bacterial protein (AvrRxo1) and stop the bacteria frominvading the plant cells, preventing infection. Not only can the Rxo1 gene protect corn plants from disease, it still functions when it is transferred to tobacco plants, which are very different taxonomically to corn. This is exciting because genes typically loose their functionality when they are transferred to different plant families. Dr. Zhao hopes to discover why Rxo1 has this ability and show breeders how to transfer the disease resistance gene from corn to other economic crops. (graphic)

Plant diseases that the Rxo1 gene can defend against include rice bacterial leaf streak, sorghum leaf streak, tomato bacterial leaf spot, and watermelon fruit blotch diseases. This is because all of the bacterial pathogens of these diseases carry the bacterial protein AvrRxo1.

This grant also provides training for undergraduate and graduate students and supports workshops at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, VA to attract minority high-school students to careers in plant biology.


2008 CALS Alumni Awards

Jeffrey Miller (’70) received the Outstanding Alumni Award

Jeffrey is president of Horticulture Management Associates LLC, a company that designs, hosts, and maintains websites for various organizations and nursery businesses. He serves as Executive Director of three prominent horticultural associations in Virginia (Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, Virginia Green Industry Council, and the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association) and is a member of many organizations such as the American Association of Association Executives, Garden Writers of America, Nursery and Landscape Association Executives of North America, Southern Nursery Association, Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia 4–H All–Stars, and the Virginia Tech Alumni Association.

His past awards include:

  • Virginia Tech Ag Alumni Organization Distinguished Service Citation (1996)
    Small Business Leader of the Year from the Christiansburg–Montgomery County
  • Chamber of Commerce (1992)
  • David E. Laird Memorial Award for outstanding contributions and service in the field of Environmental Horticulture by the Southern Nursery Association (1983)

    Josh Kane (’98) received the Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

    Josh’s entrepreneurial spirit and efforts transformed a one-man mowing operation into a $3 million company that employs over 30 people. His company, Kane Lawn & Landscapes, specializes in high quality landscape contracting activities in the northern Virginia area. Josh is a landscape designer and his designing talent has earned he and his company the very prestigious “Best in Show” award at the Washington Home and Garden Expo. He has also been awarded Planets National Safety Award the past several years. Josh is very active in his community with work donated to the local Habitat for Humanity and school clean–up drives, as well as sponsoring little league sports teams.