News Briefs 2002 - 2006

Research Assistant Hemalatha Saidasan won a prestigious fellowship to attend the 24th Stadler Genetics Symposium - posted December 18, 2006
Research Assistant Hemalatha Saidasan won a prestigious fellowship to attend the 24th Stadler Genetics Symposium on the "Genomics of Disease" held at the University of Missouri?Columbia, Oct 2?4. Hemalatha presented a poster of her research entitled "Physcomitrella patens: A genetically tractable system for studying Fusarium Head Blight." Hemalatha works in the laboratory of Michael Lawton.

Dr. Tumer and Dr. Di receive grant awards from CAFT's industry-sponsored research program - posted Dec. 18, 2006
Two awards from CAFT's industry-sponsored research program were recently confirmed to Biotech Center members. Nilgun Tumer (Plant Biology & Pathology) and Research Assistant Professor Rong Di were funded for $14,000/yr on a three-year project entitled "Detection of Shiga-like toxins in food using surface plasmon resonance biosensor technology." Rong was also funded for a second project at $13,000/yr on a three-year project entitled "Anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic activities of mogrosides and momorgrosvin from the fruit of Luohanguo." Rong is collaborating with Chi-Tang Ho in CAFT and Mou-Tuan Huang in Pharmacy on the second project.

NSF/USDA funds Dr. Kobayashi and Lawton to sequence model pathogen of lower eukaryotes - posted Dec. 18, 2006
NSF/USDA recently awarded a grant to Don Kobayashi, PI, and Biotech faculty member Michael Lawton, Co-PI, (both Plant Biology & Pathology) to support the sequencing of the genome of the bacterial pathogen Lysobacter enzymogenes, which is emerging as a model pathogen of lower eukaryotes. This work will provide an important foundation for future studies that address mechanisms of pathogen virulence. The project was funded at $540,255 for two years beginning November 1.

Phytomedics, Inc., has renewed its support for 5 more years of plant-based pharmaceutical research in the laboratory of Ilya Raskin - posted December 18, 2006
Phytomedics, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company merging health care and plant biotechnology, has renewed its support for 5 more years of plant-based pharmaceutical research in the laboratory of Ilya Raskin, Biotech Center faculty member (Plant Biology & Pathology). This critical support provides $5.4 million over the next five years for the discovery and development of bioactive products from plants. The collaboration to date has yielded four botanical products which are being commercialized by pharmaceutical and consumer health care companies, as well as an anti-arthritis botanical drug which recently completed a successful Phase II clinical trial. Launched in 1996, Phytomedics is a privately owned company located in Jamesburg, NJ. Most of the company's R&D takes place at the Biotech Center at Rutgers University, under the leadership of Ilya Raskin, a company co-founder. Phytomedics signed a broad research and licensing agreement with Rutgers University that allows the company to exclusively license its core technologies and products.

Dr. Raskin investigating the anti-inflammatory effects of the African plant Aframomum melegueta - posted Dec. 18, 2006
On November 27, the Washington Post published a report on an anti-inflammatory substance under investigation in the lab of Biotech faculty member Ilya Raskin (Plant Biology and Pathology). The substance comes from the African plant Aframomum melegueta, a member of the ginger family, and has antimicrobial as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Native African healers treat infections with Aframomum, and gorillas feed on the shoots and seedpods of the West African plant. Raskin is hopeful that the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of Aframomum will not cause the side effects experienced with the drugs Vioxx, Celebrex, and Bextra. Patents are pending on Raskin's discoveries, which have been licensed to Phytomedics, Inc.

Common Ancestry of Bacterium and Plants Could be Key to an Effective New Treatment for Chlamydia - posted Dec. 18, 2006
Thomas Leustek, a professor in the department of plant biology and pathology and Andre Hudson, a postdoc working in Leustek's lab in Rutgers' Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment, have discovered that the bacterium Chlamydia shares an evolutionary heritage with the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The results of this discovery were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' Online Early Edition the week of November 6. The press release on this finding can be found here.

Alumni receives Graduate School-New Brunswick Distinguished Alumni Award in Biological Sciences - posted Dec. 18, 2006
One of our graduate program alums, Dr. William Reiners, has been awarded a Graduate School-New Brunswick Distinguished Alumni Award in Biological Sciences. Dr. Reiners received his Ph.D. in 1965 from what was then the Botany Graduate Program at Rutgers, after working under the direction of Dr. Murray Buell. He is a Professor at the Univ. of Wyoming currently. He was the chair there previously--and active in research with some 120 or so refereed articles.

Among his various roles in Science have been the following:

  1. 1976 Program Director, Ecosystem Studies Program, National Science Foundation
  2. 1982 Chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College
  3. 1983 Professor and Head, Dept. of Botany, The University of Wyoming
  4. 1989 International Geosphere-Biosphere Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
  5. 1996 J.E. Warren Professorship of Energy and the Environment, University of Wyoming
  6. 1998 Director, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database--The Wyoming Heritage Program
  7. 2000 Center Fellow, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Dr. Reiners has played a major role in leadership in the areas of Environment, Ecology, and Plant Biology. He has had a major impact nationally and internationally in his discipline and on society in general.

The official award ceremony will be on Friday, March 2 at dinner at the Life Sciences Building (Busch). We will arrange a reception and seminar collaboratively with the Evolution & Ecology graduate program.

Department of Education FIPSE funds grant for undergraduate exchange program with Brazillian school - posted Nov. 2, 2006
A program to establish an undergraduate exchange program between Rutgers, Ohio State, and two universities in Brazil?Universidade S?o Paulo, specifically the Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz campus in Piracicaba, and the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre?has been given grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). All four institutions have a tradition of undergraduate students involved in their biotechnology research programs and the added benefit of an international research experience ensures that the proposed program will continue beyond the government sponsorship period. The exchange program is being funded through the U.S.-Brazil Higher Education Consortia Program, which is jointly administered by FIPSE and the Brazilian Ministry of Education. FIPSE provides grants for up to four years to consortia of at least two academic institutions each from Brazil and the United States. The program fosters the exchange of students and faculty within the context of bilateral curricular development. The Rutgers co-investigators leading this project are Gerben Zylstra, Barbara Zilinskas, Michael Lawton, Rod Sharp, and Cesar Braga-Pinto.

The 16th Annual Tomato Tasting Event held at the Snyder Research and Extension Farm in Pittstown - posted Nov. 2, 2006
The 16th Annual Tomato Tasting Event held August 31 at the Snyder Research and Extension Farm in Pittstown was a great success, with an estimated 800?900 in attendance for the late afternoon and evening event. Although there was no clear "winner" from the Snyder event, a smaller sampling of 500 tasters at the Somerset County 4-H fair showed that Amarillo (a new hybrid cherry tomato) was a clear favorite among all those tasted, and Snow White was the favorite heirloom cherry tomato.

