Category Archives: Horticulture

Pumpkin everything

Giant wooden bins filled with pumpkins, trees in the background.

You can tell it’s fall when you start seeing pumpkin everything: pumpkin lattes, pie, muffins, soups, cookies, cakes, coffee creamer, ice cream and Cheerios – what? Today, I thought I’d point out some great resources that our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educators have created to help us get into the pumpkin spirit.

First, we’ll need to know how to pick the perfect pumpkin. Good thing we have the “How to Choose the Right Pumpkin” resource by MSU Extension educator Jeannie Nichols with information on finding fully mature and delicious pumpkins.

Once we’ve found the right pumpkin, we turn to MSU Extension educator Lisa Treiber who prepared a great Michigan Fresh bulletin on using, storing and preserving pumpkins with detailed instructions and recommendations.

In case you’d like to dive deeper into pumpkin preservation, MSU Extension educator Stephanie Ostrenga has some important information in her “Pumpkin Preservation Safety Tips” article.

MSU Extension educator Stephanie Marino also has great advice on “Incorporating Pumpkin Into Your Diet This Season” with recipes included.

To fully immerse ourselves in all things pumpkin, the MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center in Novi is hosting their annual Pumpkinfest Oct.7–8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. that draws about 6,000 visitors. This will be a fantastic event for the whole family with a children’s straw maze, educational exhibits, music, pumpkin bowling, antique tractors, the MSU Bug House and more. On Sept. 27, we received MSU Extension educator Alan Jaros’ email encouraging us all to attend, represent our program areas at the event and bring interactive elements to engage the crowd. This is a great opportunity to show off what we do and celebrate all things pumpkin. If you have questions or if you would like to sign up, contact Aba Holmes at Hope you can make it.

Happy pumpkin season, everyone!

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Filed under Children and Youth, Events, Food, Food safety, Health and Nutrition, Horticulture, Nutrition, Resources

Records broken at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo

With 4,200 people, we set a record for the number of growers, family members, industry representatives and speakers who attended the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo Dec. 6-8, 2016. Growers accounted for 2,900 of the attendees, a record number, and about a third of all attendees traveled to attend the show from 47 states and seven Canadian provinces. The Expo is an outstanding showcase for Michigan State University (MSU) Extension research, and it also draws on the expertise of researchers from across the country. The event provides fruit, vegetable and greenhouse growers the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research on a wide variety of crops and topics.

All participants could choose between educational sessions for fruit and vegetable growers, greenhouse growers and farm marketers. Additionally, the Expo hosts a trade show every year, and that involved a record number of 457 companies represented this year.

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This event is a collaboration between the Michigan State Horticultural Society, the Michigan Vegetable Council, the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council and Michigan State University Extension. It is the premier event for sharing MSU Extension research with our diverse industry. The trade show complements the educational sessions and provides funding for them.

Other grower groups also use the Expo as a place and time to hold their meetings. For example, in 2016, the North American Strawberry Growers Association and the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association held their annual conferences in conjunction with the Expo.

Thank you to our MSU Extension team and their work to collaborate with our partners and put together such a successful event!

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Filed under Agriculture, Horticulture

An apple a day, brought to you by strategic connections

With fall in full swing, hopefully you’ve had a chance to pick up some Michigan apples from your local farmers market, orchard or grocery store. Did you know that Michigan is our country’s third largest producer of apples with more than 11.3 million apple trees on over 35,000 acres (according to the Michigan Apple Committee)? That’s 825 family-run farms that produce our juicy and delicious Pure Michigan apples. Who can bring the apple industry groups and families to the table with the university to problem-solve specific needs? Michigan State University (MSU) Extension agriculture and agribusiness educators Amy Irish-Brown and Phil Schwallier.

Through their strategic connections, Amy and Phil facilitated the creation of the lab on the Ridge near Sparta to measure apple maturity indices. The Ridge is Michigan’s major apple-producing region that is located in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. This region has the topography, soil, elevation and microclimate that are perfect for growing apples. The idea for a lab grew from a conversation Amy and Phil had on the way to a meeting about the need to closely monitor Honeycrisp and Fuji apples that had been experiencing some serious quality issues. When they pitched the idea to the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, they received an outstanding response from the entire apple industry.

The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission responded with $50,000 in funding for the project, the Michigan Apple Committee with $15,000, and the Michigan State Horticulture Society with $20,000. Storage Control Systems responded by donating space for the lab at a value of $5,000. AgroFresh donated an automatic firmness tester (valued at $5,000) and Riveridge Produce Marketing donated the use of a quality database ($2,000). Dr. Randy Beaudry, from the MSU Department of Horticulture, donated use of a gas chromatograph ($3,000) and served as MSU specialist for this effort. When local apple growers donated fruit for testing, the lab was ready for action.

Why was there such an overwhelming response? Because Amy and Phil had formed strategic connections and relationships with the people involved in the apple industry from growers, to businesses, to campus connections.

