Alumni Story: Nick Vorsa, Better Cranberries Through Science

Nick Vorsa in cranberry research bog.

Nick Vorsa in cranberry research bog.

Nicholi Vorsa (Cook ’76, GSNB ’85) is director of the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension in Chatsworth, N.J. He and his team have developed new varieties of cranberries that have offered many improvements for commercial production. The story of his work in collecting cranberry germplasm and mapping its genome appeared in the May, 2014 issue of Fruit Growers News, reprinted here.

Rutgers breeding program puts science first

The process leading to the release of breakthrough cranberry varieties at Rutgers University represents a nearly 30-year evolution. Driving the program to these heights has been Nicholi Vorsa and his colleagues. [Read more...]

Rutgers Biotech Collaboration with B1G Member Ohio State Incorporates Partnership with University of São Paulo

Illustration: Ohio State University Arts and Sciences Communications Services

Illustration: Ohio State University Arts and Sciences Communications Services

Plant biotechnologists at Rutgers and Ohio State are working together to harness renewable energy from agricultural crops. This arrangement is incorporating a longstanding partnership with University of São Paulo  (USP) in Brazil. The connection both schools previously held with USP was spurred by retiree and alum, Rod Sharp (GSNB ’67-Botany) who was the dean of research at Cook College at Rutgers, after having already established that partnership while at Ohio State as professor of microbiology. Read more at Rutgers Today.

Annual Rutgers Turfgrass Research Field Days Draws Record Attendance

Participants in "Rutgers Turfgrass Research Field Days" listen to a Rutgers research discuss new varieties of turfgrass durign the annual program held at Hort Farm II.

Participants in “Rutgers Turfgrass Research Field Days” listen to a Rutgers researcher discuss new varieties of turfgrass during the annual program held at Hort Farm II.

On July 29-30, Rutgers held its annual Turfgrass Research Field Days at the Turf Research Farm – Hort Farm II, off Ryders Lane in North Brunswick, NJ. Over 800 industry professionals attended this record-breaking, two-day event, which has its roots in the 1920s, although regular turf field days in New Jersey did not occur annually until after World War II.

In what may well be the largest “outdoor classroom” event at the university, the latest field research was passed on to industry practitioners in highly-interactive sessions in which the researchers summarized their research and the attendees listened and asked questions. Attendees also qualified for Golf Course Superintendents Association of America education points as well as pesticide applicator re-certification credits from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. [Read more...]

Fellowship for Outstanding Early Career Scientists Awarded to Rutgers Bioinformaticist Yana Bromberg

Yana Bromberg

Yana Bromberg

How can you tell one microbial species from another? One way is to compare species functional abilities encoded in microbial DNA. To do so experimentally, that is to design and carry out bench experiments to establish the molecular functions of every gene in every microbial genome, is not feasible. Bioinformatics, an interdisciplinary field that combines computer science and biology, enables this kind of biologically relevant analyses in silico, i.e. using computational models.

Beginning this summer, Yana Bromberg, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, will start research to address this question at the Institute for Advanced Study at the Technical University of Munich (TUM-IAS) in Germany, under a TUM-IAS Hans Fischer Fellowship for outstanding early-career scientists. This three-year fellowship supports a Ph.D.-level graduate student to work under Bromberg’s supervision. It also provides financial support that will allow Bromberg to spend time at TUM-IAS refining and developing advanced bioinformatics techniques useful in medical research and industrial applications. [Read more...]

Beating the Bugs in the Bogs: Postdoctoral Student Studies Cranberry Resistance to Gypsy Moth

Elvira de Lange wrapping a cranberry plant with newly hatched gypsy moth larva.

Elvira de Lange wrapping a cranberry plant with newly hatched gypsy moth larva.

The gypsy moth is a destructive insect pest infesting New Jersey’s forests, destroying thousands of acres of trees. In the New Jersey Pinelands, the gypsy moth is also an occasional pest of cranberries. Gypsy moth caterpillars will readily eat the plants in outbreak years, when they are abundant in the Pinelands, like in 2007. The caterpillars prefer to feed on oaks, but when they encounter cranberry plants, their presence can have a devastating effect. Fortunately, since 2007, the caterpillars have rarely been seen in the New Jersey Pinelands. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared for their eventual return. Also, studying cranberry resistance against gypsy moth will teach us about the resistance of the plants against other important pests as well.

At the Rutgers Marucci Cranberry and Blueberry Research Center in Chatsworth, NJ, studies led by postdoctoral student Elvira de Lange are currently testing the insect resistance of seven varieties of cranberry, including the widely used Stevens variety and newer varieties such as Crimson Queen and Demoranville. De Lange started off wrapping the different plants in white polyester sleeves and adding a number of gypsy moth larvae that just hatched from the egg. A week later, she retrieved the larvae from the plants and weighed them, to evaluate whether or not they grew well on certain plants. Also, she scored the damage the gypsy moth evoked, as a measure for plant resistance. She is still evaluating the data, in order to know if certain cranberry varieties are more resistant than others. [Read more...]