Faculty attend the third annual conference for ICBG - posted Nov. 2, 2006
On his return from Central Asia, Biotech Center member Ilya Raskin (Plant Biology & Pathology) reported that the third annual conference for the NIH-funded International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG) program, held in late July, was a success. All ICBG sub-programs have made substantial progress. Hundreds of plant, fungal, and microbial samples have been collected, and promising genes and extracts have been identified. Three patents are about to be filed and already $34,000 in licensing fees has been paid by five industry partners. Fifty percent of the licensing fees is being reinvested into the partnering countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Nine publications have been submitted or published, and a book on the medicinal plants of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is close to printing. A comprehensive educational program is up and running, and six distinguished seminar speakers have visited Central Asia, including Ilan Chet (Israel) and Slavik Dushenkov (US).

Dr. Zinati receives grant from Horticulture Program Enhancement Grants Initiative - posted Nov. 2, 2006
G. Zinati (PI), Specialist in Nursery Management, S. Ullah, J. Johnson, Cumberland County Agricultural Agent, B. Schilling, and K. Sullivan, Institutional Research Specialist, received $15,000 for "Development of Nutrient Management Program Using Riparian Buffers for NJ Nursery Operations," from the Horticulture Program Enhancement Grants Initiative.

David Specca, director of the NJAES EcoComplex, awarded New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy grant - posted Nov. 2, 2006
Margaret Brennan, NJAES associate director of economic development, Brian Schilling, associate director of the NJAES Food Policy Institute, and David Specca, director of the NJAES EcoComplex have been awarded $210,841 from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy. The project is a collaborative effort of about 15 NJAES faculty and staff, as well as industry consultants, to conduct the first comprehensive waste/biomass inventory assessment of New Jersey. In addition, technology assessments will be conducted to evaluate the current and projected capabilities for New Jersey in terms of feedstock and bioenergy conversion technology capabilities. Through this project, the NJAES will also provide the first comprehensive statewide mapping of waste/biomass resources. This will be critical information in the development of a bioenergy strategy for the state. Finally, NJAES will provide a framework and guidelines for the development of a New Jersey BioEnergy Plan that will address the environmental and energy issues surrounding the need for bioenergy industry development, as well as policy recommendations for moving New Jersey into the forefront of bioenergy innovation.

Departmental Staff receives service award. - posted Nov. 2, 2006
At the 2006 President's Recognition Program Excellence in Service Award ceremony on October 17, 2006, the ceremony with a Bridge Award was presented to Nicoletta Graf, research farm supervisor; Gail Johnson, head greenhouse field technician; and Mike Green, director of the Office of Communications, for the Dalai Lama Planning.

Plant Breeder entry receives the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Gold Medal Plant award - posted Nov. 2, 2006
Elwin Orton, Jr., research professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, had his entry, Cornus Venus, selected to receive the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Gold Medal Plant award. Cornus Venus is a new Dogwood that seems to be resistant to Dogwood anthracnose and powdery mildew. You can read more about Cornus Venus here.

Rutgers collaborators awarded US Department of Education grant supporting Brazil?U.S. Biotechnology Education Partnership - posted November 2, 2006
A team of Rutgers collaborators, led by Biotech Center director Gerben Zylstra, recently received confirmation of an important new award from the U.S. Department of Education supporting a Brazil?U.S. Biotechnology Education Partnership. The award brings together four universities in the U.S. and Brazil to promote student research in agricultural and microbial biotechnologies, as well as to develop linkages between biotechnology undergraduate curricula. The partners are Rutgers University, Ohio State University, the University of Sao Paulo. Besides Zylstra, the Rutgers team includes Michael Lawton (Plant Biology & Pathology), Rod Sharp (consultant), Barbara Zilinskas (Plant Biology & Pathology), and Cesar Braga-Pinto (Latin American Studies).

Grant awarded to Department members to study cross-kingdom bacterial pathogenesis - posted September 13, 2006
Biotech faculty member Michael Lawton (Plant Biology and Pathology) was funded with $24,800 over the next 2 years by the Charles and Johanna Busch Memorial Foundation to carry out a project entitled "Molecular Mechanisms of Cross-Kingdom Bacterial Pathogenesis." This is a collaborative project that began July 1 with Don Kobayashi (Plant Biology and Pathology) and Monica Driscoll (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Busch Campus). The project will explore the mechanisms responsible for virulence in the broad host-range pathogen Lysobacter enzymogenes, which infects plants, fungi and invertebrates.

Departmental Personal receive the Blue Ribbon Award at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) 2006 Educational Aids Competition - posted September 13, 2006
Gladis Zinati, assistant professor and nursery management specialist, Ann Gould, associate extension specialist in Plant Biology and Pathology, Richard Buckley, director of the Rutgers Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, and Richard Obal, Monmouth County agriculture and resource management agent, won the Blue Ribbon Award at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) 2006 Educational Aids Competition for the Rutgers Research and Extension bulletin E-309, titled "Landscape and Ornamental Plant Stress: Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Management."

Extension Specialists receive Northeast Regional IPM Competitive Grants for pathology work - posted September 13, 2006
Christian Wyenandt, specialist in plant pathology ("Development and dissemination of an integrated management plan for bacterial canker of tomato"), George Hamilton, extension specialist in pest management ("New Jersey Information Network for Pesticides and Alternatives Strategies" and "New Jersey surveys and crop profiles for arugula, basil, Brussels sprouts, leaf lettuce, leeks, parsley, and radishes; PMSPs for Brussels sprouts, leeks, parsley"), and Cesar Rodriguez-Saona, assistant extension specialist in entomology ("Identification of host-plant attractants for cranberry weevil and cranberry fruitworm") have received Northeast Regional IPM Competitive Grants. This grants program supports projects that develop individual pest control tactics, integrate tactics into IPM systems, or develop and implement extension and education programs.

Philip E. Marucci Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center spotlighted at World Congress of Soil Science meeting - posted September 13, 2006
Dozens of soil scientists attending the World Congress of Soil Science meeting in Philadelphia took a bus tour to the Philip E. Marucci Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center in Chatsworth, NJ, to learn more about the unique soil composition there. The visit to the center, located in the Pinelands, was the focus of a science segment that ran on NJN on July 14. The segment can be viewed here.

ICBG continues education in Central Asia - posted September 13, 2006
Biotech Center director Gerben Zylstra and member David Zaurov escorted Josh Rosenthal, head of the NIH Fogarty International Center, on a speaking tour of Uzbekistan from July 20?25. These seminars were part of the education and training component of the Central Asia International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (ICBG) led by Biotech Center faculty member Ilya Raskin and funded by NIH. The third annual meeting of the ICBG project took place July 26?30 in Kyrgyzstan. All of the participating faculty from Rutgers University, the University of Illinois, and the projects in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan were on hand to report on research progress and discuss plans for year four of the project. Following the meeting, Jerry Kukor led a sampling trip around Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan as part of the Biotech Center's ongoing cooperative research efforts with Central Asia scientists. Members of the sampling team included Gerben Zylstra and Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences member Lee Kerkhof.