“It’s really been a lifetime of connections that have developed and continue to develop.” Amy said. “We work with a great group of producers – they are supportive and fun. We treat everyone with respect and listen to their issues. The one-on-one connections lead to an insight into the bigger issues facing the apple industry as a whole, which best helps us help growers. Growers often just want to be growers, so sometimes, we have to make connections with media, state and federal agencies and services, commodity groups, and others to represent the interests of the apple industry for them.”

The lab has been up and running since 2015, and it provides critical real-time information to Michigan apple producers from pre-harvest through the harvest season and in post-harvest storage. Amy and Phil are able to integrate, summarize and deliver information to Michigan apple growers in concise weekly reports on apple pruning indices, nutritional impact, maturity indices for appropriate harvest, and storage indices. These reports help growers make the best real-time decisions and grow high-quality apples at a profit. Using this technology, they identify what is working well for the current year apple crop and where growers can make decisions to improve this year’s harvest outcomes.

“We have the fruit industry’s issues at heart; it is our passion.” Phil said. “To be valued, successful and admired requires knowing the people, performing tasks that address their most pressing issues, and the persistence to complete the work the growers and industry define as important. This means that ‘people skills’ is the most important characteristic an Extension person needs to have; but fruit knowledge, hard work, self-motivation and job dedication are also important. We work for the fruit industry and thus the fruit industry works for us, MSU and Michigan.”

Check out this great video created by the Michigan Apple Committee that describes growers’ relationship with MSU Extension.

Amy and Phil are a great example of strategic connections and building relationships. Have you thought about connecting with committees in your area or faculty specialists on campus? What needs to do you see in your communities that could be met by a collaboration with local businesses, companies and governmental groups?

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Horticulture, Partnerships, strategic connections

Ag Innovation Day focuses on soils

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Ron Bates, agriculture and agribusiness institute director for Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, sent a great event summary that I would like to share:

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Soils had a very successful inaugural launch August 24 at the Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center. The planning committee, representing a broad spectrum of Michigan agriculture and MSU Extension faculty and educators, presented a great program that over 430 participants truly appreciated.

The MSU Extension Events Management staff did a tremendous job putting together the logistics for the day, ensuring the event ran smoothly. We were fortunate to have great volunteers from across MSU Extension as well as people from private industry. Our partners in the MSU Land Management Office provided important logistics assistance along with set-up and clean-up.

The terrific speakers for Focus on Soils provided important content along with ways to use their information in practice. Featuring U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee and President Lou Anna K. Simon along with Dean Ron Hendrick, Dr. Doug Buhler and Dr. Jeff Dwyer for the lunch program was very well received.

A special feature of the lunch program honored the McCray family for 50 years of variety trial collaboration with MSU.

The event was successful due to the tremendous collaboration across our many partners.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I was delighted to attend the event and would like to send a huge “thank you” out to the Events Management team, the presenters, MSU and Extension staff members, the volunteers and all of the participants for a successful launch!


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Filed under Ag Innovation Day, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Horticulture

Research and outreach come Together at the Farm

Thank you to our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and AgBioResearch faculty and staff and our partners for a successful event at the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center (UPREC) in Chatham. Over 200 people from across the state and the Midwest attended the U.P. Food Conference: Together at the Farm program.

Together at the Farm showcased our research and outreach efforts through interaction with attendees at both of the farm sites. During the morning and the afternoon sessions, a diverse pool of presenters offered over 20 workshop opportunities such as ruminant grazing systems, composting for soil quality, sustaining a school garden program, year-round herb production in greenhouses, small farm tools and implements and understanding policy to support local food systems. Presenters included MSU faculty, but the event also capitalized on local expertise and guest speakers. The evening included a keynote speaker and dinner, followed by a barn dance.

For attending, participants could receive credit in Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Phase I, Master Citizen Planner and State Continuing Education Clock Hours.

We would like to thank all of our partners that made Together at the Farm possible: the U.P. Food Exchange, the Marquette Food Co-Op, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department and MAEAP. Thank you to all of our event sponsors for making the program possible. Interested in finding out more about the event and our sponsors? Visit We hope that you’ll be able to join us next year.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Field Days, Gardening, Horticulture, Partnerships, Uncategorized

Clarksville Research Center hosts field day

On Wednesday, June 22, the Michigan State University Clarksville Research Center hosted a field day to showcase its tree fruit research programs and cutting-edge research.

Around 170 people attended, viewing presentations on cherry breeding, high-density apple and stone fruit production, Solid Set Canopy Delivery Systems and orchard platform demonstrations. They also visited the orchard equipment show as well.

Don Lehman, District 8 coordinator, was impressed by the research as well as the companies that participated.

“It was especially interesting to see the several companies that displayed platforms that are used for tree pruning and harvesting,” Don said. “The new systems produce higher quality fruit and reduced labor costs.”

The Clarksville Research Center hosts research on small fruits and tree fruits as well as potatoes, chestnuts and a variety of other crops. Research at the 440-acre site includes variety development, fruit thinning and growth regulators, dwarf rootstocks for fruit trees, integrated pest management, organic production systems and new pruning practices to help make production more profitable, efficient and environmentally friendly.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Farming, Horticulture

MSU celebrates National Pollinator Week

Michigan State University (MSU) hosted two events on June 19, Bee Palooza and Science on Tap: Beezzz & Brewzzz to celebrate National Pollinator Week.

