When the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station – now known as Cornell AgriTech – opened its doors in Geneva, New York in 1882, it was the state’s first independent, state-funded agricultural experiment station and one of the first of its kind in the U.S. At the time, the station had only 130 acres of land, seven scientists, one building, a barn and some horses.
Today, Cornell AgriTech encompasses a 900-acre research farm, 500,000 square feet of laboratory space and has 32 faculty members, 30 graduate students, 22 postdoctoral associates and more than 300 employees.
Cornell AgriTech has developed and released more than 280 varieties of fruits and vegetables for both the fresh-market and processing industries. Its apple breeding program, the oldest in the U.S., supports New York’s $400 million apple industry and has released 69 varieties, including well-known favorites Empire, Cortland and Jonagold, as well as the newer SnapDragon and RubyFrost. Most modern apple orchards use trees grafted onto improved rootstocks developed in Geneva, as well as the more efficient and profitable Tall Spindle growing system designed by Cornell AgriTech researchers.
The Geneva campus also has released 59 juice, table and wine grape varieties, including Cayuga White, the program’s first wine grape bred for New York, and Traminette, a Gewürztraminer hybrid. Both varieties have become backbones of the New York grape and wine industry, which is valued today at $6.65 billion; Traminette is also the state wine grape of Indiana. Discoveries by Cornell AgriTech scientists have also expanded markets and business opportunities – from using ultraviolet light to pasteurize fresh juices, to helping create a $100 million Eastern broccoli industry, to breeding cabbage that allowed New York’s sauerkraut processors to reduce environmental waste while maximizing profits.
“We sit at the intersection of cutting-edge science, boots-on-the-ground field research and industry collaboration,” says Anna Katherine Mansfield, associate professor of enology and Cornell AgriTech’s associate director. “This creates an excellent feedback loop that allows industry needs to inform research objectives, discoveries to be translated into practice, impacts measured to determine efficacy – feeding back into to our research programs for expansion or modification.”