Dr. Mike Lawton receives grant to study animal immunity - posted August 14, 2006
Michael Lawton, associate professor of plant science, has received a $24,800 grant from the Charles and Johanna Busch Memorial Fund to study how the bacterial pathogen Lysobacter enzymogenes interacts with the nematode worm Caenorabdhitis elegans. In recent years, scientists have shown that C. elegans has a "basic" immune system that is similar to one of the components of animal immunity?the common component is the one that doesn't involve antibodies. This grant will allow Michael and his team to define and characterize the mechanisms that a broad host-range pathogen like Lysobacter uses to infect hosts from animals, plants, and fungi. This type of information is important to human health because many important pathogens infect more than one host and one host can serve as a reservoir for subsequent infection of another host.

Tom Leustek serves on USDA Panal - posted August 14, 2006
Biotech Center faculty member Tom Leustek (Plant Biology and Pathology) was invited by USDA to serve on the Agricultural Plant Biochemistry Panel. He attended the panel meeting June 5?7 in Bethesda, MD.

Graduate Students honor Pal Maliga - posted August 14, 2006

At the annual Summer picnic, the Plant Biology graduate students honored Dr. Pal Maliga as an Outstanding Professor. The award was presented to a professor in the Plant Biology Graduate Program who has shown commitment and dedication to the graduate students in the program. Dr. Mailga has contributed to the students' education in both classroom education, as well as laboratory research and has given time unselfishly.

Lawton and Tumer receive grant from the USDA's wheat and barley scab program - posted August 14, 2006
Michael Lawton, associate professor, and Nilgun Tumer, professor (both Plant Biology and Pathology), received new grant awards of $48,000 from USDA's wheat and barley scab program. Michael's project focuses on a rapid assay system for transgenes that confer resistance to the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) and Fusarium head blight (FHB). Nilgun and co-PI Rong Di will address modification of the ribosomal target to enhance resistance to trichothecene mycotoxins. The major goal of this project is to identify mutations in ribosomal protein L3 that confer resistance to DON produced by pathogenic Fusarium spp. and to determine if FHB resistance can be engineered in transgenic wheat plants by expressing DON resistant L3 genes. The one-year projects got underway in late April.

Biotech Faculty Honored at Rutgers Patent Awards Banquet - posted August 14, 1006
Seven Biotech Center faculty and lab members were honored at the Rutgers Patent Awards dinner hosted by the Office of Corporate Liaison and Technology Transfer on April 18. They were Faith Belanger, Thomas Leustek, Ilya Raskin, Nilgun Tumer (Plant Biology), David Ribnicky (Raskin lab), Max Haggblom (Biochemistry & Microbiology), and Jerry Kukor (Environmental Sciences). Presenters included Executive Vice President Phillip Furmanski, Associate Vice President Michael Breton, and Director William Adams. This year's event honored 48 Rutgers researchers who had a patent issued in calendar years 2004 and 2005.

Recent Grants Awarded to Plant Biology and Pathology Faculty Members - posted June 7, 2006
Faculty members in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology are the recipient of many coveted grants. For a complete list including research topic, click here (PDF).

Dr. Joan Bennett Awarded the ASM Alice Evans Award for Contributions to Women - posted June 7, 2007
Please congratulate Dr. Joan Bennett on her recent receipt of the Alice Evans Award from the American Society of Microbiology. This important award is given annually to scientists who have "contributed substantially to the advancement and full participation of women in microbiology." She has many accomplishments relative to women's issues. Dr. Bennett was one of the founding faculty of the Newcomb Center for Research on Women at Tulane University. She helped to develop the Women's Studies major at Tulane and served as mentor to the students in that program. Dr. Bennett served as President of American Society of Microbiology and President of the Society for Industrial Mycology where she worked to ensure that qualified women were appointed to committees, editorships and other leadership positions. In 2005 Dr. Bennett was elected to the National Academy of Science where she is continuing to work to promote issues relative to women in science.

At Rutgers Dr. Bennett serves as Associate Vice President and Head of the Office to Advance Women in Science. Her role is to provide leadership in a Rutgers wide effort to promote the entry and progression of women in science, technology, math, and engineering fields. In this role she works closely with the Douglass leadership and other Rutgers groups to develop and support programming for women students. Since coming to Rutgers University Dr. Bennett has demonstrated a passion to further the cause of women in science fields. Dr. Bennett is currently a Scientist Scholar in Residence at the Douglass Project where she works with the leadership to develop programming and mentor the students. At Rutgers she is developing a course titled "The Biology of Women".

Dr. Bennett teaches and conducts research in the area of fungal genetics and microbial systems biology in general. She is well respected nationally and internationally for her scientific accomplishments. Joan has significant energy and passion for science and she has an excellent record of scholarship.

Dr. Tumer receives supplement to NIH grant for undergraduate research - posted June 7, 2006
Nilgun Tumer, professor of plant biology, has received two supplements of $5,000 each from NSF's program titled "Research Experiences for Undergraduates." These will fund undergraduates Jonathan Cruz and Andrew Tortora to work in her lab this summer.

Dr. Ann Gould elected to the University Senate's Executive Committee - posted June7, 2006

Dr. Joan Bennett joins Plant Biology & Pathology! - posted April 24, 2006
A new faculty member has joined the Department of Plant Biology & Pathology. This month Professor Joan Bennett formally accepted the offer from Dean Bob Goodman and Phil Furmanski to join our faculty at the rank of Professor II (the highest professorial rank). Joan will have a 50% academic and 50% administrative role. In her academic role she will help to develop programs focused on fungal and microbial systems, including genetics, genomics, and secondary metabolites. It is anticipated that she will be collaborating with several faculty members in our department. She will be co-teaching the Graduate Mycology course and an undergraduate course in the Biology of Women.

In her administrative role Joan will serve as Associate Vice President and Head of the Office to Advance Women in Science. She will provide leadership in a Rutgers Wide effort to promote the entry and progression of women in science, technology, math, and engineering fields, as past of President McCormick's plan to transform undergraduate education. She will be reporting directly to the Executive Vice President (Dr. Phil Furmanski) and will serve on the New Brunswick Dean's Council.

Joan brings to the department significant energy and passion for science. She has an excellent record of scholarship--and is a member of the National Academy of Science. She is a colleague that enhances the reputation of the department for academic and scientific achievement and service. She also has an appreciation for the diversity of research activities that the department's faculty engage in from the very basic genomic and physiology research to high impact plant cultivar development and plant technology. She will add significantly to this program in many ways.