Bee Palooza, a free, fun and educational event centered on understanding pollinators, is designed for people of all ages. MSU Horticulture Gardens hosted displays that focused on honeybee colonies, bumble bees, the wild bees of Michigan, plants to support pollinators and the importance of bees and other pollinators to the food supply. Hands-on workshops engaged visitors on how to create a native bee hotel and how to identify pollinators in their gardens.

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Beezzz & Brewzzz, an adults-only event, took place at the Beer Grotto in Lansing. Participants heard from MSU experts Dr. Jason Gibbs, Dr. Meghan Milbrath and Dr. Rufus Isaacs about native bees, the work Michigan is doing to protect our pollinators and the role of bees in your favorite drinks. Following the presentations, entomology graduate students answered questions from the audience on topics ranging from the types of flowers to plant for bees and general bee biology to beekeeping regulations in Lansing. There were also special bee-related drinks on tap for the night. Over 100 people attended throughout the night and many received raffle giveaways including photo prints of wild bees taken by Jason Gibbs, pocket guides, local honey, native bee hotels, T-shirts and a Beer Grotto gift certificate.

Are you interested in knowing more about pollinators in Michigan or have you gotten calls with questions about them? Dr. David Smitley worked with a team of entomologists to put together “Protecting and Enhancing Pollinators in Urban Landscapes for the U.S. North Central Region,” a free 30-page PDF resource they hope will answer nearly every question that gardeners, landscapers and tree care professionals may have about protecting pollinators.

Michigan is a leader in honey production and in many pollination-dependent fruit and vegetable crops. With worldwide concerns about pollinator declines, we’re seeking to raise awareness about their importance and spread the word about what individuals can do to help. MSU Extension provides the latest information on pollinators and pollination including fact sheets from the Smart Gardening Program, webinars, educational seminars, email newsletters and other online resources.

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Filed under Entomology, Events, Gardening, Horticulture

Horticulture educator featured in northern Michigan magazine

I’d like to call your attention to an article that appeared in Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

The article highlights Dr. Nikki Rothwell, district Michigan State University Extension horticulture educator and coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Traverse City. The author Jeff Smith does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Dr. Rothwell’s work and the center’s role in the lives of growers.

Mr. Smith describes a class Dr. Rothwell leads on keeping orchards free of fungi, bacteria and invading insects. An entomologist, Dr. Rothwell shares her expertise with local growers, sharing both her vast knowledge and engaging personality. She’s involved in the long-term vision for the center as well as the immediate concern of the grower.

The article gets across the value of the horticultural center as “the educational center and social hub of Northwest Michigan’s orchard industry.”

It’s well worth your time to read the entire article:

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Filed under Horticulture

A rose bulletin by any other name …

It was a long time in the making, but a revised MSUE rose bulletin is now available from the MSU Extension Bookstore. It was worth the wait. The book is not only beautiful, but also informative.

 Produced by ANR Communications, Roses for the Home: Growing Roses in the Midwest (E3157) is a revision of Roses for the Home (NCR 252). Mary Wilson, MSU Extension horticulture educator, acted as project coordinator on the effort. Rose expert and MSU Extension Advanced Master Gardener Nancy L. Lindley wrote the bulletin.

 Mary; Bridget Behe, MSU professor of horticulture; Janet Byrne, MSU plant pathology specialist; and David Smitley, MSU professor of entomology; lent their expertise as reviewers.

Roses for the Home

 The 32-page rose bulletin will make even the gardener who is hesitant about growing roses confident enough to dig in and get going with the popular perennial. Though the bulletin isn’t as large as a coffee-table book, you’ll want to put it on display due to its colorful photographs. The excellent and practical information and useful diagrams and tables put forth in the book make it a reference that rose gardeners will refer to again and again. Please promote this book in your county offices.

 I’ll add my confession to opting for those super-easy ‘Double Knock Out’ roses as a solution to my desire for blooming roses and my lack of expertise at keeping the things healthy and vibrant. Maybe with this bulletin, I can be brave and branch into varieties that maybe take a bit more attention and knowledge, but also pay off with some incredible eye- and nose-candy in our landscape.

 Order it from the MSU Extension Bookstore at At $6, it’s a bargain.

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Filed under Horticulture, Uncategorized

Watch for a recorded overview of consumer hort innovations

Monday’s webinar also featured an overview of the great innovations coming from the consumer horticulture team. Rebecca Finneran, Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, provided the overview, but we had some technical difficulties with broadband capacity, so she has offered to record a repeat of her presentation and make it available for staff to use with garden clubs and in other public venues and to post on the Michigan State University Extension web site. We’ll plug it here and on our Monday webinar when it’s ready. Thanks to the consumer hort team for their creative and dedicated efforts to make MSUE “new”!

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Filed under Horticulture