Tom Luestek was awarded grant for microplate reader - posted April 6, 2006
Tom Leustek, professor in the Department of Plant Biology & Pathology, was awarded $35,000 for "A Multi-Detection Microplate Reader for Biotechnology, Plant Biology, Turf Science and Animal Science Research." This amount will be matched by another award of $10,000 to Leustek from NSF.

Eric Lam issued patent for Active protease - posted April 4, 2006
A U.S. patent (#7,015,023) was issued March 21 to Eric Lam, professor in the Department of Plant Biology & Pathology, and his former post-doctoral fellow, Olga del Pozo, entitled "Compositions and Methods for Detection of Active Proteases." The discovery provides fusion protein designs for in vitro and in vivo detection of specific proteolytic activities in eukaryotic cells and their extracts. This methodology may find broad application for drug screens as well as the characterization of how and when this important class of enzymes may be regulated in various organisms.

Rong Di received NIH grant to study Hepatitic C - posted April 6, 2006
Rong Di, assistant research professor in Nilgun Tumer's lab, was funded by NIH for research on the effect of pokeweed antiviral protein on the hepatitis C virus IRES. Di received $154,000 for the two-year exploratory grant, which started December 2005.

Faith Belanger awarded grant by the USGA - posted April 6, 2006
The U.S. Golf Association awarded a new grant to Faith Belanger for research on the contribution of colonial bentgrass to dollar spot resistance in colonial ? creeping bentgrass interspecific hybrids. The $90,000, three-year award started in February.

Global Institute for Bio-Exploration (GIBEX) established to seek out opportunities and collaborators around the world - posted April 6, 2006
Ilya Raskin, professor in the Department of Plant Science, and colleagues have established a Global Institute for Bio-Exploration (GIBEX) to seek out opportunities and collaborators around the world. GIBEX's mission is to promote sustainable exploration, protection, and utilization of biochemical resources which primarily benefit the health of people in source countries. The rapidly expanding program already has collaborators in 16 countries on five continents. In January, Raskin and colleagues Albert Ayeni (International Programs) and Mary Ann Lila (University of Illinois) visited West Africa to identify possible partners. At universities in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and Senegal, they met with scientists and senior administrators to discuss institutional resources, facilities, and interest in collaborating. Meanwhile, consultants Rod Sharp and John Kilama visited South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Botswana with the same purpose. A proposal to the World Health Organization is already under development with partners in Botswana and Ghana as a result of the meetings.

Ilya Raskin invited to consult for the New Zealand Ministry of Trade and Enterprise and BioPacific Ventures on btanical therapeutics - posted April 4, 2006
Ilya Raskin visited New Zealand February 20?March 1 at the invitation of the New Zealand Ministry of Trade and Enterprise and BioPacific Ventures, in his role as scientific advisor to the company Phytomedics. The purpose was to visit NZ universities and companies with R&D capabilities to discover, study and develop botanical therapeutics; and to help the NZ government and industry to establish a botanical therapeutics-based biotech industry, using Phytomedics as a model. Some of the places visited: The Crop & Food Research (Dunedin-U. Otago); Crop & Food Research, Palmerston North; Massey University; Institute for Food Nutrition and Human Health (Palmerston North); BioDiscovery (Auckland); The Tree Lab (Rotorua); HortResearch (Aukland); Resource Management Systems (Waikato Innovation Park, Hamilton/Matamata); New Zealand Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (Palmerston North); BioCorp (Blenheim); Extract Solutions/NutriZeal (Nelson); PharmaTech (Waikato Innovation Park, Hamilton); New Zealand Biotechnologies (Wellington); and Biovittoria (Waikato Innovation Park, Hamilton).

Delegates from Daxing China tour College, Department to explore cooperation oportunitiies in the field of biotechnology and agricultural business - posted April 4, 2006
On March 22, a group of 18 delegates from the district of Daxing, China, and the Chinese Consulate General of New York visited Cook College to learn about agricultural biotechnology research. Jerry Kukor and Dean Goodman gave them an overview of research activities at Cook College. Biotech Center Director Gerben Zylstra led a tour of the Biotech Center, and Chee-kok Chin showed them around the Department of Plant Biology & Pathology. Also on the agenda was a presentation on the NJ Business Incubator and the NJ Commission on Science & Technology. The purpose of the visit was to explore possible cooperation between New Jersey and Daxing in the field of biotechnology and agricultural business. Daxing has been designated as a biotech engineering and pharmaceutical production base, providing incubators and commercialization assistance to companies. The district also is a major supplier of agricultural products, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, and horticultural products to markets in northern China.

Dr. Ilya Raskin and collegues have been awarded a grant for a liquid chromatography?mass spectrometry core lab for lipid analysis - posted April 4, 2006
Judith Storch, Joe Dixon, Dawn Brasaemle, George Carman, Ilya Raskin, and Loredana Quadro have been awarded a $424,851 Shared Instrumentation Grant for a liquid chromatography?mass spectrometry system. The award will be used to set up a liquid chromatography?mass spectrometry core lab for lipid analysis.

Dr. Bingru Huang was recently named a Chang Jiang (Yangtze) Scholar by the Ministry of Education of the Peoples Republic of China. - posted 03/13/2006
It is our great pleasure to announce that Dr. Bingru Huang, Professor of Turfgrass Physiology in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology and the Center for Turfgrass Science, was recently named a Chang Jiang (Yangtze) Scholar by the Ministry of Education of the Peoples Republic of China. Dr. Huang is the first scientist in the area of turfgrass science to receive this prestigious award. The Chang Jiang Scholar's award was granted by the Chinese Ministry of Education and acknowledges special contributions made by Chinese scientists and overseas scholars in various research fields. To be considered for this award, the candidate must have an outstanding research record and be internationally recognized in his or her field. The Chang Jiang Scholar's award is part of an ambitious program initiated by the Chinese government to rapidly develop and improve the quality of research conducted at major research universities in China through the development of close collaborations with eminent scientists throughout the world.

Dr. Huang will receive an initial grant of 1 million Chinese RMB ($125,000 US) to establish a collaborative research program in turfgrass stress physiology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, one of the top-ten universities in China. She has held an honorary professorship at this university since 2004. Dr. Huang will also be provided with additional funding over the next three years to support a dozen graduate students (PhD), post doctorates, and research assistants who, along with Dr. Huang, will be conducting research at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Rutgers University over the next decade.

Dr. Stacy Bonos was awarded the Young Crop Scientist Award at the 50th annual meeting of the Crop Science Society of America. - posted 11/21/2005
This award by the Crop Science Society of America designed to recognize a young scientist who has made an outstanding contribution in any area of crop science by the age of 37. Specifically, the recipient is cited for teaching abilities, effectiveness in extension and service activities, significance and originality of basic and applied research, and effectiveness in administrative areas.

Dr. Stacy Bonos is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist of Turfgrass Breeding and Genetics in the Plant Biology and Pathology Department at Rutgers University. Dr. Bonos earned her B.S. from Gettysburg College and her M.S. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Bonos' research program focuses on the development of turfgrass cultivars with improved pest and stress tolerance using both molecular and classical breeding techniques. Recent accomplishments include the development of several turfgrass cultivars with improved disease resistance and the development of a genetic linkage map of creeping bentgrass. Bonos advises and teaches both graduate and undergraduate students. Her outreach program includes numerous extension publications and presentations per year in the form of research field days and educational seminars. Bonos has served as an associate editor for Applied Turfgrass Science Journal and section editor for the International Turfgrass Society Research Journal. She is active in the C-5 Division of CSSA, International Turfgrass Society and the Turfgrass Breeders Association where she has served on the board of directors for the past three years.

See press release.

Dr. White is named a 2005 Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) - posted 11/7/2005
Dr. James White, professor of plant biology and pathology at Cook College, is among 376 scientists named 2005 Fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The pre-eminent U.S. scientific organization each year selects fellows based on their efforts in advancing science or fostering applications considered scientifically or socially distinguished. It cited White "for research excellence on microbial endophytes, especially ecological and physiological studies on the clavicipitalean fungi."

This year's fellows will be honored on Feb. 18, 2006, at the association's annual meeting in St. Louis. The AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the prestigious journal, Science.

White, a member of Rutgers' Cook College faculty since 1995, is an expert on beneficial fungi in plants, including turf grasses. His studies have yielded new understanding of the role these organisms play in causing toxic syndromes among grass-eating animals as well as making plants resistant to insects, fungal disease and extreme environmental conditions. Recently, White has also been active in efforts to collect, catalog and assay fungi samples from around the world, which could serve as sources for new medicines.

Founded in 1848, AAAS includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million.

David Specca Honored by National Student Agricultural Education Organization - posted 11/7/2005
New Brunswick, NJ--David Specca, director of developmental programs at the Rutgers EcoComplex, received the Honorary American FFA Degree October 28 during the 78th National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. The award is given to those who advance agricultural education and FFA through outstanding personal commitment.

Specca is chairman of the New Jersey Agricultural Education Advisory Council and a board member of the New Jersey FFA Foundation, Inc. He is a National FFA Alumni Life member and served as New Jersey State FFA Vice-President from 1980 to 1981. Specca serves as a judge for various New Jersey FFA Association events, including: Agriscience Fair, State Proficiency Applications, Public Speaking, and Environmental and Natural Resource Career Development Event.

Through the Rutgers EcoComplex, an off-campus research and extension center of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Specca offers students opportunities to conduct Supervised Agricultural Experience and provides facilities for FFA events, tours for teachers, and resources for agricultural education conferences.

Specca has made many contributions to the agriculture industry by: conducting corn-to-ethanol production research; working with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to develop a business plan model for intensive vegetable farms in inner city locations; representing Cook College on the Northeast Sun Grant Initiative, a nationwide university-based effort to promote biomass-based products; and consulting on a project for organic vegetable production in city rooftop greenhouses.

The Honorary American FFA Degree is an opportunity to recognize those who have gone beyond the valuable daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students, inspiring confidence in a new generation of agriculturists. The National FFA Organization works to enhance the lives of youth through agricultural education. Without the efforts of highly dedicated individuals, thousands of young people would not be able to achieve success that, in turn, contributes directly to the overall well being of the nation.

The National FFA Convention is the nation's largest annual youth gathering, welcoming students, parents and educators from all across the United States. FFA is a national youth organization of 490,017 student members preparing for leadership and careers in science, business and technology of agriculture with 7,210 local chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

New Jersey has 37 FFA Chapters with 1742 members. FFA strives to makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

Visit http// or the New Jersey FFA web site: for more information.

Turfgrass Director Is Confirmed as First Holder of the Geiger Chair - posted October 12, 2005

Dr. Bruce Clarke, director of Rutgers' Center for Turfgrass Science, has been confirmed as the first occupant of the Ralph Geiger Chair in Turfgrass Science by the Rutgers University Board of Governors.

"Bruce Clarke is an exceptional researcher, a dedicated teacher and a noted authority in his field," said Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick. "As the first holder of the Geiger Chair, Bruce is well equipped to lead the Rutgers Turfgrass Program in its tradition of excellence."

"This distinction is a great compliment not only to Bruce, who has worked tirelessly to make the turfgrass program here at Rutgers' Cook College one of the best in the world, but also to the program itself, which has a sterling reputation for innovation in research and education," said Bob Goodman, dean of Cook College.

The endowed chair was funded by Ralph Geiger, an avid golfer and philanthropist who has donated generously to the Center for Turfgrass Science over the past decade. Income from the nearly $2 million endowment will be used to promote turfgrass teaching, extension and research, Clarke said. At least $20,000 per year will be used to fund undergraduate, graduate and two-year certificate program student scholarships. The investiture is scheduled to take place November 28.

"We will use the funds from the endowed chair to attract and increase the enrollment of top-quality students from around the nation who have an avid interest in turfgrass science," Clarke said. "We will increase internships, sending students all over the world to gain hands-on experience. And we also plan to increase our educational facilities at the Geiger Education Complex on Horticulture Farm II in North Brunswick so that students can continue to learn in a dynamic environment."

"The endowed chair will enable the Center for Turfgrass Science to be at the cutting edge of the industry," said Executive Vice Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources Keith Cooper. "As holder of the Geiger Chair, Bruce will be a leader of exciting new initiatives at the Center."

As director of the Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science, Clarke is responsible for providing leadership to foster internationally recognized research, undergraduate, graduate, and continuing professional education and service programs in support of the turfgrass industry, which produces $3.2 billion in annual revenue for New Jersey alone. He is an authority on root-infecting fungi associated with patch diseases of turf and is recognized for his work on the development of integrated disease control strategies to reduce pesticide usage. Clarke has published two books on turfgrass pathology and has authored numerous articles for professional journals and trade magazines. He has recently been named a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, and has received the John Reid Lifetime Achievement Award from the Metropolitan Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Distinguished Service Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the New Jersey Turfgrass Association's Hall of Fame Award and the Weisblat Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Outreach from Rutgers' Cook College and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Clarke is a frequent speaker at educational conferences throughout the United States and has presented his research to turf managers in Australia, China, Europe, and Japan.

Clarke received both his B.S. in forest management and his Ph.D. in plant pathology from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he has been employed since 1981.

Fairbrothers event featured in Rutgers Focus posted May 23, 2005
In the May 9 issue of Rutgers Focus, the Fairbrothers kickoff fundraising event for the Plant Resource Center was featured. To view this article, click here

Political Unrest Postpones ICBG Training Course until Fall 2005 - posted May 23, 2005
The International ICBG Central Asia program involves research on pharmacologically active compounds from plants, fungi, and soil microorganisms from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in collaboration with researchers from these countries, Rutgers University, and University of Illinois - Champaign-Urbana. One goal of the program is to provide training of Central Asian faculty and students in techniques applicable to conservation and biodiscovery. The first training course, themed "Biodocumentation and Biodiversity", was planned to be held in Central Asia in May 2005 but has been postponed until Fall 2005 due to political unrest.

David Fairbrothers & Plant Resource Center featured in Star-Ledger article. -posted May 23, 2005
The Star-Ledger featured an article about David Fairbrothers and Rutgers University effort to preserve the plant collections he curated until 1988. For the full story, please visit or by clicking here.

The Late Howard Ellison to be inducted into the New Jersey's Inventor's Hall of Fame for Asparagus Breeding - posted May 18, 2005
Dr. Howard Ellison will be posthumously inducted into the New Jersey Inventor's Hall of Fame sponsored on June 23, 2005 by the New Jersey Inventor's Hall of Fame and Research & Development Council of New Jersey. Dr. Ellison is being recognized for his work in developing modern high yield, disease resistant asparagus cultivars. He was the founder of the modern asparagus-breeding program at Rutgers University. He pioneered a number of innovative asparagus breeding strategies and methods, which include all-male hybrid breeding and efficient and reliable screening protocols for disease resistant germplasm.

Asparagus is dioecious, with male and female flowers borne on different plants. Studies have shown that male plants out yield the females. The males also live longer than the females, an important quality in a perennial crop. In addition, males begin production earlier than the females in the spring, a very desirable attribute for growers. Another advantage of the males is that they do not produce fruits, which will compete with the crowns for nutrients. Since asparagus plants depend on the nutrients stored in the crowns for the next year's harvest, reduction in stored nutrients will affect the yield and eventually the longevity of the plants. Also, without fruits male plants do not produce seedling weeds. With all of these advantages, an all-male field of asparagus significantly out yields a dioecious field over the lifespan of the field. Although asparagus breeders had recognized the advantages of male plants they encountered difficulty in breeding all-male hybrids until Dr. Ellison developed a strategy for the breeding. By meticulously identifying the growing and environmental conditions conducive to development of hermaphrodite flowers, he was able to use the hermaphrodite flowers to produce seeds for homozygous (supermales) males. As the progenies of homozygous males are all males this allows asparagus breeders to produce all-male hybrids.

With the seeds derived form hermaphrodite flowers, Dr. Ellison had developed a population of all-male hybrids. Twenty-one of the all-male hybrids with superior traits such as high yield, high disease resistance, and good spear morphology were patented. Several of these hybrids, including Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, and Jersey King are among the most productive and widely adaptable asparagus hybrids that have been developed. They are now being grown all over the world. Because of his insight into breeding strategy and invaluable contributions to breeding techniques Dr. Ellison is considered by his peers as one of the most influential asparagus breeder in history. Indeed, the contribution of Dr. Ellison to asparagus research and industry is immeasurable.

The inventions of Dr. Ellison allow asparagus growers to increase their yields and profitability resulting in more abundant supplies to the consumers at reasonable prices. The invention also helps to spawn a highly successful New Jersey seed company, Jersey Asparagus Farm. Jersey Asparagus Farm is one of the three top asparagus seed companies in the world and has sales to asparagus growing countries all over the world.

Proposed Plant Resources Center Moves Forward with June 4 Fundraising Kick-off - posted May 18, 2005
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. ? Plant, herb and fungus specimens are destined for a new home at Rutgers. The planned facility is to be named for the distinguished Rutgers Emeritus Professor of Botany, D.E. Fairbrothers, who continues to work from an office on Cook Campus.

The center will house specimens along with a collection of plant extracts gathered in New Jersey and worldwide. Extensive collections of plant specimens are critical to research in plant pathology, evolution of plants and native plant conservation. Plant extracts figure prominently in the discovery and development of new pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements and health-promoting food additives.

Former students, colleagues and friends will be honoring the Fairbrothers legacy on Saturday, June 4 with a symposium on the future of plant biology research, and a banquet and kick-off event for launching a fundraising campaign for the center. The event will be held in Winants Hall at Rutgers' College Avenue campus.

"This center would provide an excellent opportunity for Rutgers to build upon its existing reputation as a world leader in plant science," says Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick. "The gathering of biological and conservation data will contribute to the capacity of environmentalists, agriculturalists, land developers and industrialists to organize and best manage biodiversity to assure sustainable development in New Jersey. This is a resource that is sorely needed in the state, and it is fitting that this be located at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey."

The center, a joint venture between Cook and Douglass Colleges, would provide important research and educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and various state departments and bureaus. The Cook and Douglass campuses are adjacent, and both offer undergraduate honors research programs that would benefit from the proximity of a centralized plant research center.

The proposed center will comprise existing resources, including the Chrysler Herbarium and the Rutgers Mycological Herbarium. The Chrysler Herbarium, named after Rutgers Research Professor Emeritus Mintin Asbury Chrysler, contains specimens that have been collected over the past 200 years. The only herbarium in New Jersey, it is the best source of information on the flora of New Jersey and the northeast. It includes the 40,000 specimens of the Mycological Herbarium.

An online herbarium, a molecular and plant extract archive and a P-16 outreach program are also planned for the new center.

Fairbrothers was curator of the Chrysler Herbarium from 1954 to 1988 and was a founding trustee of the Nature Conservancy in New Jersey. He was the recipient of the Botanical Society of America's prestigious Merit Award, the society's highest honor for lifetime achievement in research. He was also the recipient of the Rutgers University Award, the highest award given by Rutgers, as well as the university's Presidential Award for Distinguished Public Service. The Rutgers awards recognized him as a pioneer in the chemosystematics of plants and as having been instrumental in the designations of more than one million acres of pine lands as the first National Ecological Preserve.

Under Fairbrothers' scientific leadership, the Chrysler Herbarium became an important regional herbarium, or plant museum. Its plant specimens enabled New Jersey researchers in 1973 to produce the first published list of rare and endangered plants in the United States, significant in moving Congress to enact the first Endangered Species Act.

The herbarium collections also provided important documentation of the Pinelands flora, essential to the establishment of Pinelands National Reserve by Congress in 1978. The reserve was designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1983.

Contact: Michele Hujber 732/932-9559 E-mail:

Rutgers' Cook College and NJAES Honor Professor with Lifetime Recognition for Distinguished Leadership Award - posted May 18, 2005
New Brunswick, NJ--Dr. Richard Merritt of BRIDGEWATER was honored with the Lifetime Recognition for Distinguished Leadership Award at the 12th Annual Rutgers' Cook College and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) Awards Ceremony on April 28, 2005. The award was presented by Keith R. Cooper, acting executive dean of agriculture and natural resources and acting dean of Cook College.

This award singles out an individual who has made major contributions to the mission and goals of Cook College and the NJAES.

Richard Merritt, professor of plant biology and pathology, earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. at Rutgers' College of Agriculture. He joined the faculty of Rutgers as an instructor in 1956 and today is professor of plant pathology and biology. He served as director of resident instruction and associate dean of the College of Agriculture from 1962 and in the same positions at the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science from 1966 to 1973. He served as chair of a committee that that proposed the creation of Cook College, and when Cook College was established in 1973, he was appointed associate dean of operations. In 1974 he was appointed dean of instruction at Cook College, a post he held until 1982.

Merritt has served higher education on a national level since 1974 when he began 11 years of service as consultant and advisor for organizational changes and curriculum modifications at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, University of California, Davis, State University of New York at Cobleskill and Farmingdale, Michigan State University. He has also served as project director for the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agriculture and Natural Resources College Curriculum Assessment and Implementation Projects from 1982 to 1987, project director of the National Agriculture and Natural Resources College Curriculum Project from 1987 to 1993, executive liaison consultant for the USDA's Project Interact: An Integrated Curriculum Development Action Plan from 1988 to 1989, associate director of the Food Systems Professions Education Project; Mid-Atlantic Consortium W.K. Kellogg Foundation Initiative from 1994 to 1995, and principal investigator and director of the Food Systems Professions Education Project from 1995 to 2005.

His extensive international experience includes consulting which led to the establishment of agricultural colleges in The Sultanate of Oman, Jamaica and Costa Rica. He also served as alternate chairman and member of the United States Department of State's Title XII of the Foreign Assistance Act Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, Joint Committee on Agricultural Development from 1977 to 1980; consultant to three Chancellors at the University of Puerto Rico from 1975 to 1985; and coordinator and chair of international programs for Cook College from 1994 to 2005 from 1994 to 2005. He currently serves as chair of Cook College's International Program Committee.

Merritt has received many honors throughout his career, including Professor of the Year from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science, in 1972; Cook College Distinguished Alumni Award in 1986 and Academic Professional Excellence Award for Sustained, Academic Professional Excellence from Cook College and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1993.

Department takes part in Ag Field Day 2005 - posted May 18, 2005

Dr. Funk (left) poses with Sara Baxter. Proceeds generated from pictures with the Giant Squirrel were donated to forest conservation charities
Dr. Stephen Hart promoted to Associate Extension Specialist - posted May 18, 2005

Dr. Stephen Hart was promoted to Associate Extension Specialist. Congratulations!!

HPEG Grants are awarded to Department Faculty Members - Posted May 13, 2005
The Horticulture Program Enhancement Grants (HPEG) Initiative seeks to provide funding for research and extension programs that focus on mission-oriented multidisciplinary problem-solving projects that involve teams that transcend departments and centers. The grants tie mission-oriented research with demonstrable means for communicating the outcomes to stakeholders within the State or region. This year's awardees include:

  1. R. Merritt and T. Gianfagna - Developing and Integrating Components for Commercial Greenhouse Production Systems. Development of new cultivars of Lilium species for NJ floriculture and greenhouse industry
  2. R. VanVranken - World Crops Link
  3. G. Zinati - Development of Nutrient Management Program Using Riparian Buffers for NJ Nursery Operations
  4. G. Jelenkovic - Breeding and Testing New Superior Strawberry Varieties for Commercial Use in NJ
  5. T. Molnar and E. Orton - Genetic Improvement of Ornamental Tree Crops- Dogwoods, Hollies, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, and Sweet Oaks

University and International Society for Horticultural Sciences co-sponsors International Symposium on Natural Preservatives in Food Systems - posted May 13, 2005 Rutgers University and The International Society for Horticultural Sciences sponsored the International Symposium on Natural Preservatives in Food Systems, held on March 31-31, 2005 in Princeton, NJ. The symposium brought together the entire spectrum of natural preservatives including antioxidant and antimicrobial agents. The meeting was dedicated to discuss the occurrence, efficacy, and potential use of natural preservatives in food. Topics included agriculture production, processing of plant derived preservatives, new natural antimicrobials, application to food systems, and packaging materials.

Department finalizes 2004 Accountability Report - posted May 16, 2005
The Department of Plant Biology and Pathology has completed its 2004 Accountability Report for Cook College. This report summarizes the activities of the past year and provides emphasis areas for the coming years. Please view the Accomplishments Summary (PDF) or view by faculty & impact (PDF).

WABIT: Trip to Nigeria February 28 to March 4, 2005

Ilya Raskin, James White and Albert Ayeni were at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, Nigeria from February 28 to March 4, 2005 to have preliminary deliberations on the proposed West African Institute for Biotherapeutics (WABIT) and explore the signing of Memorandum of Understanding with OOU and other participating institutions, namely: the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, and the University of Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD), Dakar, Senegal. Meetings were held at different levels at OOU and at the Governor's Office. Representing OOU at the meetings were Professors Oyewo, Oluwadiya, Moody, Omaga, etc; KNUST was represented by Dr. Fleischer, UCAD by Prof. Bassene and Rutgers by Prof. Raskin, White and Dr. Ayeni.

The highlights of the 4-day visit to OOU included:

  1. a meeting with the OOU Council where the Council Chairman/Pro Chancellor, Prof. Biyi Afonja, and the University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Afolabi Soyode, declared total support of the University Council and Administration for WABIT;
  2. the signing of Inter-Institution MOU between RU and OOU
  3. field guided tour to observe the biodiversity of Ogun State, visit to the herbarium at the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) in Ibadan, Oyo State and a herbal clinic in Ibadan, Oyo State.
  4. delivery of the First Faculty Guest Lecture by Raskin, White and Ayeni, organized by the Faculty of Pharmacy, OOU
  5. meeting with the Governor His Excellency Otunba Gbenga Daniel at the State House where the Governor declared his full support for WABIT.
  6. intense discussion of the WABIT Agreement with amendments to be made at later date

Greenhouse renovations begin - posted May 13, 2005
Work begun in January to repair several Rutgers Greenhouses. Upon completion, Houses 1 and 5 of the Floriculture Greenhouses will have new acrylic glazing installed that will make them thermally efficient and vandal proof. A computer system will control shading, lighting and cooling. The classroom at this facility was recently renovated and soon, through the efforts of Nicki Graf and Gail Johnson, the teaching plant collection will be available electronically. Later this summer, House 2 of the Turf Research Greenhouse range at the NJAES Greenhouses will also receive a new acrylic covering and mechanical repairs. The work on this greenhouse will be done by NJAES staff saving the Department of Plant Biology & Pathology labor costs. NJAES staff, Joe Florentine, David Lear and Jeffrey Akers, in cooperation with Rutgers Facilities Maintenance have done a tremendous amount of work in repairing greenhouses on Cook Campus. They are responsible for the renovation of the historic first air inflated plastic greenhouse at Bioresource Engineering, repairs at the Bridgeton Research Center greenhouses, Vegetable Crops and the NJAES Research Greenhouse. Through their efforts Cook College has saved over $60,000 in outside labor fees. Minor renovations are planned for the Hort Farms and the Bioresource Engineering greenhouses in the near future.

Oved Shifriss featured in NY Times Magazine article - posted 01/19/2005

Grimes, William. "The Way We Eat; Miracle Grow." New York Times Magazine 26 December 2004, Late Ed. - Final, Section 6, Page 59, Column 1.

"Fruits and vegetables are made, not born. In the hands of plant breeders they evolve and take on new colors, shapes and tastes. Two of these innovators died last year. Oved Shifriss concentrated on vegetables. Ross Sanborn experimented with fruit. Both men, in search of more healthful and more delicious..."

The Passing of Oved Shifriss

A former faculty member in the Dept. of Horticulture at Rutgers, Dr. Oved Shifriss, passed away this weekend. The funeral was this morning in Dean, NJ. Dr. Shifriss received his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding from Cornell University in 1942. He worked for Burpee Seed Company as Director of vegetable research until 1950. There he developed the first commercial hybrids of cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, and watermelons. His 'Big Boy' tomato was extremely successful and is still sold. He established the department of genetics at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, where he began research on sex expression in plants. Dr. Shrifriss came to Rutgers in 1958 as a Plant Breeder/Geneticist. His research program focused on genetic regulation of plant development and maturation, particularly in squash and other cucurbits. Precocious yellowing summer squash hybrids are among the Rutgers innovations emerging from Dr. Shrifriss' research program. Dr. Shifriss retired in 1984 and since that time had continued to conduct his research. For several years Dr. Shifriss could be found in the mornings at Hort Farm III on Riders Lane breeding cucurbits. Dr. Shifriss will be missed by many people at Cook College.

Dr. Mariusz Tadych and Wife Dorota Welcome New Son
Nicholas Maximilian Tadych was born on June 3 at 12:45 pm. He was 8 lbs. and 1 oz.?and?21.5 ins. height. Welcome to the newest "member" of the department.

Three honored at Cook College's 11th Annual Dean's Awards Dinner
At the 11th Annual Dean's Awards Dinner, Acting Executive Dean Dr. Keith Cooper presented the 2004 Cook College-NJAES Awards. Dr. C. Reed Funk, Professor Emeritus, Plant Science received a Lifetime Recognition of Distinguished Leadership. Dr. Sridhar Polavarapu, Associate Director and Associate Extension Specialist, Phillip E. Marucci Blueberry- Cranberry Research and Extension Center, received the Abraham Weisblat Award. As part of the Food Biotechnology Program at the Food Policy Institute, Dr. Michael Lawton, Associate Professor, Plant Biology & Pathology/Ag Biotechnology, received the Cook College/NJAES Team Award.

The Department will hold open house on Ag Field Day April 26, 2003
We will host an open house for all alumni and other friends of the Department this spring on Ag Field Day. With this years open house we hope to reconnect with former students and friends. On this day we intend to give tours of the Department and provide overviews of our various research programs. It is hoped that our friends and former students can help us evaluate our programs from their unique perspectives. We hope to engage old friends and renew old friendships. Please contact Dr. Jim White ( if you are interested in joining us at the open house.

The Department hires a plant systematist, Dr. Lena Struwe
The department has recruited Dr. Lena Struwe, a systematist from Stockholm University. She was hired as an Assistant Professor in both the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology and the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources. She is interested in the historical evolution and biodiversity of angiosperms, especially plants from the order Gentianales (Apocynaceae [dogbanes and milkweeds], Gelsemiaceae [Carolina jessamine], Gentianaceae [gentians], Loganiaceae [strychnine family], and Rubiaceae [coffee and madder family]). As of spring 2002 she has developed graduate and undergraduate courses in plant systematics; and this spring teaches an Ethnobotany course.

The Department hires a new turfgrass scientist
The department has recently hired Dr. Stacy Bonos, a recent Plant Biology Graduate (2001) and an accomplished turfgrass scientist. Stacy is interested in developing improved, pest resistant, and stress tolerant, turfgrasses that could be utilized for all turfgrass situations throughout the Northeast and other parts of the country. Dr. Bonos will be teaching graduate and undergraduate Plant Breeding in the spring of 2003.

The Department hires a Nursery Crops specialist
In September 2002 the Department added Dr. Gladis Zinati to the faculty. Dr. Zinati obtained her Ph.D. degree from Michigan State University and pursued post-graduate work at the University of Florida prior to coming to Rutgers. Dr. Zinati will be working to develop the experiment station programs to support the Nursery Crops industries in New Jersey.

The Department hires a plant development molecular biologist
In September 2002 the Department added Dr. Randy Kerstetter to the faculty. Dr. Kerstetter obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California (Berkeley). Dr. Kerstetter, also a member of the Waksman Institute, will pursue research and teach courses in molecular biology of plant development.

The Department proposed a new certificate program in Medicinal and Economic Botany
The Department is developing research, teaching, and outreach programs in the area of Health Plants and Natural Products in general. Several faculty members are pursuing research in aspects of natural products or metabolites in food plants that impact human health or plant defense compounds. For example, through collaboration with Dr. Bill Meyer and others in the turf center, Dr. Tom Gianfagna has examined defense compounds in turf grasses. Dr. Faith Belanger is examining fungal endophyte produced enzymes that impact resistance of turf grasses to diseases; Dr. Chee-Kok Chin, Dr. Jim Simon, and others are examining health enhancing compounds in asparagus and other food crops. The value-added approach to plant improvement is gaining momentum.

More recently, with the leadership of some of the Department?s teaching faculty, the Department proposed a new certificate program in Medical and Economic Botany. The focus of this proposed certificate program is to train students in this new and interesting area of applied plant biology. Contact Dr. Jim French ( for additional information on this proposed new certificate program.

The Department enhances its recruitment in the Turf and Horticulture Industry option
The Department has increased its efforts to increase interest in the Turf and Horticulture Industry undergraduate major. Several members of the Turf Center (including Dr. Richard Hurley) are pushing to recruit students to this high-impact area of Plant Biology. Recent discussions have focused on proposal of a certificate in sports turf.

The Center for Turfgrass Science awards scholarships to Plant Biology students
In November 2002, the Center for Turfgrass Science held its annual awards dinner, which recognizes exceptional students who are making significant contributions to the field of turfgrass science. Scholarship money generously came from Lofts Seeds, NJ Turfgrass Foundation, Aventis ES, Bayer Corp, Ralph Engel, New Jersey Landscape Contractors, Duke Polidor Memorial Scholarship, Ralph Geiger Scholarship, and Paul DesChamps.

Plant Pathology and Plant Science merge to become one department
In the spring of 2001, the Department of Plant Pathology and the Department of Plant Science merged to become the largest department at Cook College.